Where they went wrong

How can the Bills go from 5-1, in first place in the AFC East to 5-4, and in last place? BFR's Ian Smith breaks down where the Bills have been going wrong in the past three weeks.

They say all good things must come to an end.

Buffalo Bills fans just didn't think the good things would end this early in the season.

Bills fans were ecstatic after a 5-1 start, the team's best since 1995 (when Marv Levy was still the coach, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and the geologic Cretaceous period was coming to an end). 13 years was a long, long time ago.

But this year, the Bills were off to an impressive playoff-bound start. At week seven, they were in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. The young Trent Edwards had led them to three un-Bill-ievable comeback wins in the fourth quarter. Dick Jauron was a candidate for NFL Coach of the Year.

And then the meteors struck, and the Bills came down to Earth.

Currently on a three game losing streak, the Bills are absolutely reeling. They're slumping. They are in a grunge rock, teenage angst-centered depression.

In their three losses, all to divisional opponents in crucial games which could come back to bite them, the Bills have played below average in every phase of the game.

And injuries to Aaron Schobel, Josh Reed, Terrence McGee, Brad Butler, Ashton Youboty, Donte Whitner, and John Digorgio have put salt in the wound.

In the losses to the Dolphins, Jets, and Patriots, the Bills averaged 70 yards rushing with one touchdown. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson had little-to-no time to run, and when they did, they look absolutely flustered.

The offensive line has not helped the offense at all, and quarterback Trent Edwards' statistics can vouch for that. The second-year gunslinger has been sacked nine times in the past three games. Prior to that, he had only been sacked 11 times. In the three losses, Edwards has turned the ball over (five interceptions, two lost fumbles), seen a drop in completion percentage (62 percent in past three games compared to 69 percent in first four games), and has not challenged the opponents secondary deep down the field (the longest catch was a 42 yard halfback swing pass to Marshawn Lynch).

The special teams unit has become less than special. Brian Moorman worked overtime against the Patriots last week, punting the ball five times. Rookie Leodis McKelvin has had plenty of chances as a kick returner, however, the NCAA Subdivision record holder in attempts, yards, and touchdowns has been mediocre. In 14 opportunities, with the exception of the 85 yard return in the waning minutes of 20-10 loss against the Patriots, the Troy University graduate has averaged 24 yards per return. McKelvin has yet to score a touchdown this season.

Punt returner Roscoe Parrish has been practically invisible. The fourth-year Miami (Fl.) speedster has not even had a chance to touch the ball. In the past three games, Parrish has had zero return yards on only one chance. For the first time in a long time, the gadget Parrish has been more valuable in the passing game than on special teams.

Buffalo's special teams have been short of dazzling. But the blame should not be placed coach Bobby April and crew, the finger should be pointed directly at defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and his defense.

The Bills' lack of a pass rush (two sacks in three games) has been a primary reason for the three-straight losses. Opposing quarterbacks Chad Pennington, Brett Favre, and Matt Cassel combined for 749 yards and had a completion average of 70 percent against the Bills secondary.

And when you have a lot of time to throw, you tend to also have a successful run game. Giving up 98 yards per game with three touchdowns, the Bills front seven have simply been bullied in the box. The absence of top pass rusher Aaron Schobel carries a lot of weight, and the Bills have not found a way to stop long, time-consuming drives.

All hope rests on Monday night's game at home versus the Cleveland Browns. Buffalo's Lake Erie rival has already played spoiler in primetime this season, and they are looking to hand the Bills their fourth-straight loss. In their first Monday night game against the New York Giants, the Browns dealt the Super Bowl champions their only loss this season in a 35-14 drubbing. Taking the Bills down with the ship and out of the playoff race would be a sweet victory for Coach Romeo Crennel and cast.

Rookie Brady Quinn looked potent in his first NFL start versus the Denver Broncos, throwing for 239 yards and tossing two touchdowns to tight end Kellen Winslow. In order for the Bills to stop the bleeding and win Monday's game, every facet of the Buffalo Bills must be intact. Otherwise, the 5-5 Bills will be looking up from the cellar of the AFC East.

So, I guess all good things must come to an end. But an end to a bad thing (a losing streak) is pretty good too.


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