This is an extremely difficult week to be a Bills coach, player or fan. On top of the Kevin Everett situation, the Bills are coming off of a disappointing Week One loss and are looking forward to a trip to Pittsburgh this Sunday, where the Steelers are coming off of a dominating Week One performance themselves. The team is banged up physically and emotionally, and the schedule isn't going to get easier. As a result, the Bills have a tall task facing them this weekend.
But there's an easy way to remedy some of these issues - losing Everett will always sting, but this team can compete with the Steelers on Sunday. Give Pittsburgh a run for their money - and maybe sneak out an emotional win - and things will be closer to normal for this team. But that won't happen unless the Bills do what they need to do, and that's let J.P. Losman be a leader and playmaker for this team. Let these kids have fun on the football field this Sunday.
Mistake-Free Only Gets You So Far
Facing a Denver secondary loaded with playmakers, the Bills approached their opening game with a very conservative approach, running the ball often and throwing the ball short on many occasions. Who can blame them? Denver's front seven is a bit soft (evidenced by the success of Marshawn Lynch and the run game), and it was obvious to most that an effective short passing attack in combination with a sound run game would beat the Broncos. The Bills nearly did so while only completing half of the equation - because let's face it, Losman's 97 passing yards don't constitute an "effective short passing attack".
That game plan is likely to change this week. Pittsburgh's blitz-happy defensive scheme certainly won't make passing easy, but their lack of significant playmakers outside of Troy Polamalu in the defensive backfield makes them much more vulnerable to a downfield passing scheme. Running will be tough. Throwing short will be tough because of Pittsburgh's strength in the front seven, especially making tackles coming forward. The big play will make or break Buffalo in this game.
Why So Ineffective Sunday?
Obviously, when 97 passing yards are accrued in a full 60-minute football game, there are problems. But the problems weren't necessarily with Losman - he did, after all, complete 14 of 21 passes (67%), was sacked only twice and his lone interception was a deflected pass that should have been nullified by a horrible penalty that was never called. It wasn't pass protection, either - Losman routinely had plenty of time to make his throws; his high completion percentage speaks to that. The problem was that his receivers just weren't getting open - chalk that up to Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly being on the other side of the ball. Chalk it up also to offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, who despite months of knowing he'd be facing a tough secondary still couldn't find ways to get his receivers open.
Seriously, how many times did the Bills throw downfield? There were two long passes - a deep pass to Evans on a Cover-0 in the first half (broken up by Bly) and the infamous bomb on third and five with minutes remaining on the game clock. Every other throw seemingly occurred in the 12 yards or less range. There was no variety in the routes run - it was the short outs and the bubble screens used most frequently on Sunday, and once Denver got beat by each once or twice, it was shut-down city from that point on.
Let Losman Cut It Loose
More than anything right now, this football team needs to have fun on Sunday. Merely playing it safe and hanging with the Steelers for a while won't cut it. With a depleted defensive depth chart, this team also needs to score points. It's likely that the run game will be efficient enough to keep the Steelers guessing, but it's very likely not going to be reliable enough to count on as the crux of their attack.
So let Losman be the gunslinger he is. Let him prove that he can carry this offense on his shoulders. Let him make the big plays we got used to seeing last season. That will provide points. That will provide excitement and leave the Steelers reeling. That will make this game fun - which, at this point, is the most important victory the Bills can claim this coming Sunday.