It’s the same old out of tune song for Buffalo sports fans:1112866

Wide right to lose the game. Where have we heard that one before?

For two straight years the Buffalo Bills have allowed the Cleveland Browns to hack a severe gash in their playoff hopes as the Browns beat the Bills 27-29 on Monday Night Football.

I have a lot to vent about, so brace yourself.

The report card: 

Best Performance in a Losing Effort: RB Marshawn Lynch. Finally, Lynch broke the 100 yard mark this season getting 23 carries for 119 yards. He was also Trent Edwards go to guy pulling in 10 catches for 58 yards and a TD. Lynch stepped up his defensive play by doing a great job blocking for Edwards and picking up the blitz. It’s too bad that his best performance of the year ended up being meaningless due to the atrocious play of his quarterback.

Most Drunk Award: Bills QB Trent Edwards. The guy looked horrendous, terrible, god-awful, [insert adjective here]. It seems for the past four weeks now we Bills fans have been thinking ‘that was Trent’s worst game all season’… well, that thought continued on Monday night. In his last four games Edwards has thrown only 3 TD’s and 8 interceptions. He hasn’t looked the same since suffering a concussion in week 5 against the Arizona Cardinals. He looks scared. In the first eleven and a half minutes of play Edwards threw three interceptions, effectively taking the crowd out of the game. Granted, the first pick wasn’t his fault as the ball was tipped at the line, but the next two were bone head throws that looked like something our old pal J.P. Losman would have done. Speaking of J.P., it appears as though Edwards has been taking notes from the former Bills starter. Edwards displayed Losman choreography all night long: three step drop, no steps forward, and unerring happy feet. The worst part about Trent’s horrible performance is that the excuses we were making for him the last four weeks were fixed in this game; a lackluster run game and a bad offensive line. Well, last night the run game had its best performance of the season and the O line gave Edwards all sorts of time to make a play. After the three picks, Edwards looked scared to throw the ball, going with his ‘panic’ option and tossing short passes to Lynch on the line of scrimmage… which leads me to the next award.

Biggest Head Scratcher Award: There were so many head scratching moments in this pathetic loss by the Bills it’s hard to pick just one. I suppose I’ll go with the most obvious, frustrating fact of the game: Lee Evans 0 catches for 0 yards. This stat is not the fault of Evans but of his scared, wussy quarterback, Trent Edwards. After the first pass of the game was tipped and resulted in an interception, Edwards threw zero balls to Evans. Zero. How the hell do you expect to win a game when you never throw a ball to your biggest play maker? The worst part about this statistic is that Evans was open all the time. This is not an overstatement. On nearly every route he ran, Evans was wide open. Half the time Edwards didn’t even check Lee and how he missed seeing him the other half of the time blows my mind. The head scratching has turned into hair pulling. Come on Trent, grow some balls and play. 

Worst Stat: Rian Lindell, wide right from 47 yards to win the game. Guh. Thank you history for throwing that one back in our face. Add it to the fact that last season on Monday Night Football Buffalo lost to the Dallass Cowboys by a last second field goal. By missing that kick, it’s unfair to make Rian Lindell the scapegoat of the game, and you can’t blame him for the loss.

Seriously!? Award:  However, you can blame Bills head coach [Limp] Dick Jauron and offensive coordinator Turk Schonert for the Bills loss. Especially for calling three poop-in-the-pants plays in a row preceding the potential game winning field goal. The three running plays were terribly executed, gaining 2, 2, and 1 yards respectively. The coaching staff did nothing to try and confuse the defense; no play action, no quick pass for a few extra yards, nothing. Let’s not forget that these plays were preceded by a 22 yard hook up of Edwards to TE Robert Royal to put the Bills in field goal range. Why not stick with what had just worked? Cleveland used all three of their timeouts in-between those plays, and the coaches couldn’t think of anything better to call than three lackluster runs? At the very least go in shotgun formation and give the ball to RB Fred Jackson, a play that worked against the Browns all game. But no, three lame, uninspired runs were used to set up a 47 yard field goal. Hey Dick [Head], history tells us that 47 yard field goals aren’t a gimme. Just ask Jim Kelly why he has no ring on his finger.

Lack of Common Sense Award: The coaching staff. In addition to all of the points I made above it bears mentioning that the Bills wasted four of six timeouts in this game due to not being prepared with a play. Three of these wasted time outs were absolutely inexcusable: 1) In the first quarter the Bills had a 3rd and 1 on their own 10 yard line and lined up with an empty backfield. Edwards looked confused [surprise!] and called a time out. Now, one would think that after calling a time out, you would adjust your play to what the defense had shown you. Well, that didn’t happen and the Bills lined up in the exact same formation and Trent threw his third pick of the day! 2) When in the third quarter, the Browns had a 3rd and 10 and the defense called time out. After the time out, QB Brady Quinn tossed a 23 yard pass to WR Braylon Edwards for a first down because [gasp!] the Bills faked a LB blitz! How typical. 3) This one is the game’s worst waste of a time out, and it came when the Bills were on offense. With 2:35 left to play Marshawn Lynch broke a 28 yard run to put the Bills on the Cleveland 1 yard line. Now, one would expect the Bills to rush to the line of scrimmage and keep the defense on their toes or at least enact their hurry up offense. But no. They didn’t. They called a time out. How the #$%* do you not have a play ready in that situation!? How? The Bills had an extra day to prepare for this match-up and they looked like a bunch of confused high school kids. Pathetic.

Biggest Mouth Award: CB Terrence McGee. Before the season began he promised a Bills playoff game this year. Seems like Terrence McGee is a lying sack of crap. I must admit, he did play well in this game, defending against six passes… Oops! I forgot about how he was playing 15 yards off of his man during Cleveland’s game winning drive. All the Browns needed was a field goal to take the lead in the final minutes of the game, and McGee is playing that far off of his man. Come on now Terrence. Come on now.

How in the Hell…? Award: Goes to the Bills offense. They (and by ‘they’ I mostly mean Trent Edwards) negated a great game by the special teams unit. The Bills average starting field position was on their own 35 yard line. That’s pretty darn good. Even better was that the offense commenced six drives from at least their own 41 yard line. This is how those six drives went: punt, field goal, field goal, punt, TD, wide %#&@ing right. Nice work offense. About the special teams, I have to give props to kick returner Leodis McKelvin who ran back a 98 yard kick off for a TD. Too bad on the ensuing kick off Lindell booted it out of bounds at the Cleveland 43, giving them great field position which turned into a Browns field goal. 

What The Hell Do You Get Paid For Award: Goes to the referee who failed to see Braylon Edwards mauling Terrence McGee on the first play of the fourth quarter. On this play Browns RB Jerome Harrison broke a 72 yard TD run. He was able to do this mainly because McGee was trying to not get raped by Braylon Edwards who was holding onto him like a psycho obsessive girlfriend. If not for this blatant hold, Terrence would have caught up to Harrison around the 30 yard line. This all happened right in front of the officials big fat face who was too busy watching the bouncing buns of a sprinting Harrison instead of catching an obvious holding call. Add this to the crap ‘unnecessary roughness’ call on Kawika Mitchell on the Browns next drive, and you have a duo of blind, patty-cake officials. Hey, it wasn’t Mitchell’s fault that Harrison lost his footing while being shoved out of bounds and smashed his head against a wall. Seriously, it wasn’t.

The Final Word: Mathematically the Bills aren’t out of the playoff hunt, but they will need a lot of help if they hope to make this season memorable. In the AFC East they are in last place at 5-5, with the Pats and Dolphins at 6-4, and the Jets are in first with a 7-3 record. It is very clear that the Bills need to start winning and other teams need to start losing for a playoff hope to exist. Trent Edwards needs to mature, and quickly. The fact that Bills couldn’t beat the Cleveland Brown stains doesn’t give me much faith. 

But faith is still there… somehow.

Billieve.

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Yes, I know a dolphin is a mammal. 

That must be the reason why no fish were squished this past Sunday by the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills (5-2) lost their first divisional game on Sunday against long time rival quarterback, Chad Pennington and his Miami Dolphins (3-4).

To be painfully blunt, the Bills looked pathetic. After keeping the NFL’s highest powered offense under control last week in the San Diego Chargers, week eight’s match-up against the rebuilding Miami Dolphins should not have concluded as a 16-25 loss.

