Inside Bills Report

The Bills have lost four in a row, their season is in a shambles, and the talk in western New York is no longer about the playoffs, but rather of where the Bills might end up in the first-round draft order. At this pace, a top 10 pick is a definite ossibility.

However, despite their gloomy situation in the standings, and the fact that they are playing for a lame-duck coach in Gregg Williams whose contract almost certainly won't be extended after this season, the Bills are playing with heart and determination and that counts for something in the NFL.

Sunday against the Colts, WR Eric Moulds played with a groin injury that is very painful and has sapped him of much of his speed and strength. RB Travis Henry, going against everyone's wishes including his mother and his agent, played with a cracked fibula. "If we didn't have a chance, I don't know (if I would have played)," Henry said. "But we had a chance so I went out and gave it all I had."

LT Jonas Jennings, who missed a game and a half with a hip flexor and played last week against Houston only because RT Mike Williams couldn't due to a car accident, played like a warrior. "I don't know how I made it through. I was just going on will," said Jennings, who walked very gingerly in the locker room. "I was in bad pain. The doctor wanted to pull me and I just told him, 'Let me go until it goes.' In a situation like this, playing hurt, you do whatever it takes. Luckily, I made it through, but I don't know how good it's going to be from here on."

Jennings came out during the first series of the game, but insisted on returning and he went all the way. Colts' DE Dwight Freeney managed a sack of Drew Bledsoe, but he said of Jennings' Pro Bowl campaign, "He's got my vote."

LG Ruben Brown, beaten badly on Buffalo's final play by Chad Bratzke that resulted in a Bledsoe interception, played with a banged up elbow. RG Mike Pucillo battled a turf toe until he could no longer function and came out early in the fourth quarter.

The Bills are giving it their all, but two things are holding them back and have been key reasons for their four-game slide: First and foremost, they aren't as good as many prognosticators thought they were, but second, they have endured some debilitating injuries to key personnel.

"Guys are giving a lot of effort," said general manager Tom Donahoe, sounding an awful lot like he did back in 2001 when he took over an organization that was in disrepair and suffered through a 3-13 season. "But we understand the bottom line is you have to win and effort isn't good enough. But it's frustrating because we have good guys, a lot of character and the work ethic is good. We're just not winning."

Gregg Williams, growing grayer by the day as his team has now slid all the way to last in the AFC East after being tied for first through Week 3, said the only solace he can take is that the team has not quit.

"Guys battled very, very hard," he said. "Our guys battle, they play hard and prepare hard."

Running back Sammy Morris, who scored one of Buffalo's two touchdowns, said it's difficult to keep his head up, but he and his teammates have to somehow finish the season out on a positive note.

"We have a lot of determination," said Morris. "We have so many guys playing hurt and playing well hurt. Our team more than anything has showed the kind of fight we have. I know I'm going to continue to fight until the season is over, and the other guys are going to continue to fight."


--CB Nate Clements was used as a punt returner in place of Antonio Brown. Brown's 4.4-yard average is second-worst in the league among regular punt returners, so Clements was inserted because coach Gregg Williams thought his additional size would help him break more tackles and gain more yardage. He had two returns that went for 7 and 10 yards.

--WR Sam Aiken, a rookie who was just starting to see increased playing time, suffered a knee injury in practice the Friday before the game and could be lost for the rest of the season.

--CB Terrence McGee is becoming more and more of a contributor, on defense and special teams. He has assumed the role of nickel back and he made a big hit on Edgerrin James to force a fumble that teammate London Fletcher recovered deep in Bills territory. He also had five tackles, one deflected pass and two tackles on special teams.

--RG Ross Tucker, who started seven games for the Cowboys last year, saw his first extensive playing time for the Bills when he played the fourth quarter after starter Mike Pucillo went down with a toe injury.

--FS Izell Reese was made inactive for the game because of a concussion he suffered the week before against Houston. Pierson Prioleau, whose job Reese took at mid-season, returned to the starting lineup.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It hurts about as bad as any loss I've had in football. Guys were fighting their butts off and doing everything they can to try and get this thing turned around. We laid it on the line today and yeah, it hurts." -- Center Trey Teague on the bitter disappointment of blowing a 14-3 lead and losing to the Colts.



