Four weeks ago we were looking at the division races and talking about home playoff games. Today, we’re 5-4 and looking at the rest of our schedule trying to piece together wins. Suddenly we are at the bottom of the division and random Patriots fans are heckling the site like they won some sort of trophy back in February or something. The point is, the Bills season has gone into a sort of tailspin, one that few fans saw coming.
Sure, you can saw you knew from the beginning it wouldn’t last. Revisionist history is helpful like that, but I know very few people who weren’t excited about this team, even as recently as the Chargers game. There were plenty of good signs in those first few games, despite the schedule and a few last minute heroics. Beating Jacksonville and San Diego is still a big deal, but the last three losses have proven an even bigger one.
So here’s the question: what happened?
You can start with injuries but those are to be expected in any football season. However, the sheer number of incidents over the past two seasons can make one wonder just how proper our strength and conditioning is. Edwards’ concussion seems unavoidable and it is pure speculation, but that IR list is pretty impressive, and not in a good way. (Perhaps we shouldn’t put healthy players on IR like Angel-oh wait, that’s none of our concern now, is it? Moving on…)
The turnover ratio, which started clearly in Buffalo’s favor, has deteriorated over the season as well. In the last five games the ratio is a -3 and the Bills have a 1-4 record to show for it. Their season total of -6 is good for 27th in the league, which is not a good indicator of offensive responsibility and defensive pressure. I’m no expert, but those seem like pretty important things.
So where did those “important things” go? One could make the case that defensive pressure has been absent for years, and with injuries at key positions you can clearly state it nonexistent thus far this season. Schobel, Whitner, Youboty, and Crowell being out is a huge deal, and a bend but don’t break defense quickly turns into a broken defense with that many holes.
However, the issues on offense are a bit more baffling because they begin with two things we thought were in good shape: Marshawn Lynch and Trent Edwards. As of this posting, Marshawn Lynch averages 3.5 yards per carry, with Fred Jackson averaging a slightly better 4YPC. However, their yards per game (56.9 and 26.3, respectively) does not make for a potent offense. In fact, that’s downright embarrassing.
The issue with their performance may not be with talent but rather utilization. This team has simply lost all confidence in the run, and that affects how the rest of the offense works. What we thought to be a well-run and well-versed offense is faltering at an astounding rate, with carries few and far between. What was once an easy 3rd and 1 has turned into a shotgun set with five wide receivers, which doesn’t make much sense when your third down receiver is hurt and you have two healthy running backs.
What happened to smash mouth, “our running back is going to rip your skull off” football? We clearly have a running back willing to rip off skulls, and a second option in Fred Jackson that is capable of producing when needed. Where is the confidence in your offensive line? Where is the confidence in your playcalling? Where, to be frank, are your balls?
This team’s season high in rushing is 119 yards. How is that possible with a player like Marshawn Lynch on your roster? What is this, Detroit? Even Kevin Smith is averaging 4.3 YPC, and he’s getting killed week in and week out.
The other problem, and probably the bigger one in the end, is Trent Edwards. Since that boy got concussed things just haven’t been right, and even in the San Diego game there were signs that he was still a bit… tweaked. Let’s face it, we’ve all been hurt before, and even after you are “okay” to come back there are still some lingering effects. Terrence McGee showed us that a few weeks ago, and my writing probably showed you that back in July.
If you want proof, here it is. When have you ever seen Trent throw with his mouth closed? Ever? The majority of this post has dealt with statistical evidence, but if there was ever an appeal to reason here it is. Trent Edwards is not playing like the quarterback he has been and we know he can be. Whether it is that defenses can scheme for him or he is not making clear decisions, that is the truth and the major problem.
Both interceptions on Sunday were throws he makes four weeks ago. Something has happened to the face of our franchise, and things are not looking good if he continues to play like this. This Trent Edwards doesn’t get Lee involved in the offense. This Trent doesn’t look off the safety. This Trent Edwards is not ready to be an effective NFL quarterback, and we were all under the impression that we bought a different model of Trent Edwards.
The fact of the matter is that while we can hope things turn around, something big needs to happen for it to do so. I am always one for hope, but right now I’m not as optimistic as I was when I last walked out of the Ralph. What we need is a big event, a big game, and lucky for us the Bills have that chance on Monday night.
What they also have is an opponent who may be willing to help us out, and that’s exactly what we will discuss next.