Bills' First Team O Unable to Penetrate End Zone

All eyes were on the Bills' offense on Saturday night vs. the Colts in the RCA Dome as they added three more points to their paltry tally of offensive points amassed through approximately five quarters of play this preseason. That tally has grown to nine points or approximately two points per quarter, a full point below the 11 points-per-game, or four quarters, that the team managed to eke out offensively over the last 14 games of last season. There is some good news for Bills fans however.

I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico. Actually not, but had I have changed it, the phone call doing so may have qualified as one of the candidates for offensive play-of-the-game.

To put this game in a proper perspective, vs. a worse defense than the last two weeks, in more time with greater continuity, three additional drives, and in a game whereby the entire team, media, and fans fully realized that the building of some offensive momentum was absolutely critical, this first team offense managed to put up only half the points that they had in the first two games. The Bills first team offense has now not scored a touchdown in their last five games played.

They did move the ball somewhat. However when one considers the caliber of defense that they faced, if the Bills' offense had truly been improved over last season, then they would have easily moved the ball and put it into the end zone with the first team at least twice in nearly three quarters of play.

The Colts last night, while shutting down the Bills first team offense and holding them to 0-for-1 in the red zone along with the accompanying field goal as the only offensive production through nearly three quarters, are not a particularly good defensive squad. As pointed out in the pregame piece, the Bills have a dozen games this season whereby they face teams with higher ranked scoring defenses last season than the Colts were, many of them improved from last season to this one.

The Bills were 0-for-1 in their only red zone opportunity.

Lawyer Milloy left injured with a broken forearm.

Travis Brown is out due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will be lost for the season and put on injured reserve.

The Bills had seven fumbles in spite of losing only three.

The heretofore optimistically playing special teams had several instances of key errors and poor play overall giving fans good cause to wonder whether their exemplary play of the first two preseason games was anomalous.

The Bills' first team D outscored their first team O by a margin of 2-to-1 in this game. The first team defense has two points less total than the offense does this preseason.

Third down efficiency was 2-for-13, 15%. Neither of the two successes was with the first unit as the first unit was 0-for-9 on third down conversions. Again, this Colt defense was nothing to write home about.

While Bledsoe's numbers were good per se, his performance indicated little shedding of issues that have plague Bledsoe's viability as a starter. Sloppy ball handling combined with two sacks, both on third down's, one on 3rd-and-3 inside the Colt red zone, and the other immediately following a timeout, stymieing what little offensive success that the Bills had, jaded his overall numbers. The "four second clock" experiment seems to not have worked as Bledsoe held the ball too long on numerous plays, several times almost coming close to sacks or worse.

As to Travis Brown, it remains a mystery as well why on the first play of the first possession that Brown was leading the team the called play was a deep ball. Brown throws a decent short to medium game but is certainly not noted for his long balls, which are problematic. One would think that a run or a higher percentage short pass would have been selected. The pass was intercepted with Lee Evans being the intended receiver. This pass would have been better attempted with Bledsoe at QB.

Every one of the teams that the Bills face over the first six games to start this season have much speedier, effective, and more physical defenses than the Colts do. Just a heads up for fans. If the Bills cannot however muster more than three offensive points vs. a below average Colt defense, then how offensive success is going to come over the first six games of the season remains a world class mystery to be solved by the sages of time and those present in the Sage Hall of Fame.

If not many things were made clear on Saturday night one thing was. That whomever the "source close to McGahee" was that stirred up trouble by suggesting that Willis McGahee wanted to be traded if he is not to be the starter this season likely will not be stirring up many other problems or controversies anytime soon. At present, it is doubtful if McGahee would even fetch the 1st round pick in next year's draft that it cost the Bills to acquire him.

Willis McGahee managed to muster only 3.6 yards-per-carry vs. last season's 20th ranked and unimproved rushing defense and put the rock on the mat once on his tenth carry of the game costing the Bills some dearly needed momentum on the third drive of the game. His overall performance is still nothing suggestive that a first round draft pick coupled with all the time wasted in waiting for him to get back to top form, a form that may or may not ever emerge, will be worthwhile.

If McGahee's performance does not improve significantly during the early part of this season, he may have to start looking over his shoulder at Shaud Williams who had the best rushing performance on either team. All talk of trading Henry or McGahee can now cease altogether. It is time to move on from absurd notions that McGahee is going to start over Henry or that either will be traded at any time during this season.

Instead, the talk about town should be what should the Bills do tactically, as well as strategically thinking longer term, should the Bills come out of the gates offensively as they have over almost all of last season and now in the entirety of the 2004 preseason while posting only 9 points on three field goals.

This Thursday's Detroit game will be meaningless given the Lion's weak defense coupled with the fact that the Bill's primary goal should be to prevent further injuries. That approach will be common across the NFL in this last week's docket of games.

It is almost senseless to discuss the defense. The defense was not at all the issue with these Bills last season except vs. the three teams possessive of viable offenses. The defense, while having its issues last season, was more than capable of doing its part in reaching the playoffs. Even Milloy's injury, while unfortunate, will not cause such demise in defensive play that it will become an issue in and of itself.