PASSING OFFENSE: D -- For the fourth game in a row, all losses, and for the fifth time this season QB Drew Bledsoe failed to reach 200 yards passing. During the four-game losing streak he has not thrown a TD pass and has tossed 4 interceptions, the most recent coming in the final minute against the Colts. That one wasn't his fault as LG Ruben Brown, a 7-time Pro Bowl performer, was manhandled on a bull rush up the gut by Indy's Chad Bratzke who hammered Bledsoe just as he was throwing. The ball floated into the air and David Thornton intercepted near midfield for the Colts to end Buffalo's threat to force overtime. Just as that play wasn't Bledsoe's fault, the general malaise of the passing game isn't all his fault, either. The Buffalo receiving corps, with Eric Moulds still hobbled by a groin injury and unable to provide a burst, has been completely devoid of playmaking. The Bills longest gain through the air was 19 yards. WRs Josh Reed and Bobby Shaw remain barely competent possession receivers, and Moulds doesn't need to be double-teamed because he can't win his one-on-one battles right now. TEs Dave Moore and Mark Campbell had exactly zero catches and two drops, both by Moore. And then there is the line. RG Mike Pucillo missed the fourth quarter with a toe injury so Ross Tucker played, Jonas Jennings is hobbled by a sore hip and Brown was playing with a sore left arm. They're banged up, but you still have to play, and they failed in a critical situation at the end of the game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Travis Henry earned big points for playing with a cracked bone in his lower leg. He carried 22 times for 77 hard-fought yards and caught 4 passes for 21 yards. That's quite a workload for a guy playing on a broken leg, but he should have been utilized more. It was clear Henry was managing his pain and it didn't seem to affect his speed or cutting ability. There were times when the Bills gouged the suspect Indy run defense as Henry had five runs of at least 12 yards. But there were also six plays where he had zero or negative yardage and that seemed to be enough to convince offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride not to hammer away with Henry. Third-down back Sammy Morris contributed one of Buffalo's best plays. Gilbride called a rare third-down run on the second play of the fourth quarter in a third-and-goal situation from the 7. Morris took a delayed handoff, made a nice cut and then slammed his way into the end zone behind a block by LG Ruben Brown to score the Bills' second touchdown.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- In the first three quarters Peyton Manning was a rather unimpressive 18 of 31 for 159 yards as the Bills' defense did a nice job of disguising coverages and forcing him into some poor throws. And then the fourth quarter started. Trailing 14-3, Manning directed two touchdown drives to win the game, and it was his poise under pressure and ability to mix his plays that keyed the drives. He alternated handing the ball off to Edgerrin James and throwing short, ball-control passes, completing 8 of 11 for 70 yards. It was mostly nickel and dime stuff, but he was sharper than he had been all day and the Bills were powerless to stop him. Buffalo couldn't generate any pass rush so Manning had time to survey the field, and that gave his receivers plenty of time to shake defenders, especially Marvin Harrison on a key third-and-6 play from the 23. Harrison caught an 8-yard pass against rookie CB Terrence McGee. Manning was sacked just once, that by CB Antoine Winfield on a blitz, and was not intercepted in 42 attempts. The Bills' defense has to make more game-changing plays.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Bills did a nice job on Edgerrin James and the entire Colts offense for three quarters, limiting Indy to a lone Mike Vanderjagt field goal. But in the final period, the defense wilted. James carried 13 times for 55 yards and scored both of Indy's TDs, one on a 14-yard run where he bowled over several Bills on the way to the end zone, and the other on a powerful one-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal with 1:38 remaining. The sellout crowd was roaring on that play and the Bills - who had stuffed James on three previous runs from the 3 or closer - were fired up, but James burrowed his way underneath the pile on the right side of his line to win the game. James finished with 28 carries for 108 yards and his longest run was the 14-yard TD, but the frequency of his runs was as important as the yardage. The Bills expected the Colts to be passing in the fourth quarter when they trailed 14-3, but Manning mixed his plays splendidly and James played a key role in the comeback.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Punter Brian Moorman had quite an interesting day. Four of his six punts pinned the Colts inside their 20-yard-line, twice inside the 10. His gross average was 49 yards, his net a spectacular 46.2. And then there was the play where he dropped Jon Dorenbos' perfect long snap but turned a potential disaster into a positive as he had the presence of mind to run around the right end for a 21-yard gain that converted a first down. That play kick-started the sagging Buffalo offense and led to the Bills breaking their three-plus games touchdown drought. On the negative side, he dropped that snap which should have never happened, and he also misplayed a hold on a field goal attempt by Rian Lindell in the second quarter. Moorman put the ball down but it squirted away and Lindell wound up kicking Moorman's hand and only a small piece of the ball, sending it into the middle of the line. It was a 48-yard attempt so who knows if Lindell would have made it with a clean exchange, but those lost three points were the difference at the end. Nate Clements was used as the punt returner in place of ineffective Antonio Brown, but he failed to generate any excitement. The Bills bottled up Terrence Wilkins on punt returns, but Wilkins averaged 24.7 yards on three kick returns.

COACHING: C -- Generally, a grade of 'C' means average, and that's what this performance was for Gregg Williams and his stuff. Kudos for having the team ready to play despite the fact that a very good team was coming to town, and the Bills' season was on the brink of extinction. The effort was there, but as usual, it did not result in a victory. On offense did not take enough advantage of Indy's suspect run defense. Travis Henry had 22 carries, but he should have had more. Defensively, the Bills needed to generate more pass rush on Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter and they weren't able to do it with conventional calls. There needed to be a few more blitzes mixed into the package because Manning had too much time to scope the field.

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