Reader E-Mails

Due to reader demand, I have decided to post a regular piece using e-mail correspondences that I have received. So here goes…

This e-mail comes from Sean and is predicated on my contribution to the AFC East Report at http://bills.theinsiders.com/2/303053.html

Sean:

Excerpt from article: "Yes, Henry did slip on 3rd-and-2 on the last drive forcing the unfortunate 4th-and-3. However, on that 4th-and-3, Bledsoe could not have appeared any more worthless as a QB in this league. Any person in their right mind could have guessed that the Pats would have blitzed. With the line in there at the time due to injuries during the game, and given that this team has been abysmal vs. blitzes all season long when they have come, and given that Villarrial pulled leaving 5-on-5 without a Bruschi blitz, 6-on-5 with it, why Bledsoe would even consider that he would have a reasonable amount of time behind this line is beyond the pale. To consider that he could drop back eight yards or so, set, and make a play under such circumstances and given his performances in recent seasons only further hammers home notions that the coaching staff has no clue what they have in Bledsoe."

To even suggest that Bledsoe is at fault for Villarrial not picking up the blitz is ridiculous. I'd like to see Montana fake a hand-off and pick his head up to find a linebacker crawling on him. That didn't happen to Montana for one key reason, friend: San Francisco had a GREAT offensive line. My question on that play, a 4th and 3, obvious blitzing down from teh Pats, is about the play call, not the fact that the o-line blew an assignment and couldn't give the quarterback 3 seconds to throw. Of all the ridiculous comments I have read from you, sir, this paragraph may be the most absurd thing since Limp Bizkit. Jesus wouldn't have been able to avoid that hit, thats how quick Bruschi was in the backfield.

Response:

The article needs to be read in context Sean. I never put Bledsoe at fault for "not picking up Bruschi's blitz." Clearly he's not a lineman or RB. What I fault Bledsoe for is several other things for which it is necessary to first understand that play. I have reviewed it now probably 20 times and am convinced as to what actually happened vice what was reported to have happened. The first thing that you must keep in mind while considering that play is that something absolutely had to happen. Even an intentional grounding resulting in a loss of yards and down would have been better than what actually happened.

The play was a two tight end formation. First, on the play Villarrial pulled out of the RG spot and out to the right. Bruschi came through his vacated hole where RT Mike Williams should have slanted inward on his block, but to his credit he did have another man. But both he and whomever the right side TE was should have shifted inward in anticipation of a likely blitz, particularly through an open hole leaving the end free to pursue the play from the backside which already smacks of issues with Bledsoe running such a play given that he's easily gunned down from the backside due to his slowness.

Henry faked the handoff up the left side off tackle and did a poor job of selling the run, which presumably was intentional, so that the defense would not chase him. The entire line other than Villarrial, who presumably was pulled to draw the defense to the Bills right side away from the supposed bootleg, ran blocked left indicative that perhaps this was a bootleg. But there are several things indicative that Drew either had the wrong play in his head or is just washed up more than anyone can know.

The first of those is if it was a naked bootleg, why did Drew fade back and begin to set up as if it were a pass? He dropped back six yards, facing 180 degrees in the opposite direction, faked the handoff to Henry, and then turned on a pivot, not at a running angle indicative that he was going to roll out, and appeared to begin to set up to throw. Now Drew must have known what the play was, we can agree on, right? He therefore knew that Villarrial would pull right. Given that, he then should have known that there was a hole there, especially considering that the two linemen now surrounding that hole were Tucker and Williams, he should have realized that there was a good chance that the Pats who are excellent at exploiting such holes, would do so this time.

Either way, normal QBs on bootlegs like that fake the handoff and immediately begin rolling away towards the side where they are expected to make the move towards. Bledsoe did not. He didn't even extend a straight arm in an attempt to stave off Bruschi who's only nominally bigger than Drew and shorter, in an attempt to make a play. Had he begun the rollout, then he may have bought himself another second or two. Had he not completely turned his head 180 degrees from the line and kept his left eye peripheral vision on the situation, which was on the right side of the lines, then perhaps he would have known this was coming and made a move to at least try to buy a throw. Instead, in hallmark fashion, he dropped back, completely unaware of the most likely potential problems of the play, pivoted in place, and took a sack on a play where mobility, of any kind, is absolutely key to making the play work.

Furthermore, if you watch the replay, what you'll notice is five men already on the Pats' DL preparing to rush the passer. Well, with seven linemen, with one knowingly (by Bledsoe), prepared to pull leaving six, and with Bruschi cheating up showing blitz very clearly, Bledsoe should have prepared for the fact that someone was likely to get through. When was the last time you saw a Bills line consistently and effectively block the same number of defenders on a one-on-one basis? With two subs already in, with at least one TE not known for his blocking, and with an already dicey cast of starting offensive lineman, for any QB, let alone Bledsoe, to assume that there would be any kind of time is ultimately remiss.

