Bill of goods for sale

On the Wednesday before the Bills played at New York, Chad Pennington lost me almost immediately during a conference call with western New York media.

Almost the first words out of the Jets quarterback's mouth were how he'd be playing that week against "a great defense." After that, there was no way he could say anything I'd believe.

Even after the game, Buffalo's left cornerback, Antoine Winfield asked, "Who would have believed the Jets would score 31 points against us."

The obvious answer to that question would be, "Just about anybody."

Winfield couldn't really have been surprised. Not after the team from New Jersey during the season opener scored – Can you believe it? – 31 points in regulation play and another six almost before the overtime period began.

He could have made the excuse that Buffalo's defense had surrendered only 24 of the Jets' 37 points on opening day, that the special teams gave up two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Winfield would have been on better ground arguing that 31 points allowed was higher than the Bills' average yield this season. He would have been right, but not by much. Buffalo's opponents have averaged about 29 points per game, the NFL's highest total.

The Bills' defense inadequacies really came home to roost against the Jets this time. New York's defense was every bit the (hapless) equal of Buffalo's early in the season. But during the Jets' bye week, Ted Cottrell adopted the approach of a "keep it simple, stupid" defense. The Bills' staff used its bye week pretty much to continue to cram down their defenders' throats a defense that clearly has worked only sporadically during the past two seasons.

We have been sold a bill of goods that Buffalo's defense would be an attack-style group, that defensive backs would be aggressively jumping routes in pass coverage. We did see routes jumped in Sunday's game, but doing the jumping were Jets cornerbacks Aaron Beasley and Donnie Abraham.

Former Bills deemed too expensive or not talented enough to play in Buffalo were starring around the league. Sam Cowart, once again playing like the Sam C. we came to know during his four years with the Bills, knocked Travis Henry silly for a few minutes with a hard, but legal, hit. In San Diego, Marcellus Wiley was hoping for another Pro Bowl trip.

In Atlanta, Wade Phillips, run unceremoniously out of Buffalo on a rail, led his Falcons defense to its second shutout this year over the Panthers. The first score was on an interception (Remember those?) by Keion Carpenter, also run out of time by the Gregg Williams regime. John Holecek and Sam Rogers also have been starting for Atlanta, which last lost long before Buffalo registered its most recent win.

Williams maintained a happy face Monday. "We're still in this thing," he said of the playoff race. "In fact, we've got another division game at home. The race will eventually come back to us."

Maybe so, but it won't unless the Bills begin winning some game.

Now no one would believe the Dolphins can score 31 points Sunday, would he?


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