But it did. Onto the report card:

Best Performance in a Losing Effort: Rian Lindell. He kicked three field goals (19, 43, 47) yesterday. Good for him for keeping the Bills in the game for awhile.

Biggest Head Scratcher Award: Why do the Bills always fake the blitz? The linebackers will line up as if they’re going to come at the QB, but then drop back into the zone once the ball is snapped. When the Bills drop back and allow talented QB’s to complete quick passes, it’s reflective of the style of Trent Edwards and how he succeeds against defenses. The Bills defense has played this way all season long, most specifically this week against Miami and the previous two games against San Diego and Arizona. The Cardinals amassed 250 yards passing and 2 TD’s, the Chargers 208 passing yards and 2 TD’s, and the Dolphins 314 passing yards with 1 TD against a soft Bills defense. Could these stats be worse? Of course. However, everything isn’t as it appears on paper. In watching these games it is obvious that when the Bills do blitz, they usually come up with a big play. The Bills need to change their unaggressive style immediately and attack the opposing team’s quarterback. The four man rush does not work. 

‘Coolest’ Stat: In 108 straight games the Buffalo Bills had not blocked a field goal. That is the longest streak in the NFL, and it was snapped Sunday when Langston Walker blocked a 46 yard Dan Carpenter field goal attempt late in the second quarter. Unfortunately that’s the best stat of the game for the Bills.

Lack of Common Sense Award: Goes to BIlls CB Terrence McGee and head coach Dick Jauron. McGee was obviously not 100% healthy yet as he got burned by Ted Ginn Jr. all day long. Why didn’t he say to Coach Dick Jauron he wasn’t ready to play? Why didn’t Jauron pull McGee? Is there that little faith in rookie CB Leodis McKelvin? 

Seriously!? Award: This one goes to Miami WR Ted Ginn Jr. who had a career high day, pulling in 7 receptions for 175 yards. Of course, he was paired up against a wounded Terrence McGee, making his life a lot easier. But still, he was allowed 175 freakin’ receiving yards! This guy isn’t Randy Moss or Terrell Owens for poop’s sake, he’s Ted Ginn… Junior. The Bills allowed this no name to amass 175 yards!? Seriously!? 

Face the Facts: When the Buffalo special teams unit performs, the Bills have a better chance of wining. In this game the Bills had 0 punt return yards and a mere 19.6 yard average on kick-off returns. Last week against San Diego the Bills averaged 5 yards per punt return and only 19.3 yards per kick-off return. In week 5 against Arizona, Buffalo averaged 17 yards per punt return (there were only two) but a mere 20.9 yards per kick-off return. Compare that to an average of 54 yards per punt return along with a 26.5 yard return average on kick-offs in week one against the Seattle Seahawks, and a week four punt return average of 15.6 yards paired with a kick-off return average of 32.3 yards against the Rams, and my point becomes clear; This is not the special teams unit we are accustomed to seeing. Teams have opted to strip the special teams advantage away from the Bills by not kicking to Roscoe Parrish and Leodis McKelvin. When this element of the game is taken away from Buffalo, the team struggles. And it hurts.

NOOOOO!! Moment: When Bills WR Josh Reed went out of the game with a sprained achilles. Dick Jauron has stated that he wants to take the time in allowing Reed to recover and does not wish to take any chances. Wonderful. Hopefully rookie WR James Hardy will step it up. So far he has been less than average this season having only 7 receptions for 66 yards and a TD accompanied by a whole mess of drops. 

Most Drunk Award: Goes to Bills QB Trent Edwards. After the Dolphins went up 20-16 early in the fourth quarter, the camera panned to the Bills sideline. There, Edwards was seen sitting alone on the bench with a defeated, frustrated look on his face. This pissed me off. In weeks before when the Bills were down, Edwards could be seen on the sideline amping up his team, itching to get back on the field to regain the lead. Need I remind the reading audience of the Bills 4th quarter come backs against Jacksonville, Oakland, and St. Louis? No? Well, maybe I should have reminded Trent. At this point the Bills were only down by four points with nearly an entire quarter left to play. Yet, here is our star quarterback looking as if the game is already over. I don’t like that. That is the behavior J.P. Losman was privy to. Trent Edwards is supposed to be a leader. So lead Trent. 

