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.

Everyone please welcome back down to Earth your Buffalo Bills.

On Sunday the Bills lost their first game of the season, dropping to 4-1 against the 3-2 Arizona Cardinals, by a score of 17-41.

Ouch.

The report card:

NOOO!! Moment: When Bills starting QB Trent Edwards left the field after only his third snap of the game with a concussion, and disgruntled backup J.P. Losman had to take over.

Best Performance in a Losing Effort: This one’s tough as no player really stood out in the game. I suppose I will go with Marshawn Lynch because the guy never quits. Still, he has yet to break a 100 yard game this season, and the way he runs and takes hits makes you feel like he may be next on the injury chopping block.

That’s A Shame Award: The Buffalo Bills overall performance. A shame indeed. 

Biggest Disappointment: The Bills defense. They looked terrible. The Cardinals scored on all four of their first half possessions, and on three of six possessions in the second half. The biggest let down by the defense was in the second quarter after Bills QB J.P. Losman connected with WR Lee Evans on an 87 yard TD pass to cut the Cardinals lead in half, making the score 14-7. Instead of stopping the Cardinals on their next drive, the defense allowed them to find the end zone on a 1 yard TD run by RB Edgerrin James. And where the hell has the pass rush been all season long? It’s basically non-existent. This was the defense’s first true test against a good offense, and they need to step it up if they hope to be a contender in January.

Biggest Head Scratcher Award: Why the [expletive] didn’t Bills coach Dick Jauron challenge the Robert Royal fumble with 2:33 left in the 3rd quarter? At the time the Bills were down by only two scores. I have no idea why Jauron thought a timeout was more valuable than maintaining possession of the ball. Depending on your bias, it looked like Royal’s knee was down before the ball came lose. The turnover cost the Bills the game mentally, as the Cardinals scored a field goal on the ensuing drive, putting themselves up by three scores.

[Worst] Fact: Before this game the Bills defense was the best in the NFL on stopping third down conversions. Yet against Arizona they stopped only 4 of the 16 Cardinal 3rd downs, and couldn’t halt Arizona when they went for it on 4th and 1 early in the 4th quarter… jeez.

Best Sight to Behold: Losman to Evans for an 87 yard TD pass. It was cool to see that again. Unfortunately J.P. comes with a garbage truck load full of problems. All of WNY (and the Buffalo Bills team) sighed in pre-mature defeat when Losman took the field to replace Edwards. We all knew we’d seen this show before, and Sunday was no different than Losman’s previous four seasons with the Bills. I have one burning question about J.P: why does he always refuse to take a step or two up in the pocket, and how has this behavior not been corrected in five NFL seasons? Stepping up in the pocket would prevent him from both A) getting sacked so much and B) fumbling.

Pat on the Back Award: I suppose if there are games to lose they are the games against non-conference opponents… so take that for whatever it’s worth. 

Most Drunk Award: Everyone who thinks the Bills’ season is on the fritz with this loss. Relax. After being spanked by the Jets last week, and a below .500 record at stake while playing at home, the Cardinals were put in a pressured situation. They responded. Now let’s see if the Bills can.

Final Word: For three weeks in a row the Bills have had to play from behind by the end of the first quarter. They need to take the pressure off of themselves by scoring fast and early, which is what they did in weeks one and two. Since week 6 is a bye for Buffalo, hopefully key starters (Edwards, Parrish, McGee, Stroud) can get healthy and be ready to play against the San Diego Charges at Ralph Wilson Stadium in week 7. 

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.