After an off-season in which the Bills had supposedly put together an explosive offense, the Bills managed just 3 points in their second regular season contest, a 26-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Poor play-calling and the ineffectiveness of QB J.P. Losman hamstrung the Bills, as the team's defense did enough to keep the Bills in the game through the better part of three quarters. Expect losses to continue to pile up until Buffalo's offense can put points on the scoreboard - 10 offensive points in two weeks obviously won't cut it.
Offense: Passing Attack Woes
No Rhythm for Passing Game: Facing a constant blitz from the Steelers, J.P. Losman could not get into a rhythm with his receivers Sunday. His stats weren't terrible (15/25, 154 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT), but much of those numbers were accrued in the fourth quarter after the Bills abandoned the run game. The offensive line struggled to pick up the blitz at times, but in general gave Losman enough time to make plays. J.P. is struggling to make quick decisions right now - which is either a result of his hesitancy to turn the ball over or offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild's over-complicated pass routes. Either way, the Bills need to fix their passing game quickly. Losman has a 68.3 QB rating through two games.
Lynch a Bright Spot: Once again, rookie RB Marshawn Lynch was a bright spot for the Bills' offense. Facing one of the toughest run defenses in the league, the Bills were able to run effectively at times. Lynch finished the day with 64 yards on 18 carries (3.6 YPC) and added one reception for 21 yards. When Lynch gains the corner and gets into open space, he's incredibly difficult to bring down as he uses a herky-jerky juke move and a powerful stiff-arm to avoid defenders. Lynch needs to be used more in all facets of the game; an improved passing offense would keep pressure off of him as well.
Quick Fix: Opposing defenses will continue to blitz Losman as long as it works. Steve Fairchild and Losman need to get together on this one - J.P. needs to read the blitz, switch his protections and know who his hot receivers are, and Fairchild needs to let him do those things. Fairchild also needs to un-complicate the passing offense and make it simpler for Losman to complete passes and move the chains. If the Bills can get the short passing game going, they will at the very least sustain a few drives and keep their young defense off the field.
Defense: Flood Gates Finally Open
Can't Get Off the Field: After surrendering just 27 points through the better part of 7 quarters, the Bills' defense finally broke yesterday as the Steelers scored twice and ran effectively to ice the game. The defense, for the most part, struggled - the Steelers amassed 420 yards of offense. But at halftime the Bills had surrendered just 12 points. Why did the flood gates finally open? Simple: Pittsburgh kept them on the field with great defense themselves and by converting 11 of 16 third down opportunities (68%). As a result, the Steelers held the ball for over 35 minutes.
Chunk Yardage Kills: The Bills' defense is young and continuing to get younger, which explains some of the inconsistency that the unit is struggling with. The run defense is playing very well on runs up the middle, but the team's cornerbacks are having trouble containing the edge rushes. As a result, Pittsburgh's Willie Parker was able to pick up the majority of his 126 rushing yards on runs to the outside. Buffalo's blitz is inconsistent as well - half the time the blitzers were picked up expertly by the Steelers, and the other half of the time Ben Roethlisberger was able to avoid the rush and make a play. Due to the lack of a pass rush, Roethlisberger was effective, gaining 242 yards through the air and throwing for one score.
Quick Fix: Oxygen. Somehow, some way, the Bills need to find a way to keep their defense off the field. This unit is not designed to playy the majority of the game. What this unit can do for you is minimize opponents' scoring, which the Bills were able to do for a good chunk of the game again. If the Bills want to win football games, they need to score points - that will fix both their goose-egg in the win column and the defense, which could use a good blow from time to time to stay effective for a full four quarters.
Next Week: at New England (2-0)
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the Bills travel to New England next week to take on the explosive and undefeated Patriots. With Tom Brady and his receivers firing on all cylinders (76 points in two games), it's more obvious this week than ever: the offense needs to show up this week. If they don't, this game will be far more brutal to witness than the Steelers game.
Speaking of the Steelers game, leave your thoughts about the Bills' struggles in the comments.