So the short answer to your statement is that no, Bledsoe cannot be held accountable for the missed block, or poor play design, but that he can be held accountable for how he executed it. Bills fans these days when defending Drew, which is ultimately perplexing to me at this point, seem to do so by trying to dish off his mishaps as the fault of others in situations that plenty of other QBs respond much better to week in and week out in this league.

You and others who defend him use simple one-play scenarios such as this along with a big pass or two such as the one to Evans, and which by the way was negated by Drew's own ability in the red zone, to justify an entire game's worth of poor play otherwise simply because in your mind according to the bottom line stats, he had a "good" game.

In wrapping this up, consider the following, that during the game the following drives ended for the following reasons, and I challenge anyone to find a solid stretch of play by Bledsoe prior to that fateful last 8 minutes of the 4th quarter. This information was taken straight from the game tape as well as from the gamebook at nfl.com. http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/gamebook/NFL_20041003_NE@BUF

The first drive was halted on a Bledsoe overthrow. So much for his "big play" toss to Evans, eh!

Drive two was halted on a Bledsoe sack on 3rd-and-6.

Drive three was halted on 1st-and-10 on an extremely poorly thrown Bledsoe interception.

Drive 4/5 were the Moorman/Moulds TD set.

Drive 6 was ended on a Bledsoe overthrow to Shaw on 3rd-and-7 just prior to the half.

Drive 7 was halted due to a string of 20 yards worth of penalties changing a 3rd-and-1 to a 3rd-and-21.

Drive 8 was halted due to a Bledsoe sack on 3rd-and-6, prior to that on 2nd down, another overthrow.

Drive 9 was halted on a Bledsoe wide throw to Moulds on a 3rd-and-4.

During that same stretch, Henry ran the ball 18 times for 83 yards and 4.6 yards-per-carry without a fumble. If he had had adequate support from the passing game, the Bills likely would have put up 14 to 21 points prior to the 3rd Q.

The second e-mail is from Mike:

Mike:

0-4 looks to be, nearly, a sure thing and 1-6 would be a God-Send before this run through the gauntlet is complete. In some ways it would have been better if the Bills had lost to New England the way they should have, a 48 point deficit in the 4th would maybe shake some folks awake and force some changes. 6-10 this season does not look doable with the current situation and 4-12 is maybe aiming to high.

Question to you? Would putting Matthews in after Bledsoe's first sack in the Meadowlands be a bad idea? To my way of thinking, he could hardly do worse than Bledsoe. He could even, possibly, kick start a little offensive energy. Not expecting him to turn the game around but, for the love of God, just to watch some real football from this hapless team would be a huge relief.

Response:

I agree with you that vs. New England we were only a Dillon non-fumble on 2nd-and-goal at our 2 followed by a Moorman non-recovery of a botched snap away from one of the most embarrassing Bills losses in a long while.

On our record, at this point, two things. The defense and special teams likely aren't going to continue to score points and set up the offense in the red zone for points. Again, it cannot be stressed enough that without the defense or special teams setting the Bills up for points or even scoring them directly, this team would have only one touchdown on the season to date and that only due to a prevent defense showing our passing game absolutely no respect in the Raider game. The bottom line is that in spite of that, as long as our offense only puts up 10 points per game we will be very fortunate indeed to even win one or two games, let alone 4.

As well, two of the better defenses that we will have faced to date surface in the two weeks after the Jets game. Also gone seemingly unnoticed is that Seattle, Arizona, and Cleveland are all among the top-seven scoring defenses.

As to Matthews, putting Matthews in now would not provide the "shot in the arm" that we need for this offense. Everyone that hasn't figured it out yet will soon fully realize that it is this team's offensive line that is the primary issue along with Bledsoe. Matthews is a 34-year old not-so-mobile QB without a single entire season of starting under his belt. Most of his 22 starts have been in a backup role. Having said that however, you are likely correct, that it cannot get any worse than it already is.

Even JP stepping in at this juncture, if he were healthy, would not produce wins for this team on any consistent basis. He'll have to put in a season or two first before he can be relied upon to win games as such. It would likely only mask OL issues somewhat. Again, this falls back on poor planning and on the Bills putting all of their eggs in the "Bledsoe basket" for this season. Why they did not make a move for a more mobile QB such as Jeff Blake who's played at least as well as Bledsoe has in recent seasons under far worse circumstances, is beyond me. Blake is the same age as Matthews, has a stockier build, but is in the top half easily regarding mobility, and would have given JP a whole lot more to observe and learn from than he's getting from Bledsoe. It is even questionable what the heck he is learning from Bledsoe. As I've said, if I'm the coach I tell JP to ignore anything he sees from Bledsoe and give him tape after tape of Favre and McNair instead. .