That’s Weird Award: Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Trent Edwards both threw simultaneous interceptions. While watching the Bills game on TV and following the Falcons game on NFL.com’s live feed, I witnessed this awful stat take place. Edwards threw his pick at exactly the 15:00 mark of the 4th quarter, and Ryan tossed his turnover at 2:20 left in the third against the Philadelphia Eagles. Both QB’s lost their games.

It’s About Damn Time Award: This was the first game in which Trent Edwards looked like a rookie. Edwards was 21/25 with 227 yards, a pick, 0 TD’s, 2 fumbles, and a safety. Yikes. Here’s to rebounding in week nine…

What The Hell Do You Get Paid For Award: Congratulations Robert Royal! I commented positively about his game play in week 1 against Seattle, as well as his pre-season play. Thank you Robert for making me eat my words. In this game he had three drops and a fumble which ended any Bills hopes of a comeback. Oh yeah, Royal did have two catches for 26 yards… horray.

Final Word: I could continue with this weeks report card, but it’s too depressing. When the 2008 NFL season is in the books, this game has the potential to be looked back upon as a pivotal turning point for both the Bills and the Dolphins. Miami looked very impressive on Sunday, and this could be the win they needed to steer their season in the right direction. More importantly, this game has the potential to knock the Bills down a peg. Next week Buffalo takes on the Jets at home which is followed by a road trip to New England. That’s three divisional games in a row and with this loss, the Bills have allotted themselves no margin for error. The AFC East race for first place is a tight one with the Bills and Patriots at 5-2, the Jets at 4-3 and the Dolphins at 3-4. Only time will tell how all of this will play out, but it continues next week at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Billieve.

I’m trying something different this week with my Bills game analysis; A quick report card on the 3-0 Buffalo Bills 24-23 come back win against the 1-2 Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Here she is:

-Best Speech: Bruce Smith’s acceptance speech of becoming the 25th player to be inducted onto the sacred Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame. It was the best most rehearsed speech I have ever heard.  

-Most Confusing Speech: Ralph Wilson’s introduction of Bruce Smith. With an average of 15 seconds between words, Wilson’s six sentence speech took too damn long to follow. I don’t think anyone knew what the hell he was saying. 

-Best Performance in a Losing Effort: Sebastian Janikowski. The Raiders kicker played an excellent game against Bobby April’s elite special teams unit. Twice Janikowski kicked the ball into the end zone, not allowing the dazzling Buffalo special teamers do their thing. In fact, the Bills special teams units were essentially a non factor, being held to 9 punt return yards and an average of 25 yards per kick off return. Oh yeah, Janikowski is also 6/6 on field goals this year. Good for him.

-Unexplainable Feeling Award: For some reason whenever the Bills wear their retro throwback uniforms, as they did on Sunday, I get this sinking feeling in my gut that they’ll lose. I understand it makes no sense, and I’m obviously overjoyed to know that I was wrong this time around, but it happens every time they don those specs. The same thing happens to me when the Sabres wear their throwback sweater. Freaks me out.

-Biggest Head Scratcher: When with 2:29 left to play in the game Raiders coach Lane Kiffin never called a time out when the Bills were driving to steal the game away. Kiffin didn’t even try to ice Lindell on the game deciding kick. That seemed very odd to me.

-Most Drunk Award: The 12th Man. As expected we did our job and were loud. I love feeling like a part of the team. 

-Best Hit: When Donte Whitner popped Johnnie Lee Higgins in the end zone for taunting his way in for an 84 yard TD catch. I say good for Donte. It wasn’t a vicious hit and Higgins was acting like a piece of crap so I’m okay with it.

-Performance Grades:

A: Trent Edwards. Gotta hand it to the guy. After being rushed, hurried, and hit all day long (thanks Jason Peters!) and having a less than stellar game entering the fourth quarter, Edwards hung in there. He was a vocal leader, rallying his troops and bringing them to victory. His stats on the day were 24/39 279 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. In only 12 games with the NFL, Trent Edwards is developing faster than we Bills fans could have hoped and it’s an awesome thing to behold. 

