Bills fans are realists. With the Bills decimated by injury defensively and playing the explosive Patriots, Bills fans knew that the chances of victory were about as slim as the chances that Jim Kelly would take the field as the starting quarterback for the game. But low expectations did nothing to erase the pain from a 38-7 Patriots win that leaves the Bills' 2007 prospects far bleaker than they were last weekend. With injuries continuing to wreak havoc on our lineup, and the schedule remaining as difficult as ever, it could be a long few weeks for the Bills and its fans.
Offense: Rookie QB, Similar Problems
Losman Injured Early: With QB J.P. Losman sustaining a knee injury on the Bills' first offensive play of the game (Pats DT Vince Wilfork's blatant elbow the culprit), rookie third-round pick Trent Edwards was forced into action. For one drive, Edwards looked great, hitting 4 of 5 passes on the way to the Bills' lone TD drive of the game. After that, the Patriots tightened up their defense; Edwards finished 10-of-20 passing for 97 yards and one interception, a pretty ugly overthrow of a wide-open post route. The same problems existed with Edwards as did with Losman - there was no rhythm to the passing attack, even with Edwards having more than enough time to throw. The rookie will likely start next week against the Jets as Losman recovers from his knee sprain.
At Least We Have Lynch: Sunday marked the third week in a row that rookie RB Marshawn Lynch was the only offensive player worth watching for the Bills. The fact that Lynch is averaging 4 yards per carry on the season (57 carries, 228 yards) with teams stacking the box and daring the pass to beat them speaks volumes about our young back's ability. Lynch finished the game with 74 yards on 20 carries and scored the Bills' lone touchdown on an impressive defensive effort. Don't expect this production to continue for Lynch, as good as he is, unless the Bills can at least be consistent in their passing attack. Until then, teams will aim to stop Lynch - and we face some pretty effective defenses.
Quick Fix: Third down production. The lone touchdown drive was the result of the Bills converting multiple third downs; three-and-outs from that point doomed the offense. The Bills have the ability to pass to set up the run, but it has to be controlled, chain-moving passing. Slants and hooks, Mr. Fairchild. Slants and hooks.
Defense: No Answer for Moss
Loss of Posluszny Hurts Long-Term: With defenders dropping like flies through the first two weeks, one player's presence comforted me on a personal level: Paul Posluszny's. "With Poz in there, we're still making progress for the future," I thought. Then Posluszny broke his left forearm when a fellow Bills defender crashed into his arm making a tackle, and Poz was carted off the field. His loss not only hurts Poz from the standpoint that he's only played 3 NFL games, but it marked the point where the Patriots took over and dominated the football game. The Pats scored 28 of their 38 points after Posluszny left the game; with Poz likely to miss a significant amount of time, the Bills will be playing with their fourth (John DiGiorgio) and fifth (Mario Haggan) linebackers as starters for a while. That hurts this team's chances of winning; it hurts even worse in the run game.
How to Destroy a Surgeon: Here's a depressing stat line for you - opposing quarterbacks (J. Cutler, B. Roethlisberger, T. Brady) have completed 67 of 102 passes (65.7%) for 857 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 picks. The collective QB rating against Buffalo is an astounding 103.2. Unbelievable statistics; the culprit? An alarming lack of pass rush. We've been over this many times, but it remains as true as ever - the Bills can't get any heat on the opposing QB, and it's killing their back seven. Until Aaron Schobel earns a red cent of his $50 million contract, we're going to continue to see these problems.
Quick Fix: Better play from the D-Line. This group has been hammered least by injuries (only Ryan Denney has missed time), so while the linebackers and secondary heal, these guys need to pick up the slack. We need more penetration on run plays, better shedding of blocks up front and, again, more pass rush. It's not likely that we'll see any of that consistently, but a fan can dream, right?
Next Week: vs. New York Jets (1-2)
The Bills return back home to Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday for another divisional game, this time versus the New York Jets. With Chad Pennington and Thomas Jones healthy again, the Jets secured their first win of the season yesterday, albeit over an 0-3 Dolphins club. This will, yet again, be a formidable challenge for the Bills. Much, much more to come on this matchup as the week progresses; for now, leave your New England loss comments below.