So you can point the finger at management for not having an immediate viable option there. Even Brown likely would not have been that QB although I am sure he would have been better due to his short game. Why they did not even bring a guy like Blake, who was out there for a while this past offseason, is beyond me although I would suspect that it's because they didn't want anyone to seriously challenge their pet project Bledsoe.

The third e-mail is from Jason:

Jason:

Maybe it's just because the offense is SO horrid, but I can't believe that the Bills defense doesn't get more criticism than they do:

My biggest gripe with the D is with the DL because they simply don't generate any sort of pass rush. The Bills brass can claim that Schoebel is great with his 10 sacks from last year, but my guess is that if you went back through and looked at those 10 sacks, you'd probably find that at least half of them came at the end of the game when it was out of reach for the Bills. Take that 10 sacks down to 4 or 5, and now he's not such a great pass rusher any more. Sacks and QB pressures lead to turnovers.

Current NFL Statistics:

Sacks - Bills tied for DEAD LAST with 4. Of which our DL has only generated 2, with Pat Williams getting 1, and Ron Edwards getting 1. In case you werewondering, Fletcher has one, as does McGee. DE's? 0.

FFs - Bills tied for DEAD LAST with 1.

INTs - Bills in 7 way tie for 19th with 2. There are 6 teams tied for last with 1. The Bills are dangerously close to being tied for dead last in thiscategory as well.

Coincidence? I think not. The "experts" can proclaim how great the Bills D is because they don't give up many yards or points, but they're not getting pressure on the opposing team's QBs or RBs, and as such they're not getting turnovers.

Response:

I hear ya! I have been stating all along that we play any team with a better than average offense and one that has both dimensions to it very poorly and the Bills recent record suggests and supports that notion, which is where I got it from.

Once again, in my mind this is a defense, which just like the offense, is overrated on paper. I don't want to come across as painting a picture however that it's a bad defense. I think it's good overall, but just not top notch as many seem to believe it is as a result of the rankings. The rankings, to date this season and last season are heavily skewed aligning very well with the strength of opponents. To an extent this is logical and natural, but not to the extent that is has occurred in Buffalo.

The stats that you site are indicative of a lack of pressure, particularly on opposing QBs in pass rush mode. The reasons for this, who knows exactly. But what we do know is that this D is better on paper than it is on the field which is indicative that past history of several players and former Pro Bowl accolades actually precedes their current performances on the field. This is a notion that largely defines the "Donahoe methodology." The upside, it sells tickets initially. The downside, it doesn't help the team win games and as we are now seeing only "floats the boat" for a while before the B.S. flag is hoisted by many and the team loses most, if not all, of its credibility.

The issues: Still no solution at LDE, aging players with strong histories but with little current ability to dominate at their positions, and poor planning with efforts "doubling up" solutions at certain spots while categorically ignoring others. Good player staffing planning is the result of a stringent "zero-sum game" approach geared towards the consummate optimization of the entire team, not simply at addressing a handful of skill positions with "key/marquee" players.

As to Schobel, I thought his re-signing was a good one, one of the few that Donahoe has made. Schobel has played well but more importantly, has played well pre-prime. He enters his prime now and the Bills just signed him very economically through his prime years. He is easily the best pass-rusher that this team has and is pure pass-rusher and not the best run-defending DE, which is OK. While there may be some credence to your suppositions, consider that he has had little help in applying pressure. How well he would play with younger and better pass-rushing DTs not to mention equal pressure on the opposite end remains to be seen.

As to his performances, I've done the research for you for whatever it's worth:

2003 Schobel sacks (full sacks):

1. 1 sack vs. Miami in 1st Q, scoreless, 2nd-and-13 at our 35, resulting in a failed 3rd-and-20.

2. 1 sack vs. Philly on 2nd-and-7 from our 8 forcing a failed 3rd-and-14 at our 15 and resulting in only a FG early in the 2nd holding the Eagles' lead to only 10-0.

3. 1 sack w/ Bills trailing 10-6 @ 9 min. 4th Q, on 3rd-and-11 near midfield.

