Season on the Line

Who would have guessed before this season that its outcome would be on the line when the Bills meet the second-year Houston Texans Sunday? <P> When fans were blithely writing Ws next to the games on this year's schedule, they didn't even hesitate in placing one next to Nov. 16. Now, though it still seems likely Buffalo will win at home, those same fans might be wishing they'd written that W in pencil.

Who would have guessed before this season that its outcome would be on the line when the Bills meet the second-year Houston Texans Sunday?

When fans were blithely writing Ws next to the games on this year's schedule, they didn't even hesitate in placing one next to Nov. 16. Now, though it still seems likely Buffalo will win at home, those same fans might be wishing they'd written that W in pencil.

Their schedules are already a mess. They Xed out the W next to the Eagles and reluctantly wrote in an L. Same thing with the Jets. Hey, before the season, when no one knew Kansas City would start 9-0, lots of Bills fans probably wrote a W there! Didn't Buffalo win there once with Rob Johnson at quarterback? Suddenly, RoJoCop doesn't look quite so bad … No, he still does, but Doug Flutie doesn't look so bad, does he?

If you have a long enough memory, one not wrapped in the sorrows of five losses in seven games, you no doubt remember when it was all seemed so easy for the Bills. Two wins, by huge margins, in the rear-view window. The Super Bowl and Houston shining through a squeaky-clean windshield. Houston. Isn't that ironic, now that we know the Bills are so shaky they could struggle against the Houston Texans?

How have the mighty fallen so far? I was talking about that very subject last evening with Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan. We went through many of the issues I've presented in these columns the last two weeks -- decisions in the draft and free agency that have blown up in Tom Donahoe's face, poor coaching, offensive and quarterback problems. Jerry might still be going on with more problems; we never really finished the discussion.

One of the biggest problems -- literally, and I'm getting into the cliché area here -- is with Buffalo's big people on the offensive and defensive lines. The other big cliché here is in the headline: The outcome to this season is all on the line.

Drew Bledsoe isn't getting good pass protection? That's because the offensive linemen aren't doing well in pass blocking. They're stepping straight back so that they're on their heels and easy to beat either by pushing them aside or going around them. Mike Williams has gone downhill since his rookie season. Mike Pucillo has been no better than Marques Sullivan. Jonas Jennings has been hurt. Trey Teague and Ruben Brown could be too small.

The running game isn't going anywhere? That too feels the impact of poor offensive line play. Williams is too big and slow to get out and lead the blocking.

But let's stop right there. The offensive line hasn't been a productive run-blocking unit in the three years Travis Henry has been in Buffalo. Much of his yardage has come through his own efforts -- knocking would-be tacklers out of the way, squeezing through holes, fighting for extra inches.

The bigger problem at work here is the offensive play calling. Going into the bye week, every Bills fan knew that on first down, on third and short, in the red zone, on two-point tries, Bledsoe would almost always drop back to pass. Didn't matter that Henry has shown over and over that he can get those tough yards.

Buffalo's coaches supposedly did self-scouting during the bye week. If they did, why then did the Bills continue to pass, pass, pass in those situations? Whom were they trying to fool?

Here's some advice, a novel concept, for the offensive coaching staff: Run the ball to set up the pass. There are coaching jobs on the line.


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories