2008 - Hot Start, Cold Finish
7-9 record, 4 of 4 in AFC East, 11 of 16 in AFC, 22 of 32 in NFL
During the 2007 season a deal was announced between the Bills and Rogers Communications in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for the Bills to play a total of 8 games across the border. The Bills in Toronto Series began in the preseason when the Steelers and Bills tussled on the Rogers Center turf. The Bills earned nearly $80M for the games and will s[ans a five year period beginning in 2008.
The Bills were on unsure ground when Tom Donahoe was here and Ralph Wilson brought Marv Levy in to solidify the team moving forward. Feeling as if Marv had set his team on the right path, he retired following the 2007 season. A new power structure emerged where many different voices would be heard instead of one. This new oligarchy ensured Wilson that no person would hold too much power, as he thought Donahoe had, and gave many voices on a subject with Wilson and coach Dick Jauron having final say over personnel. Wilson promoted several people internally to create this small group. Eventually Russ Brandon, the Bills marketing executive, would be given the term General Manager. (Honestly we're not quite sure when Chief Operating Officer became Chief Operating Officer/General Manager.) Steve Fairchild, Buffalo's offensive coordinator for two of the worst years in franchise history, left the team to take a job at his alma mater and was replaced by Turk Schonert. The first offseason under the new regime the Bills sought to bolster their defense signing DE Copeland Bryan, DT Spencer Johnson, and LB Kawika Mitchell. In the draft the Bills pulled off a surprising trade dealing a third-round pick acquired for Willis McGahee and a fifth-round selection to the Jaguars in exchange for big defensive tackle Marcus Stroud. In the first round the team selected CB/KR Leodis McKelvin from Troy University. In the second round WR James Hardy was added. The Bills also added DE Chris Ellis, CB Reggie Corner, TE Derek Fine, LB Alvin Bowen, RB Xavier Omon, OT Demetrius Bell, and WR Steve Johnson. Just prior to the season, Buffalo placed leading-tackler Angelo Crowell on Injured Reserve when he had surgery. The injury was not considered serious and the timing irked Bills staff members. Keith Ellison would start in his place. Another bad omen prior to the season was LT Jason Peters' protracted hold out. Peters wanted more money and missed all of training camp and the preseason sitting and waiting. When he did report to the Bills on the eve of the first week of the regular season he was not ready to go at this Pro Bowl level.
The Bills began the season in impressive fashion, running away against the Seattle Seahawks. Optimism ran rampant since the Seahawks were a playoff team the year before. The Bills caused two turnovers, sacked Matt Hasselback five times, the offense clicked, and Roscoe Parrish returned a punt for a score in complete win. The next week wasn't as easy when the Bills traveled to Jacksonville. The teams traded blows but the Jaguars took control in the second half grinding out yardage and time while taking a 16-10 lead. Late in the fourth quarter Trent Edwards led the team down the field throwing two strikes in a row - the first a 37-yard pass to Lee EVans on third down. On the next play rookie WR James Hardy caught a lobbed pass in the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score. The Bills were 2-0 for the first time since 2003. The next week Buffalo had to come back again. After giving up a long touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, Buffalo found themselves down by 9 late. Edwards again marched his team down the field and fired a TD pass to get closer. After a defensive stand and punt he led another scoring drive and Rian Lindell booted the game-winner through as time expired. After three quarters against the Rams, the Bills were in a dogfight in week 4 but a Jabari Greer INT return for a TD blew the game open in another Bills win. In week 5, the Bills traveled to Arizona. Early in the game Bills QB's Trent Edwards dropped back to pass and Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson got up close and personal, knocking Edwards from the game win a concussion. A highlight reel TD throw from backup J.P. Losman to Lee Evans pulled Buffalo within a score of the Cardinals but four turnovers doomed the Bills and they were blown out, 41-17. After the bye Edwards returned to have one of the best games of his career going 25 of 30 for 261 yards and a TD in a win over dangerous San Diego. The Bills defense held the potent Charger offense in check allowing only 263 yards. The Bills were at 5-1 and looking at a playoff run but had finally entered divisional play. In week 8 they lost to the Dolphins and gave up four turnovers. In week 9 it was a loss to the Jets and three turnovers. In week 10 the Patriots and backup QB