Bills lose 24-21 to Vikings

The starting offense impressed and the starting defense depressed – mostly the defensive line – during the Bills' 24-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Wilson Stadium Friday night, dropping Buffalo to 0-2 in the preseason.

 

Drew Bledsoe found Eric Moulds and Peerless Price for some clutch gains in his four series of work during the first half. Travis Henry took a big step in maintaining his role as the No. 1 back over Shawn Bryson. Overall, there are signs that Buffalo's offense can be formidable and the defense could be in trouble, even with the addition of Shawn Price. Here's a look at the key issues.

Defensive line needs a line transfusion

With virtually no pass rush – Buffalo has sacked the quarterback once this preseason (and it was cornerback Ahmad Brooks at that) – and no ability to stop the run, the Bills gave up 293 yards of offense in the first half of the Vikings game. The team surrendered 104 yards rushing that half.

And Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper was able to set up comfortably in the pocket and pick the Bills apart, including a 48-yard pass play to Randy Moss to set up the Vikings' first touchdown for a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.

When there was a bit of a rush, he sidestepped the commotion and ran seven times for 34 yards.

"They certainly have some players with offensive skills," said Gregg Williams. "And they have a quarterback who has the ability to buy time and take off with the ball. We're more worried about the points than the amount of yards."

Yards still point to problems, however.

Sure, the Bills signed Shawn Price today, but they apparently need a whole lot more. The defensive ends have been pitiful. The tackles have been blown off the line in runs up the middle. It's just not the same as it was three seasons ago with Ted Washington.

Nose tackle Pat Williams said Price's presence will help. He also indicated that players aren't in the proper gaps they need to be to make plays.

The Bills are either too undisciplined to play Williams defense or the defense is too complicated for their young linemen to operate in.

"It's just the second preseason game," Williams said in reference to the communications errors his defense made. "That's all it is. The second preseason game."

The defense looked confused at times before the snap of the ball. They're still trying to grasp the system.

No Bledsoe TD throws, but he was effective

It wasn't all bad for the defense. On the Vikings' first play from scrimmage, Culpepper threw to D'Wayne Bates on a quick out. Free safety Pierson Prioleau came up and nailed Bates form the side, forcing a fumble that strong safety Billy Jenkins picked up and ran 16 yards to the Minnesota 13. But Buffalo went three and out, missing on a third and four to Peerless Price on a quick post pattern.

"I made a bit of a poor throw to Peerless," said Bledsoe, who was six for eight for 70 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. "If I put the ball on his numbers, then he catches it. The bottom line is when we have the opportunity to put seven points on the board we can't settle for three. That's the difference in ball games right there … We've got to be better in the red zone when we have the opportunity."

Bledsoe led the Bills to three trips into the red zone, producing 13 points. He had a great throw to Eric Moulds on a second and 17 from the Buffalo 40 that drew pass interference and put the Bills at the Minnesota 28. It wasn't a completed pass, but had Moulds not been interfered with, it would have been a catch. It was very close.

It was the kind of play that illustrated Bledsoe's faith in Moulds, even during the short time they've been playing together. Unlike Rob Johnson, Bledsoe will throw it up for his receiver and allow him to use his athleticism to make a grab. That goes for Peerless Price too.

On a second and 17 with Rob Johnson, that would have been almost a sure punting situation two plays later.

"I have a lot of trust in those guys," Bledsoe said. "We've been able to develop that."

Henry improves, Bryson takes step back

Henry looked like the back he was during spurts last season, breaking tackles and making big gains. On a pair of first downs he ran for gains of 20 yards and 13 yards. He finished with seven rushes for 50 yards. Granted, like the Bills', the Vikings' run defense is suspect, but this was a confidence-builder for Henry and the young offensive line.

"It felt really good to finally get some yardage from the running game," said Henry. "The offensive line did a great job in blocking for me and we seemed to just get into a rhythm. Things just happened from there."

Shawn Bryson who was impressive against the Bengals and Browns, had an off night with just four rushes for (-1) yards and a long of one yard – a touchdown run in the second quarter, closing the Vikes' lead to 14-13.

But Henry was pumped. He said, "Just by having a quarterback like Drew Bledsoe throwing well to Peerless and Eric it really opens up our running game."

The Bills look like they're going to use their passing game to set up the run this year.

Etc.

Travis Brown nearly led the Bills to a 90-yard go-ahead touchdown drive inside the last few minutes of the game, with Buffalo trailing 24-19. But on second and goal from the Minnesota 2, running back Joe Burns was tackled for a five-yard loss. On the next two plays, Brown overthrew Andre Rone and Jeremy McDaniel …

Richard Huntley had the Bills' lone touchdown of the game on the Bills' first drive of the third quarter, giving Buffalo a 19-17 lead. Kicker Marc Samuel missed the extra point wide left …

One of the prettiest plays of the night was by Vikings receiver Randy Moss during the first quarter. Cornerback Antoine Winfield blitzed and Culpepper spotted Moss running one of his fabled crossing routes in the open field. Chris Watson was covering. Moss took it 48 yards down to the Buffalo 3. Minnesota scored on a Michael Bennett run the next play for a 7-3 lead …

Mike Hollis was two for two, kicking a 25- and 20-yard field goal …

The Vikings surrendered an intentional safety at the end, making it 24-21 …

During the second quarter, a third-and-three pass from Bledsoe to Moulds produced a 14-point swing. Moulds caught the ball and was tackled, but appeared to fumble, which Minnesota's Tyrone Carter recovered and ran 99 yards for an apparent touchdown. The Bills challenged and the call was reversed on the ground that Moulds was down by contact. Two plays later Bryson scored. So instead of 21-6 Minnesota, it was 14-13.


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories