Bills can't avoid beating themselves


Sans running game, Bills making many mistakes (buffalobills.com)

Oh yeah... now I remember what is feels like to be a Buffalo Bills fan.  During the team's bye week, I wrote that the Bills were entering the most important four-game stretch of the season, calling it "make or break".  I stand by what I wrote, and through the first three of those four games, the Bills are 1-2.  A loss in New England this coming Sunday could very well break Buffalo's season, which got off to a promising 4-0 start.  The team has lost 3 of 4 to drop to 5-3 on the season.

It's been bad.  The Bills have been kind enough to provide their fans a little throwback to yesteryear, when shoddy play, questionable decision-making and a lack of playmakers led to eight straight seasons of playoff-less football in Buffalo.  We're still in that stretch, right?  This team is better, there's little question about that - especially at quarterback - but they're unable to avoid making the same irritating mistakes.  Welcome to Buffalo Bills football.

The most irritating part?  Buffalo isn't playing like Buffalo.  For two seasons under head coach Dick Jauron, the Bills remained competitive in games by limiting turnovers, avoiding penalties and playing sound in all three phases - if highly unspectacular.  They haven't come close to doing that in their two most recent losses, to division rivals Miami and New York.

Take a look at all the ugly!
Here are some "impressive" stats that the Bills have accrued over the past two games, both losses:

- 14 penalties for 109 yards
- 7 sacks allowed
- Safety allowed
- 3 interceptions
- 4 lost fumbles; 7 fumbles total
- Missed 4th & 1 in opponent red zone (effectively another turnover)
- Bad snap on punt

The Bills have lost these two games - unbelievably, miraculously, and other hyperbolic terms - by a combined 18 points.  Guess how many points off of turnovers the Bills have surrendered in these two games?  Your insight serves you well, young padawan.  The Dolphins and Jets have 18 points off of turnovers the last two weeks against the Bills - which, again, is a pretty miraculous statistic.

This isn't Dick Jauron football
Talk all you want about the Bills' weaknesses, their vulnerabilities, or the fact that they haven't been able to win winnable games.  Don't believe for a second, however, that the Jets and Dolphins are better football teams than Buffalo.  They're not.  Both of these are games that the Bills should have won - and, at the very least, they could have split them without the crap-fest stats list you see above.

I'm not going to sit here and blame any one individual, one unit, or one coach.  This is a team issue.  The Bills are not doing what their coach has preached over the past two years: protect the ball, limit mistakes, force your opponent to beat themselves.  How have the Dolphins and Jets won the past two weeks?  They've beaten us by playing Bills football.  That's what's most humiliating about this pathetic stretch of football the Bills have put together - we're not practicing what we preach, but our opponents are.

QB Trent Edwards, the main culprit for the team's struggles only in a statistical sense, is stepping up to the plate and taking the blame:

"The onus is on me," Edwards said. "I'm in charge of the football. I'm the person who runs this offense and I need to take care of the ball. That's why they have me in there at quarterback."

The fix isn't a difficult one for the Bills: don't do dumb things.  The Bills must now head to Foxboro and emerge victorious in what they've now made into their biggest, most important game of the season.  The New England Patriots aren't going to beat themselves; they rarely do.  This is a winnable game; the Pats are vulnerable.  But they're going to make Buffalo beat them.  The Bills can do it; the real question, however, is whether or not the Bills can avoid beating themselves.  Get back to basics, Buffalo, and the wins will return.  It's really as simple as that.

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