Matt Cassell came to Orchard Park and beat the Bills using two turnovers. In week 11 the Bills once again played on Monday Night Football - this time the Browns came into town. Despite losing three straight to divisional opponents a win would put the Bills back into the playoff race. Trent Edwards threw three early interceptions but the Browns could only mount a 13-0 lead in the second quarter before the Bills offense awoke to close the gap to 13-10 by the end of the half. After the Browns seemingly broke it open with a 72-yard touchdown run, Leodis McKelvin took the kickoff back making the score 23-20 in a game the offense struggled to get momentum. Later in the fourth quarter the Bills finally took the lead on a Trent Edwards touchdown plunge but the Browns nabbed it back with a field goal. The Bills had won games in the final minute and now would have to again. Trent Edwards led the team down the field throwing some nice passes but they got into field goal range too early. Turk Schonert dialed back the offense handing the ball off three times. Rian Lindell would not be the hero on this night pushing the attempt wide right and the Bills lost a sloppy game. The Bills rebounded the next week causing five turnovers and racking up 444 yards of offense in a 54-31 win over the Chiefs. The Bills should have saved some points for the next week where they lost 10-3 at home to the Niners. Trent Edwards left the game at halftime with a groin injury. The Bills gained 350 yards of offense but failed to score more than a field goal. All but eliminated from the playoffs and with J.P. Losman starting the team looked lackluster in the first regular season Toronto Series game. The Bills managed only 163 yards, turned the ball over twice including an end zone interception on a massively underthrown ball, and lost to fall to 6-7. Following two truly disappointing games the Bills were in New York to take on the Brett Favre-led Jets. The Bills were up 27-24 with just over two minutes to play. A first down would allow the Bills to run the clock to almost nothing when Schonert and Jauron call a pass to catch the Jets off guard. Losman rolls out to his right and is supposed to throw it away or run for the first down if nobody is wide open. Instead, Jason Peters and Derrick Dockery have problems closing off the back side rush and Losman holds onto the ball too long and is strip-sacked. The Jets pick it up and run the ball back for the score and a 31-27 win. With little to play for the Bills headed to Denver to face the Broncos who could clinch their division with a win. After falling behind 12-0 the resilient Bills did not pack it in, instead scoring 16 unanswered points to take a 16-13 lead. After alternating touchdowns the Bills held the lead in the fourth quarter. Denver tied it on a long field goal and Buffalo ground the clock on a drive that culminated in a Fred Jackson touchdown run. Then the Bills defense held in the final minutes preserving a 30-23 victory. The final game of the year was against the Patriots in Buffalo. With wind so bad the goal posts had to constantly be reshaped the Patriots were able to kick two field goals and score a touchdown while Rian Lindell's kicks were pushed aside like tumbleweed. The Patriots beat the Bills again 13-0. The Bills finished the once-promising season 7-9 for the third straight year.
Edwards finished the year 7-7 as a starter, though he only played a few minutes in the Cardinal loss. He passed for 2699 yards going for a 65.5 completion percentage and 11 touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch went over 1000 yards in only 15 games rushing for 8 touchdowns along the way. Fred Jackson emerged as a major threat gaining 571 yards on the ground as well. Lee Evans led the team with 63 catches and 1017 yards followed closely by Josh Reed's 56 receptions. The next leading receivers were Lynch (47) and Jackson (37) in Schonert's new offense featuring more passes to the running backs. Overall Buffalo's offensive production improved to 23 in points and 25 in yards. The defense took a bigger step forward ending the year 14 in points and yards. Linebacker Paul Posluszny led the team in his first full season with 87 solo tackles. Left tackle Jason Peters and RB Marshawn Lynch were named to the Pro Bowl squad. During the season, defensive end Bruce Smith was added to the Bills Wall of Fame. Smith has the most sacks in NFL history and played on some of the most dominating defenses the team has ever seen.
Prior to the 2009 season, coach Dick Jauron was retained following three straight 7-9 seasons. It was announced during Super Bowl weekend that both Bruce Smith and Bills' founder and owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Bills signed Terrell Owens, one of the best receivers and biggest lightning rods in the game. The Bills traded perennial holdout Jason Peters and also finally got rid of J.P. Losman.