Three games into the preseason, it's clear that the Bills' offense is stuck in neutral - spinning and spinning its tires in frustrating fashion. Huddle or no huddle, the Bills' first-string offense was abysmal in a 31-21 loss to Green Bay Saturday night as Trent Edwards and company played 1 1/2 quarters, gained 61 yards and turned the ball over three times which helped the Packers jump to a 24-0 halftime lead.
The scary side of the no-huddle offense was exposed. Too much, too fast can spell disaster.
"Like we always talk about after games, the turnovers just really kill you," said head coach Dick Jauron. "You can't expect to win a game turning the ball over like we did. We've got to really take care of the football."
All three of the starters' turnovers came inside the Buffalo 40. Aaron Rodgers worked with a short backyard all night.
On the first series Edwards' pass intended for Lee Evans was tipped and picked off by linebacker Brady Poppinga. The defense came up with a fourth-down stop to prevent a score, but on the next possession Edwards held the ball too long, was sacked, fumbled, and the Packers recovered at the 5 and scored on the next play. Momentum, reversed.
"I didn't like the way I reacted," said Edwards of the play. "The whole night they were disguising a lot of their coverages. It was kind of in that gray area of either tucking and running with it or trying to throw the ball away. Obviously that's on the quarterback."
On his fourth and final possession Edwards dumped a screen off to Fred Jackson who promptly fumbled, ending an inglorious night all around. Yet again, without Terrell Owens in the lineup, the Bills' first-team offense looked pedestrian at best.
The Bills finished with five total turnovers as backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick chipped in with a lost fumble and an interception. There is no doubt concern in Bills Nation right now. In eight possessions this summer, the first-string offense has not scored a touchdown. In fact, it hasn't even come close. The flashy new offensive philosophy has netted no tangible improvement. Practice reps haven't transferred to game production.
"It wasn't what we wanted today," said Edwards who was 7-of-11 for 45 yards. "It is something that we need to change pretty quickly and we can do that in practice and learning from our mistakes."
Said Jauron: "It was a disappointing night. The good news is that it's preseason. We knew we had a long way to go and this should show us that we have a long way to go. We've got to get back to work on Monday."
On the positive side, at least the Bills got to do some work against a 3-4 defense. The reps can't hurt. Last year, Buffalo was a miserable 1-8 against 3-4 schemes, including 0-6 in the AFC East. By signing Geoff Hangartner and drafting a pair of rookie guards early, the Bills hoped to cure their ills against the odd-man front. The Packers have converted to a 3-4 this season and illuminated some real problems for the Bills, much the way the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers probably will this week when the Bills take on Dick LeBeau's 3-4 alignment. In the 3-4, linebackers are in constant attack mode—something Buffalo must figured out how to deal with soon. With starters probably playing the full first half against the league's best 3-4 front, Buffalo has one huge chance at redemption before the regular season. Time is definitely running out.
"I think it was a really good learning experience for us," said Evans. "For a lot of guys there were a lot of different looks that we haven't seen before. Obviously we made some mistakes, but hopefully this is something we can look back on and learn from and be a lot better next week. Pittsburgh plays a similar style."