But alas, about a third way through the season last year my hopes for such luck were dashed. I will write more on the perceptions surrounding Bledsoe's career in the coming weeks however.
The real reason why I am even writing this piece at this time is to correct some of the mainstream media mantras that have been sustained, not just about Bledsoe, but about this team.
Unfortunately, not all of those misperceptions originate in the mainstream media. Some are coming right out of One Bills Drive. It is my hope that we, the Bills as a team, regional media, and fanbase, can cease looking at faulty notions as to the successes and failures of this team and that the Bills can have a decent draft this year for a change and make some moves in free-agency that actually help the team commensurate with the money that is invested this offseason.
A quick note to Tom Donahoe would be to avoid the "walking wounded" this offseason both in the draft and in free agency. More on that in the following weeks as well.
Last season the media "war cry" was over how marvelous the Bills' offense was, how our defense did little to assist the Bills in winning games, and what a great passing game we had.
Last year I avidly challenged these notions and in doing so became about as welcome and popular amongst fellow Bills fans as a mother would be walking in on her son's stag party. At this time however, I think we are long overdue for such an analysis.
First of all, much of the reason surrounding the hype of the offense last season was due to several things. First, media golden boy Bledsoe had arrived in Buffalo. "Finally" many fans reasoned, "we have a bonafide league-wide known and respected QB."
While the honeymoon was short-lived for myself, namely it lasted about six games, most other fans kept it alive through the end of the season and on into this season.
Secondly, numerous team passing records were set, ten if I am not mistaken. What went quietly unnoticed by media and fans was that not a single one of those records had even the slightest thing to do with scoring. They all had to do in one form or another, with the frequency with which the team, led by the "genius" Gilbride, had passed the ball. I
ronically, it was the same Gilbride who was criticized for "throwing too much." Go figure, eh!
Thirdly, the defense started off slowly last year and got a bum rap for the entire season, largely because of notions that "nothing that went wrong could possibly stem from a ‘Bledsoe-led' offense." Also ironically, it was this same war/rallying cry that kept the Patriots from being better for ten seasons in New England.
Let's take a look at some of the relevant statistics amassed over the last ten games of last season vice the first ten games of this season.
In doing so, let us first consider a very much under-recognized notion that in four of the team's eight wins last season, it was the defense that led the way by allowing only 9, 10, 13, and 17 points in those contests. Yet, they were deemed the weakness of the team.
As well, vs. the Chiefs, the highest scoring and most prolific offense in the league last season, and in Kansas City by-the-way, it was the defense that held Priest Holmes to right around 100 yards rushing on fewer than 3.4 yards-per-carry and the Chiefs as a team to only 17 points, their fourth lowest scoring output of the entire season. Yet, the Bills lost due to a completely unnecessary unforced Bledsoe passing error. And again, in a game where Bledsoe had four turnovers, two inside the opponent red zone and one setting up a Green Bay touchdown, it was the defense with a 10 point performance resulting in a loss as well. So any notions that the defense did not show up last season are flawed at best.
That is six games where the defense held opponents to 17 or fewer points yet was only 4-2 in those games. When looked at as such the difference between last season and this one should not be a shocker to anyone.
There were also several other games where the offense was more responsible for numerous points allowed than the defense was as well.
This season, while the defense of the Bills has been touted as the team's strong suit, the differences in level of play between last season's last ten games and this season's first ten games are really not dramatic at all.
Last season, over the last ten games, the defense held opponents to 193 points or 19.3 points-per-game, had 13 sacks, 10 interceptions, and 5 fumble recoveries or 15 total takeaways.
This season, over the first ten games, games in which the defense has been heralded as the strength of the team, the defense has held opponents to 170 points or 17.0 points-per-game, had 18 sacks, 8 interceptions, and 3 fumble recoveries or 11 total takeaways.
Do I say this to take away from the defense this season? Not a chance, as I too realize that the defense is the strong suit this year.
Rather, I am using this contrast to demonstrate the faulty perceptions that existed about the truth surrounding the play of the Bills overall last season and in particular, the play of the defense last season which got a bum rap.
Other than a relevant although not incredible difference of approximately 2 points-per-game as outlined above, last season's defense while having five fewer sacks, had generated 4 more turnovers, a worthwhile tradeoff.
In fact, while that 17.0 points-per-game places the current Bills defense at number five overall according to this season's rankings, 19.3 points-per-game would have placed at 13th overall just behind the Tennessee Titans, a very respectable defense. That same 19.3 PPG had it been sustained over the entire season instead of simply the last ten games would have ranked at 7th overall at season's end by last season's scoring D standards.
So as is plainly evident, the differences in the defense after the first six games last season are nominal at best, yet, the media perceptions are incredibly different.
Moreover, the three largest scoring games for Bills' opponents last season over the ‘last 10' were with point totals of 38, 31, and 27 points. The rest were 21 or fewer points allowed.
This season through ten games, the three largest scoring games for Bills' opponents were 38, 30, and 23; not particularly astronomical differences.
Ironically, and completely opposite from what the media would have us all believe, the same is true for the offense.
Last season, the offense under Bledsoe amassed most of its "high powered status" over the first six games prior to going flat over the last ten as well. In fact, it was the reputation of Bledsoe and the offense over the first six games that, right or wrong, so defined the Bills as a team throughout the season.
Of Bledsoe's 24 TDs last season, 14 of them came over the first six games leaving only 10 of them, or one per game, for the last ten games; very average numbers over the last ten. Of those 14 TDs in the first six games, 9 of them along with 0 interceptions were against Chicago, Houston, and Minnesota, the 20th, 25th, and 30th scoring defenses last season, and three teams finishing a combined 14-34. That leaves 15 TDs to 15 INTs over the remaining 13 games, very average numbers indeed.
Versus the other three teams over the first six games, Bledsoe tossed five touchdowns to five interceptions in three losses, two of which the primary factors in the loss were Drew's personal turnovers.
But wait, there's more! We have not even looked at the final ten games offensively. If the national level media and the Bills own front office is to be believed, the defense continued to struggle through the last ten while the offense carried them. We have already shown that the prior is a myth, now I will demonstrate that the latter is pure myth as well.
Bledsoe's aggregate numbers over the last ten games of last season were 10 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and 14 total turnovers. Yet, if the mainstream media is to be believed, he played like a superstar.
Of those 10 touchdowns, three of those all occurred in the Miami game on big plays and under extenuating circumstances from several perspectives. In the remaining 9 games, Bledsoe launched only 7 touchdowns and had twice as many turnovers at 14.
When looked at through that perspective, there is not a football fan anywhere that should be wondering why Bledsoe's numbers are a very similar 6 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 6 fumbles, for a total of 15 turnovers through the first ten games of this season.
As is plainly evident, last season's 10/10/14 is almost identical to this season's 6/9/15, yet there is bewilderment on the part of fans and media alike. In my mind this is primarily due to two things.
First, and as stated, the over-reliance and over-emphasis of Bledsoe's numbers versus three very poor defensive teams in three of the team's first six games last season which carried his '02 reputation throughout the season.
The second has to do with average winning percentage of the teams played during those stretches. Over the first six games of last season, the winning percentage of Bills' opponents (based on final 2002 record) was .448. Over the last ten (based on final 2002 record) it was .488.
This season, over the first ten games (based on current records after 11 games), it is .595 simply reemphasizing the notions that Bledsoe plays poorly vs. opponents that finish at .500 or above.
Stay tuned for Friday's Pt. 2 of this series. Pt. 3 will be available on Saturday.