Coy Wire steps in to replace Wire and resumes his natural spot. Fans should have few concerns about a significant drop-off in play there. His play in this past game was solid. In fact, the defense, for as good as it was, merely sheds light on how bad this team's offense really was last season given that with such a highly ranked defense the Bills could not amass anymore than 6 wins. This becomes even more glaringly true when one considers the weak slate of opponents on last season's schedule.

To put this into some sort of perspective, consider that the Dolphins offense has been a mockery over past seasons with their inability to score in big games and paltry offensive production almost entirely provided by former running back, now pothead, Ricky Williams. Last season both teams had very similar defenses, yet the Dolphins won 10 games with their offense generally contributing to wins only vs. the worst of teams on their schedule. The defense carried them, more or less, to 10 wins with only nominal support from the offense.

The very first thought that comes to mind following the observance of this game is that this is a team which is reaping the fruits of the Donahoe approach which has utterly neglected the development of the offensive line during his tenure in Buffalo apparently not believing that a solid offensive line is key to offensive success in the NFL. It can easily be said that this season will be more a referendum on Donahoe's approach to managing this team than any other aspect of team leadership.

Furthermore, the only one of the Bills' draft picks over the past two drafts that is making any kind of significant impact is last season's fourth round draftee Terrence McGee. The only players from the 2002 draft making any kind of significant impact are 2nd rounder Josh Reed and 6th rounder Kevin Thomas. The only starter making a significant impact to date is Reed. This just shouldn't be.

The Bills have drafted only one linemen in the first four rounds of the past three drafts and have acquired absolutely no marquee linemen otherwise via free agency, only aging somewhat adequate vets some with injury issues, journeyman starters or backups, and role playing linemen if even that much. The only other lineman drafted highly was Jonas Jennings in round 3 of the 2001 draft and he has perennial injury issues and appears to be headed out of Buffalo following the season. Jennings did not play last night due to injury.

The results of those decisions are now clearly rearing their ugly head for this Bills team and have been very evident throughout this preseason. This team is much closer to losing key free agents and standing on the edge of another two-year rebuilding period than it is of making the playoffs or even posting a winning season.

Good news however, the Bills are eyeball deep in WRs likely having to cut one or two good ones, have a solid stable of marquee running backs, and decent TE depth as well. Unfortunately they are several games away from an offensive collapse due to their QB situation. Meanwhile, "the solution", Lee Evans once again has not caught a pass in preseason putting his offensive performance during the preseason at a single catch for no yards and one rush for a dozen yards leaving fans wondering.

His lack of development also indicates that not a single player from this year's draft will contribute significantly to the success or improvement of the Bills this season. Even if his speed and effectiveness in getting open deep is as billed, by the time he is downfield and has his man beat, Bledsoe will likely be out of position to make a play or seeing light blue and clouds.

It is not a reach to suggest that this is not the way that the Patriots do it. They certainly did not take a similar approach in their recent seasons which are shaping up to be a dynasty in an era of free agency thought to have made creating such dynasties impossible. Yet, they win Super Bowls and then improve even more. Carolina, last season's NFC representative to the Super Bowl, is also such a team. Perhaps Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft could write a book on managing in the NFL that Tom Donahoe could then read. General George Patton did the same in WII reading Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's book on tactics. But alas, Belichick has written no such book.

This team is purportedly going to be predicated on a power running game. Who will block for this power running game? Did we miss something. Was there any indication on Saturday night that this team has a line capable of paving the way for a power running game. While there was a running game on Saturday night, it might be considered by many to be a real reach to include the word "power" in it as a descriptor of that running game. This team had better alter its approach post haste. Sadly, their starting QB has a very limited utility and essentially must play within the constrictions of a game predicated on running simply to be of more use than hindrance. Call it a veritable catch-22.

The Bills currently do not possess the offensive line to conduct such an offense which should come as a surprise to no one given the above. Tom Donahoe and the coaching staff seem to be in a state of denial that offensive line talent is any sort of factor in possessing a solid line and that simple coaching is a panacea for a lack of talent, size, and strength! Only the one who should know the most, Jim McNally, has quietly and implicitly, and frustratingly it should be said, expressed such concerns couched in professionally polished statements to the media. But hey, the Bills have sold tickets, so I suppose the season's goal has been achieved. ‘Who cares what kind of product management gives those fans who paid for those tickets' I suppose is the current mantra at One Bills Drive.

Thursday's Detroit game will be all but meaningless in shaping this season. So relax Bills fans, you have two weeks of relative stress-free time left before your friends and neighbors begin to question your psychological state as the frequency with which you have passionate debates with the inanimate boob tube in your autumn football viewing hideaway increases substantially.

One thing is sure to be the case, that beer sales both in the Buffalo supermarkets as well as at the Ralph on game days should increase substantially this season. In fact, this may be a very good season to introduce scotch doubles to the bar menu at the Ralph. It may very well end up tops in sales. For those under 21, a cupful of jalapenos at the start of each quarter should release enough endorphins to get them through home games with minimal pain and suffering. A good entrepreneurial idea in Buffalo this autumn may also very well be designated driving toting self-anesthetized fans home from the Ralph on game days. All indications at this point in time are that it is going to be a long season in Buffalo.


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