Inside Bills Report

Rumors have circulated for months that this would be Gregg Williams' last year as Bills' coach if the team did not make the playoffs. Well, the Bills did not make the playoffs and after the team's dreadful performance in a 20-3 home loss to Miami Sunday, the rumor mill is grinding harder than ever.

General manager Tom Donahoe insists that he is not thinking about anything but Buffalo's season finale at New England Saturday.

"We've got to regroup after this game, find a way to get some confidence and go up and play New England," Donahoe said following the Dolphins game. "That's what our focus is this week. The focus won't be on anybody but that this week."

However, regardless of what Donahoe says on the record, there seems to be little doubt that Williams' swan song will come at Gillette Stadium.

After a five-game turnaround from 3-13 in 2001 to 8-8 in 2002, big things were expected from the Bills, especially after so many moves were made in the off-season to upgrade the team, particularly on defense. The defense has certainly been better and is one of the top-ranked units in the league, but the offense has tumbled into oblivion and is the primary reason for the regression in 2003.

Williams, who signed a three-year contract when he came to Buffalo in 2001 after a successful run as Tennessee's defensive coordinator, was not tendered a contract extension prior to this season. It was as if Donahoe and team owner Ralph Wilson were challenging Williams to prove he could lead the Bills back to playoffs and if not, well, it was nice knowing you.

In essence, Williams was in coaching limbo in 2003 and his future was going to be determined by how the Bills performed under him. The 6-9 record would indicate that the Bills did not come through for Williams and he will likely lose his job.

"I'm still the same," said Williams, who has insisted all season that he had no problem with Donahoe not offering him an extension. "I approach every week the same way and as I mentioned at the start of the year, that's not something I'll talk about until the end of the season."

It seems as if the majority of players like Williams and like playing for him, but that won't be enough to salvage his job.

"I like his coaching style, I really do," said tight end Mark Campbell, a new Bill in 2003. "I believe in Gregg and I believe in the system he uses for the players. He's very generous, very giving to the players. He takes a lot of our suggestions as a coach, so I'd love to have him around."

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--RB Travis Henry had tough sledding against the Miami defense this season. He suffered torn rib cartilage in the first meeting in September and played only half the game, and then he gained just 67 yards in the rematch, his lowest rushing total in his last nine games.

--WR Eric Moulds continues to be a non-factor for the Bills passing game. Hampered by a painful groin injury since Week 5, Moulds hasn't had a 100-yard receiving games since and he has scored just one TD all year. The Dolphins held him to three catches for 20 yards.

--CB Nate Clements almost had his sixth interception in his last four games against the Dolphins, but his second-quarter pick was negated by a personal foul penalty on DE Ryan Denney. Clements also fumbled a punt return, which set up a Miami field goal.

--LB London Fletcher, Buffalo's leading tackler for the second year in a row, had another strong game with a team-high 14 tackles. The Bills allowed Ricky Williams to gain 111 yards, but he needed 29 carries to get there.

--DT Sam Adams, who was named a Pro Bowl alternate, had another strong game with seven tackles and a fumble recovery.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously, as a team we didn't come out and play well. Obviously we're in a situation where there is a lot of room for criticism." -- Safety Lawyer Milloy on the Bills' weak performance against the Dolphins.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- In a season that has been filled with bad performances, this ranks as one of Drew Bledsoe's worst, not only this year but of his career. Bledsoe didn't match his hideous quarterback rating of 18.4 in the first loss to Miami back in September, but he came close at 46.2 as he completed 12 of 24 passes for 114 yards, was sacked 6 times for losses of 51 yards, lost a fumble that led to a Miami field goal, and threw an interception that Terrell Buckley returned 74 yards for a touchdown. Before being pulled late in the game, Bledsoe guided the Bills to a total offense output of 131 yards. Bledsoe didn't have much help, though. His receivers were once again unproductive as Josh Reed was held without a catch for the second week in a row and Eric Moulds was held to a feeble three catches for 20 yards. Most importantly, the Buffalo line couldn't protect its immobile quarterback. Playing without its two starting tackles, injured Jonas Jennings and Mike Williams, the Bills couldn't stop Miami's sack duo of Jason Taylor and Adewale Ogunleye who combined for four sacks.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Another part of Bledsoe's struggles was the fact that the Bills couldn't get their running game established. On a windy day at Ralph Wilson Stadium, it was tough enough throwing into the breeze and the Bills needed to get Travis Henry going to sustain drives and soften the Miami defense. However, Henry had his worst yardage game in more than two months, gaining just 67 yards on 24 carries. Henry also fumbled twice, losing one. Henry also made a couple mistakes in that he tried to bounce a few runs outside the hole and that wasn't very smart against a Miami defense that has pretty good lateral speed.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- As bad as Bledsoe played, his counterpart, Jay Fiedler, was every bit his inept equal. Fiedler passed for just 46 yards, completing only 8 of 17 attempts, and he was sacked twice, fumbled twice and losing one which set up Buffalo's lone field goal, and he threw one interception plus had another pick negated by a Buffalo penalty. Fiedler was clearly affected by the windy conditions and when the Dolphins were traveling into the wind Fiedler spent most of his time stuffing the ball into Ricky Williams' gut. Fiedler's TD pass to Chris Chambers in the first quarter came with the wind, and came after Miami started a possession at the Buffalo 36. In all, Miami's three scoring drives traveled just 36, 15 and 21 yards. The Bills generated decent pressure as Aaron Schobel upped his sack total to a career-best 11.5, and the secondary held the explosive Chambers to that lone catch. The only other catch by a receiver was a 9-yard catch by James McKnight. The Chambers' play was Fiedler's only completion longer than 9 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Dolphins did what the Bills didn't on this windy day; they were able to pound the ball on the ground. Ricky Williams gained 111 yards and he needed 29 bruising carries to achieve that total. For the most part the Bills contained Williams, but there were a few key plays in the first half that were telling. On one drive Williams converted 3rd-and-7 and 3rd-and-19 situations with excellent runs where the Buffalo defense was blocked nicely, and missed a couple of tackles. On a day when the Bills held the Dolphins to 11 first downs, eight of them came via the rush.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Rather than introduce the offensive or defensive starters, the Bills introduced their punt coverage team before the game. That unit promptly committed a holding penalty on the first punt, and Brian Moorman followed with a 28-yard effort into the wind that gave the Dolphins a drive start at the Bills 36. Four plays later Miami scored a touchdown and it never relinquished that lead. Later in the game the Bills allowed Charlie Rogers, who played for them in 2002, to rip off a 48-yard punt return. Also, Terrence McGee committed a holding penalty on a return that pushed the Bills back to a drive start at their own 18. On a tough day for kicking, Pro Bowl alternate Moorman averaged 43.8 yards but his net was only 34.8. Rian Lindell made his only field goal attempt, a short 23-yarder with the wind, while the kickoff team allowed Travis Minor to return one 35 yards. Not a particularly inspiring day.

COACHING: C -- With a fierce wind blowing against them on the first series of the game, the Bills tried to throw a sideline fade route to Eric Moulds and Drew Bledsoe's pass was blown well off course and Moulds couldn't make the catch. It was typical of Kevin Gilbride's play-calling all season. He also came up with a beauty when the Bills drove to the Miami 4 in the third quarter. On second down he had Bledsoe attempt a middle screen, but with so many bodies in the middle Bledsoe had way too much traffic to throw through and the ball fell incomplete. Also, the Bills never got their protection schemes figured out and Bledsoe was in trouble all day. Defensively, the Bills played very well as they pressured Jay Fiedler and were strong in the secondary. They also did a pretty good job of containing Ricky Williams on the ground.


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