The Bills' plans to operate a no-huddle as a major part of their offensive package this season may have to be re-evaluated following a dismal preseason performance against Pittsburgh.
The downside of a hurry-up scheme - quick possessions that put a team's defense back on the field with little rest - was on full display in a 17-0 loss to the defending Super Bowl champs.
Buffalo's first-team offense under quarterback Trent Edwards was on the field for just 1:03, 2:31, 13 seconds and 1:38 on its first four possessions. Edwards, who struggled mightily a week earlier in a 31-21 loss at Green Bay, threw a costly interception resulting in a Pittsburgh touchdown.
Meanwhile, a tired Buffalo defense was no match for the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, who hit 15 of 19 passes for 168 yards in one half of play.
For the game, Buffalo was 0 of 8 on third down and gained just 135 yards. Pittsburgh converted 10 of 17 third downs and finished with a whopping 40-plus minutes of possession time.
Can the Bills be serious about their plans to run a no-huddle when the regular season opens Sept. 14 at New England when they can't operate it against vanilla defenses in the preseason?
"I don't have any issues with the no-huddle," coach Dick Jauron said. "If you're calling plays, I've never really been able to tell what the difference is (doing it in a huddle or at the line).
"It doesn't have to be a hurry. We don't snap the ball every time there's 20 seconds left on the play clock, or 30 seconds. A lot of times we snap it with four or five. We try to vary it and change it up, so I don't believe that's the issue. The issue is that we just got to execute better. We've got to do a better job."
Indeed, better blocking, catching and throwing will help Buffalo's offense move the ball and score points. The question remains, do they have the personnel - like Jim Kelly's Super Bowl Bills of the early 1990s - to run such a high-risk attack?
Edwards, who has been without injured receiver Terrell Owens (toe) for three games, has failed to lead his team to a touchdown this preseason. Supposed No. 1 receiver Lee Evans didn't catch a ball against Pittsburgh. No. 1 running back Marshawn Lynch had four carries for 19 yards. The line, featuring five changes from a year ago, has the cohesiveness of watery rice.
The overall lack of production means the first team may have to play longer than the customary cameo downs when the Bills play their final tuneup game Thursday at home against Detroit.
"There is area for concern, there are plenty of things that we need to fix here pretty quickly," Edwards admitted. "But I feel like we have a great group of guys, guys that are willing to go in the right direction and that are willing to be coached. And that's the bottom line."
Edwards was 6 of 13 for just 31 yards against the Steelers. His reluctance to attack deep is a concern, as is offensive coordinator Turk Schonert's capabilities. Linebacker Kawika Mitchell said the style Buffalo's offense runs doesn't concern him, but turnovers do.
"As long as we don't turn the ball over, I think it's fine," he said. "We'll go out there and we'll battle. If we have a sudden change after a turnover, if we have to go out there, then we just have to do what we have to do. As long as we get some rest, we can stand up against any offense, I think."
The Bills need Owens desperately to stretch the field and open things up. They have two weeks for T.O. and Edwards to get their timing back, and Owens did return to full practice Monday.
"I think anytime any player is out obviously you can't build chemistry, you can't build any rhythm with them," Edwards said. "Hopefully we'll have him back out this week but that's kind of good that it's happening now. It's better that we have guys hurt right now and not playing versus during the regular season."