Cassel, Pats run over hapless Bills (Associated Press)
For the third consecutive week, the Buffalo Bills dropped a key divisional game against a solid AFC East rival. A 20-10 loss to the New England Patriots is Buffalo's fourth loss in their last five games, and leaves them at the bottom of the division less than a month after leading it.
The Bills committed two more turnovers in an abysmal offensive effort that negated solid efforts by Buffalo's defense and special teams. Left on the field for far too long, Buffalo's defense eventually broke, allowing the Patriots to chew up over 37 minutes of possession time, 144 rushing yards and all of the momentum in this one. The Bills only lost by 10, but it could have been much, much worse than that - and it probably should have been.
Offense plays terribly
Trent Edwards threw two more interceptions today, and not even a late garbage-time touchdown pass to James Hardy could elevate his QB rating above a paltry 52.8. He completed 14 of 23 passes for just 120 yards, with the score and two picks. Once again, Edwards struggled without a solid running game - the Bills rushed for 60 yards on the day, doubling the pathetic 30 they picked up against the Jets last week - and was erratic while enduring a steady Patriots pass rush. This was easily Edwards' worst performance as a pro; the stats don't tell the whole story. Buffalo got nothing going offensively.
The predictability of Buffalo's offense is laughable. One of my key areas of focus tomorrow while reviewing film is going to be putting a percentage to the number of times Edwards throws from under center. We've seen this predictability before; the fact that it remains an issue is, quite frankly, absurd.
Marshawn Lynch fought hard for the 46 rushing yards he did pick up (averaging 3.3 yards per carry). Roscoe Parrish was the team's leading receiver with 4 catches for 31 yards; Lee Evans had just 2 receptions for 22 yards in what was easily his worst performance of the season as well. Teams continue to focus on negating Evans, and it's working wonders.
D, Special Teams keep it close... for a while
While getting no help from the offense, Buffalo's defense and special teams kept this game competitive into the fourth quarter. The D held the Patriots to just a field goal after Edwards' first interception, and forced a fumble on a Matt Cassel sack after Trent's second pick. Allowing just 3 points off of turnovers allowed the Bills to stay alive - or, rather, it would have if the offense wasn't playing so terribly.
In the end, however, Buffalo was once again unable to get off the field in the fourth quarter, allowing the Patriots to chew up over 9 minutes of game clock in the fourth quarter. The Patriots converted 11 of 18 third downs, Cassel scrambled for 22 yards and a score, and rookie undrafted free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis picked up 105 yards and a score on the day.
Leodis McKelvin's 85-yard kickoff return late in the game, along with a strong punting effort from Brian Moorman (four punts downed inside New England's 20) highlighted an excellent special teams effort by the Bills. The team also did well containing top-flight Patriots returners Ellis Hobbs, Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk.
Three big games coming up
The Bills fell flat on their faces in the toughest stretch of their schedule, and now sit at 0-3 in the division. The team now plays three very winnable games in a row - at home against Cleveland on Monday Night, at Kansas City, and at home against San Francisco. Needless to say, anything less than 3 wins in that stretch would likely relegate the Bills to also-ran status in the AFC - if they're not there already.
There were some contenders, but a Bills loss negates the need to reward anyone. If you're looking to hand out "anti-game balls", come on down, Turk Schonert, Trent Edwards and Dick Jauron. (Yes, I said it.)
Thanks to ALL 34 folks who joined me in today's game thread, and props once again to WABillsFan who paced us all with a healthy 145 comments.
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