B+: Rian Lindell. Even though he missed a crucial-at-the-time 46 yarder, Lindell redeemed himself by making the 38 yard game winning kick as time expired. I remember when Bills fans would be nervous for kicks like these, but now they all feel like gimmies when Lindell is booting the ball. I love this guy and he’s come a long way since he first came to Buffalo in 2003. 

B-: The Bills Defense. They performed when they had to, recording a sack and forcing a fumble from JaMarcus Russell, all while standing tall in a frustrating first half. Still, the unit had their moments of getting burned, such as on the ground game. Granted the D held the Raiders to 98 rush yards as well as a 2/12 3rd down conversion ratio. This is a great stat considering the week before Oakland rushed for over 300 yards against the Chiefs. Still, they gave up some big plays. Most notably with just over six minutes left in the game on 3rd and 10, Russell managed to get the ball to WR Johnnie Lee Higgins who showboated his jackass self 84 yards into the end zone to put Oakland up 23-14. The 12th Man hadn’t been louder all day than on that play and the D blew their coverage. If the Oakland Raiders were the San Diego Chargers (or any other team for that matter), the end result of this game may not have been so joyous for Bills fans after giving up a play like that. But who knows. Props to Marcus Stroud for making the Jills look bad. He was getting the crowd pumped up all day long. I love that in a player. The defense also held Russell to 9/19 156 yards, 1 TD. Not bad, but they still need to improve on their tackling!

C+: Josh Reed. It’s nice to see this guy develop. I remember him dropping 50 yard passes when he was wide open back in the day. But all that is in the past. Reed is a great slot receiver and has cleansed his hands of the butter and grease that he had them doused in early in his career. On Sunday Reed was Edwards’ #1 receiver having 6 catches for 72 yards, breaking tackles and picking up extra yards after the catch. He gets only a C+ because Bills nation is still eagerly looking forward to seeing Reed bust loose.

D: Lee Evans. This game was one of the worst of his career. He allowed big-mouthed-ex-Falcon DeAngelo Hall to strip the ball from him which led to Oakland points. Evans also fumbled and had a costly offensive pass interference call, which was unneccessarry. I don’t mean to dump on the guy too harshly, but a bad day is a bad day. We’re still waiting from last season for Lee to make the breakout plays that electrifyed crowds back in 2006. Hopefully a weak Rams team can help with that in week 4.

F: Jason Peters. He missed all of training camp, preseason, and the home opener. Two weeks in a row Peters has let his man get by him, resulting in an Edwards fumble and points for the opposing team. To quote: “In another week I’ll be back to 100 percent every play, getting ready to go… It’s physical. Just getting my body in shape. The mental part comes.” Hmmm… maybe he should have gone to work this summer with the rest of the team and gotten in shape. Playing as yourself in Madden ’09 on your X-Box 360 while smoking a bowl with a bag of Doritos by your side does not count as “knowing all the plays,” Jason.  

-Biggest Disappointment: I’ve been to both Bills home games so far and I have yet to see a man leap from the stands and attempt to run from end zone to end zone while dodging security. This saddens me.

-Best Sight to Behold: Seeing the en masse of Raiders fans who showed up in their ridiculous looking Mad Max-S & M-KISS-wannabe-suits (there thousands upon thousands of them!) go home to the West Coast wondering how the holy heck their team blew this one.

-Best Pro Analysis: Vic Carucci of http://www.nfl.com puts the Bills at 4th place in his Power Rankings after week 3: “Should have been easier vs. the Raiders, but Trent Edwards showed once again that he knows when to rise to the occasion.” Yes it is true, Carucci does live in WNY.

-Best Fact: I was eight years old the last time the Buffalo Bills were 3-0 back in 1992. It’s nice to be excited again.

-Final Word: The Bills take on the 0-3 St. Louis Rams this week in St. Louis. A win here would be huge as their next opponent is the inconsistent 2-1 Arizona Cardinals in Arizona. It’s easy to think that Buffalo could be 5-0 heading into their bye week. Here’s to hoping.

Billieve.

 

Wow. 

This past summer Terrence McGee promised Western New Yorkers the Buffalo Bills would make a playoff appearance in 2008.

The way things went today, I’m inclined to believe him.

The young Bills blew out the Seattle Seahawks this afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium with a final score of 34-10. Sitting through the first half was a little rough, with rain and a temperature in the low 60s, but in the third quarter the sun came out as if to welcome the Bills to a promising 2008 season.