4. 3 sacks @ Giants; first – Bills leading 10-7 on 1st-and-10 at midfield, forced fumble, FR, Bills ball at NY 41; second – end of first half, Bills leading 17-7, 2nd-and-3 setting up a failed 3rd-and-8 at the Giant 18; third – Bills leading 24-7 on a 2nd-and-9 at the Giants 36 setting up a failed 3rd-and-13.

5. 1 sack @ Jets, Bills leading 7-3, on 3rd-and-12 at midfield, forced fumble, forcing Jet punt.

6. 2 sacks @ Titans; first – Bills trailing 6-3 in 2nd Q, 1st-and-10 at Titan 22, setting up 2nd-and-19 and contributing to failed 3rd down/punt. Second – Bills leading 17-6 early 3rd, 3rd-and-3 at Bills 30 taking Titans out of FG range and forcing punt.

7. 1 sack vs. Miami, near end of 2nd H, 2nd-and-5 at Bills 35, putting Fins at 39 and just out of FG range with the next play ending in McGee pick ending game on time.

Not a bad track record.

The fourth/last e-mail is from Ray:

Ray:

Your analysis of the Bills/Pats game and the ongoing managerial fiasco in "New Attitude..." is superlative.

Bills fans should aggressively attempt to oust T.D. and his loser cronies. Whining is futile.

Think back to the valiant New Orleans Saints fans of yesteryear. The "Aints" paper bag headware spoke volumes over TV. I'm sure it stirred the manager pot plenty. Bills fans should become "bag heads" by the tens of thousands to force Tom D's riddance. They can become the "Buffalo Nils" of this era, and heros forever.

Thanks for hearing me, and please pass it along.

Response:

In order:

Thanks!!!

I get a lot of e-mails sharing your frustrations and you know that I agree with you. The big reason why if things continue on their current pace, and there is little reason to suggest or believe that they will not as there are far too many issues which need simultaneous correction, is simple. At the end of this season this Bills team will be much closer to yet another rebuilding period of the two to three year variety than they will be of fielding a competitive team.

In addition to the need to rebuild two lines and with the potential/imminent departure of Jonas Jennings, Pat Williams (who will be 33 next season anyway), Ron Edwards, and Marcus Price (also 33 next season regardless), the Bills will also need to begin to think about a replacement for Moulds should he decide not to restructure as well as to the fact that he will be 32 next season and on the wrong side of 30 to continue to be the Bills first WR for too much longer. They will have a brand new QB as well who will require a season or two to learn the ropes prior to being a factor. To deny this is to ignore reality. There are also a host of relatively highly paid underachievers that the team will need to address at some point over the next season or two. Clements becomes a FA after next season as well. Adding to the issues will be the state of the team having become the next Bungals which will not aid the Bills in either their own FA retention or the acquisition of other teams' FAs.

Given that it will be in the team's best interests to rebuild, but will be in Donahoe's to attempt to put a competitive team on the field, a natural conflict of interests has developed. Given not simply a simple lack of success, but a sheer and utter failure on infinitely risky decisions and approach, there will be little justification in making a case for keeping Donahoe on, if any.

Believe it or not I still have faith that Mike Mularkey can be a good coach once he's out from under Donahoe's thumb, he must first get out from under it and Bledsoe needs to go. But the first order of business will be building two solid lines stat! Tom Donahoe apparently does not understand the need for such lines and therefore does not serve the interests of the Bills winning. If the emphasis is going to be on ticket sales, then I would strongly suggest that the time of unquestioning support of Bills fans in that area is over. Only ticket sales next season will reveal matters there. But I have received numerous e-mails by fans telling me that they are not renewing next season's STs and that they regret having purchased them this season. Next season's schedule does not feature "local" draws Pittsburgh and Cleveland, in December oh, just by-the-way. Either way, winning will fill the seats just fine. Obviously this decision will be Ralph's however, so how he views it will factor into matters more than how your or I see it. It will not alter the reality of whatever decision he makes however.

To your third point, I'm not sure we'll see the bags, but I'm sure fan frustration will surface in one form or another at the Ralph on Sundays. In my opinion it is simply a matter of time before some infighting to one degree or another, lack of emotion and lifeless play, and simple giving up on the season surfaces. As I stated prior to starting the season while many were talking winning season and playoffs, I strongly urged that simply getting past the first six games with a win or two would be a better goal. At present it appears that if the Bills can even muster a win vs. the equally hapless Dolphins (who will have nothing to lose in blitzing Drew all game) it will be great. At this point even my preseason Arizona "gimme game" is not a gimme.

To your fourth point: Done!

To discuss this article or other issues on the Bills, Tune into "The 2004 Bills Report" which can be heard live on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. over the Internet at www.broadcastmonsters.com. Call into the show live at 1-877-913-9739.

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


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