In their worst of three pre-season games to date by light years, the Buffalo Bills dropped a 31-21 road game to the Green Bay Packers in a mistake-filled snooze fest. For all of the good signs the team displayed in the two games prior, the team regressed in every way tonight, trailing 24-0 at the half. Let's hope it's out of their system.
Clearly, a stinker of a pre-season performance is nothing to freak out about, but a little concern is warranted. The play was that bad all around. Initial reactions are after the jump.
To say the offense struggled is putting it mildly
Here's a stat line for you from Buffalo's offense in first-half action (which consisted mostly of the starting lineup, who played about halfway through the second quarter): 4 turnovers (1 INT, 3 lost fumbles), multiple penalties, 3 sacks allowed, 5 plays for negative yardage, a mere 6 first downs.
It was bad all around, but in particular for QB Trent Edwards. His interception, on a deep in to Lee Evans, was a slightly late throw that was simply a good play by the Packers cornerback. His lost fumble, however, was bad - he hung onto the ball far too long in a pristine pocket, took a blind-side sack and lost the ball.
Edwards had easily his worst night of the pre-season thus far, finishing 7 of 11 passing for a mere 45 yards. The no-huddle under his command (and for the most part when he wasn't in, too) was lackluster and barely worth the effort involved, as there wasn't any urgency to the attack. I couldn't begin to tell you why the offense was so uninspired in the first half, but there didn't seem to be any fire. Where's Terrell Owens when you need him?
Mistakes on defense, too
Buffalo had 7 penalties for 73 yards at the half, and some of the biggest of those came on defense (an Ellis Lankster pass interference comes to mind). Though they were helped out by the Bills' aforementioned turnover issues, Green Bay's stellar offense generally had its way with the Bills' defense. QB Aaron Rodgers completed 8 of 9 passes for 98 yards and 2 scores (Greg Jennings, Donald Driver). Ryan Grant piled up 43 yards on 10 carries with another score against a Bills run defense that had been dominant through two games.
The one bright moment for the defense as a whole tonight came on their first possession of the game; Green Bay was handed the ball on Buffalo's 37-yard line after Edwards' interception, but the drive resulted in no points after the Packers turned the ball over on downs. LB Keith Ellison made a tackle for loss on Grant on 4th-and-1 to end the drive; from there, however, it was all downhill as the offense continued to set the defense up to fail.
A few players actually impress
I'm sure most of you will focus on the gloom and doom of one sloppy pre-season game, but it's worth mentioning that a few players had strong performances for the Bills:
- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick made some nice throws, completing 12 of 16 passes for 116 yards and a TD (though he did have a terrible INT as well).
- RB Dominic Rhodes looked quick and agile running into the third quarter, finishing with 39 yards on 6 carries.
- WR Steve Johnson caught 3 passes for 52 yards, including a couple of really nice catches down the seam. The kid is a player.
- TE Jonathan Stupar continued his strong pre-season with 5 catches, 63 yards and a touchdown from Fitzpatrick. That bumps him up to 15 catches in basically a game and a half of football; he is the clear go-to guy for Fitzpatrick and Gibran Hamdan. It's gonna be hard to cut this guy.
- I've got nothing for you on the offensive line - I'm guessing Ron will have something to say in the near future, but I plan on taking a closer look tomorrow.
- Defensive ends Chris Ellis and Copeland Bryan continue to impress, albeit against second- and third-string linemen. Ellis took a bad penalty on special teams (late hit out of bounds/horse collar), but he also applied nice pressure on a few occasions. Bryan registered a sack and a forced fumble for the second consecutive game. That argument for keeping six defensive ends makes more sense every day.
- Rookie LB Nic Harris was all over the field, finishing with a game-high 9 tackles. He's got great instincts.
- CB Reggie Corner registered his second interception of the pre-season.
All in all, things probably could not have gone much worse for the top units on both sides of the ball. It's probably good for the team to have this type of performance, as it keeps them from getting complacent after a couple of nice pre-season outings. Something has to change to keep these guys on their toes and playing full-out on the football field; hopefully, this will be a nice wake-up call. (It helps that it's the pre-season from an effort standpoint.) Buffalo will be back on the practice field Monday - hopefully with a few extra wind sprints tossed in - and take the field in Pittsburgh a week from today for their fourth pre-season game of the season.