Brief game summary:

The beginning of the game was a defensive match up with both teams struggling offensively with plenty of dropped passes due to the slick weather conditions. The first score of the game came with under three minutes left in the first when Buffalo running back Marshawn Lynch turned on ‘Beast Mode’ and busted through the Seattle line for a 21 yard TD run on 3rd and 11. After a juke filled punt return for a TD by Buffalo’s Roscoe Parrish, some clock mismanagement by Seattle, and a pair of Buffalo field goals (35, 38 yards), the Seahawks finished the first half down 20-7. With four minutes left in the third the game was blown open by a trick play from Buffalo’s special teams coach, Bobby April, which took everyone by surprise- Including the fans. In a play that should be dubbed ‘The Statue’ (due to kicker Rian Lindell’s motionless stance during the play), the Bills faked a field goal and punter Brian Moorman easily tossed a 19 yard TD pass to DE Ryan Denney. 25 seconds later, Trent Edwards connected with TE Robert Royal for his first TD of the season on a 30 yard pass play following a fumble recovery by the Bills special teams unit.

The rest is history.

Some thoughts on the game:

-The Bills offensive line looked great today. Quarterback Trent Edwards was sacked only once, but otherwise he was protected all day long… And this was all without that whiney baby, Jason Peters in the lineup. Also, the defensive line was able to keep constant pressure on Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck, sacking him five times and picking him off once. Seeing both lines perform at such a high level has been rare at best for Bills fans, and today was a hopeful sign of things to come.

-The defense played hard, and LB Kawika Mitchell proved why he was such a valuable off season acquisition. In addition to his leadership and instilling confidence in the younger players, he had four tackles and a sack. Unlike last season, the Bills were able to stuff the run and put pressure on the Seattle wide receivers. The Seahawks had only 85 yards rushing and 190 yards through the air. Also, the fourth quarter goal line stand to keep the Seahawks out of the endzone, while meaningless at that point in the game, gave the fans something extra to cheer about. The defense allowed Seattle to complete only 3 of 16 third downs. Bravo Buffalo.

-It’s obvious that Trent Edwards is developing a rapport with Robert Royal. They connected a few times during the preseason and they connected today for Edwards’ only touchdown. This excites me because since Jay Riemersma (remember him?) the TE position on the Bills has been anything but useful.

-Marshawn Lynch is a beast. Period.

-As usual the special teams showed up and made a huge difference in the game, scoring 14 points. Rian Lindell’s ‘The Statue’ play was brilliant, and Roscoe Parrish’s 63 yard punt return for a TD was electrifying. Bobby April is a genius and Parrish is undeniably the best punt returner in Bills history. 

-How’s this for an interesting stat: In the last six years, the Bills are 3-3 in season openers, but they have only trailed 8 minutes and 33 seconds in those six games. Today they trailed for 00:00.

-Props to the 12th Man. We were loud today.

-The Bills have definitely improved their skills in the clock management department. Last season they were terrible at this (watch the Broncos and Cowboys games) but that was not the case today. Edwards would let the clock tick down before snapping the ball, and the team managed to score two field goals within the final minute of the first half.

-Buffalo scored 34 points in this game. They scored more than that only once last season, against Miami.

-Dick Jauron should be commended for keeping his team disciplined. The Bills were only penalized once for a bogus 14 yard defensive pass interference call on CB Jabari Greer. It was nice to not see the Bills defeat themselves. 

-The only major qualm I have with the game is that Edwards needs to be more accurate with his passes. I understand the weather was a factor, but he needs to adapt better; especially because he is playing in Buffalo eight games a year (well, seven due to Toronto). The weather here is rarely agreeable and Trent must improve this aspect of his game.  

Parting wisdom:

I’m very happy I made it home to Buffalo last night after spending the summer in Oregon so I could attend this game. Had I missed it, I probably would have been banned from airports across the country due to excessive frustration at sitting this one out. Anyway, the Dolphins are still terrible, Brett Favre is only getting older, and Tom Brady is reported to be out for the season… AFC East, here we come! 

GO BILLS!!
(What was with the Buffalo Jills wearing ponchos? Lame.)

Second two photos taken by Andy Liegl.