The Bills, losers of five of their last six games and four in a row, are still harboring hopes of snapping a nine-year playoff drought.
And while anything is possible with six games remaining, a more immediate goal for this suddenly .500 team (5-5) is figuring out quarterback Trent Edwards' troubles and getting their rebuilding project back on track.
Because if Edwards can't show again the strides he was making as a rookie and through the first six weeks of this season, it's back to square one for Buffalo. And nobody wants to see that.
"He's got to learn. Every time out is just a learning experience for him," offensive coordinator Turk Schonert said Wednesday as the Bills returned to work after Monday night's gut-wrenching 29-27 loss at home to the Cleveland Browns.
Edwards tossed interceptions on three of his first six passes and turned noticeably gun shy against the Browns.
While it was nice he settled down and got rid of the ball, 10 of his 16 completions wound up going to running back Marshawn Lynch. Wide receivers caught just four passes -- none by No. 1 receiver Lee Evans, who just signed a $30-plus million contract.
Edwards' first interception was the result of a tipped pass, but the second was the result of locking too long onto rookie James Hardy and the third was forced into triple coverage.
"The first one was just bad luck, but the other two were on him," Schonert said. "You just have to learn. You play those types of teams and you see Peyton Manning do it all the time, where they just play Cover 2, drop eight and he just keeps hitting Joseph Addai or whoever is the running back and that is his leading receiver. That is what happened with Marshawn and he got to that. It took him a little while, but he got to that.
"He's not scared," Schonert continued. "He's ready. He's a pro. (But) he has to bounce back, he has to have some resiliency and he does. I told him you just have to go out and you can't be shy about throwing the ball down the field. Some of the passes that he threw an interception on, we ran them again today just so he got back there, made the same throw and got it out there on time. How many times did you guys see Jim Kelly throw four interceptions and come back and throw five touchdowns? Quite a bit, right? That is what he has got to learn. When we go into the game against Kansas City, don't hold back."
While the Chiefs (1-9) are a young team, they have been very competitive in recent weeks and boast 21 takeaways, second most in the NFL.
No doubt Herm Edwards' staff has crunched the tape and will copy to a degree the schemes that have befuddled Edwards during Buffalo's long skid. Simply put, clubs have had great success rushing just three or four men and dropping seven or eight into coverage. While teams like New England and Cleveland play a 3-4 front, they showed 4-3 looks, making it even tougher on Edwards to decipher.
The key to making defenses change is to hurt them in other areas. The Bills began to run the ball effectively against the Browns' light front, with Lynch and Fred Jackson fueling a 186-yard ground attack. But it was a little bit too late in coming. And Edwards grew way too cautious.
"I'd say I'm still just as confident as I was," Edwards said after practice. "Obviously once you make some mistakes, you try to tone it down a bit, you try not to force as many balls, and that's probably why I didn't look as confident, because we were taking as many shots, because of the defenses they were giving us. So that's kind of the reason for that."
With seven interceptions and nine turnovers overall in Buffalo's losing streak, Edwards is truly in a funk. But like his coaches keep saying, he said also that he's learning with every snap he takes. He said he has to get used to seeing things he hasn't prepared for and do a better job adjusting.
"That's just something I need to grow from and learn from and that's probably the defenses we're going to get, not necessarily what they're showing on tape, but what they're going to put out there on the field when the time comes ready to play," he said. "So I need to be able to adjust to that. What's hard is that you have your reads, you have your progressions, and then when they're not giving you the defense you're ready for, those change."
Edwards politely asked reporters to not ask any more questions about his interceptions and how they affected his mental state.
"I need to do a good job of moving on from that and continuing putting ourselves in positive positions and positive plays and making better plays," he said. "But I have discussed that before in the past and we need to get ready for the Chiefs."
Like all of his teammates, Evans was eager to get back to work, too. Winning is the only way to rid the bad taste of the Monday night loss from their mouths and perhaps salvage the season.
Evans said that hopefully in the future, the Bills do make adjustments -- as a team -- a lot quicker for whatever teams show them. If it's eight in the box, throw it. If it's eight in coverage, run it.
But do something well.
"I think it is definitely frustrating being that fact that we do have a very talented offense," said Evans, who is stuck on 37 catches for 700 yards and three touchdowns. "I think we have a lot of potential. We haven't played that way as of late these last few weeks. I think that is frustrating because we know what we have and we haven't played to that level."
SERIES HISTORY: 37th regular-season meeting, Bills lead series 19-16-1. Original AFL teams last met in 2005 in Buffalo. J.P. Losman replaced Kelly Holcomb and threw two touchdown passes in a 14-3 Bills win. Chiefs have won five of the last six at home against Buffalo.
Courtesy of The Sports Xchange