It's hard to pin any Week Four game as a "must win." Crazy, really. Heck, it's hard to pin any game as a "must win."
Before Buffalo's fourth straight Super Bowl — anxiety trickling through the nerves of all Western New Yorkers — Marv Levy was asked if the game was a must win.
"No. World War II was a must-win," he famously said.
Very true. Facism is never a good thing. But for Trent Edwards, time is running out. Sunday's game in Miami is without a doubt a must…a must…something. After possibly the worst clunker of his career against New Orleans last weekend, Edwards needs to rebound with a bang. The checkdowns and letdowns have become a trend. In three years, Edwards has beaten one team with a winning record — the Washington Redskins as a rookie. One.
With his contract up in two years, the Bills need to know if Edwards is the long-term answer. Wholesale rebuilding seems a block away. There are no more excuses. Buffalo armed Edwards with arguably the most talented receiver of our generation to bookend one of the league's best deep threats. And what does Buffalo's offense have to show for it? The same lame, coloring-book offense. Edwards has tossed a myriad of horizontal passes, relying on dump-offs with scared, confused regularity.
In short, no progress. Outside of Buffalo's beat-down of pathetic Tampa Bay, Edwards hasn't completed anything beyond 30 yards. He's still folding his hand constantly, waiting and waiting for a pair of aces. So much for that offseason-long battle cry to go deep. This has been the same Bills offense cloaked by an angry headcase.
This Sunday, he must come alive. And not just because T.O. is a kernel away from popping. Head coach Dick Jauron, always careful with his word choice, even said the offense must take more chances downfield. His job's on the line here, too.
Edwards? He doesn't sound worried at all, maintaining his stay-the-course rhetoric.
"It is a work in progress," he said. "If you look at last week's game, we didn't really get any down the field. If you look at the previous game, we hit a couple of big ones down the field. It is amazing what one week does. Kind of how it is I guess."
This wasn't the Steel Curtain breathing down on Edwards. This was an average defense on his home field. A week earlier, the Saints were gouged by Kevin Kolb. Yes, Kevin Kolb. Edwards should have produced. Buffalo's battered secondary played at a playoff-level and Edwards was awful.
The weaning period is over. The learning curve is miles in Edwards' rearview mirror. Or at least it should be. Back when J.P. Losman was pinballing all over the field like he was zig-zagging from the cops, Edwards was the cool breath of fresh air Buffalo needed. It was assumed he'd develop a long ball along the way. He already had the moxie.
This Sunday, is a great chance to make a statement. It's a great chance to take those downfield shots. While Buffalo's secondary is a batch of wounded war vets, Miami's is nothing to brag about. The Dolphins have been burnt for 229 yards and two touchdowns by Matt Ryan, 303 yards and three scores by Peyton Manning and 303 yards by Philip Rivers. Weekly carnage.
Miami has yet to record an interception. They're young and extremely vulnerable. This is the type of game Edwards needs to grab by the horns. A win here keeps Buffalo in the thick of the AFC East.
"We have to try to get ball deep and then try to get some things underneath the coverage too and make sure we protect up front," Edwards said. "Jason (Taylor) and Joey (Porter) will be coming this week, so we have to be ready for that too."
Uh, yeah, about that. Buffalo will be playing with two backups at offensive tackle — Kirk Chambers and Jonathan Scott. Both are so green they'd make leftist Van Jones blush. Porter is a 50/50 with his hamstring injury, but Buffalo must be ready for this potential disaster.
Look for the Bills to use various max protection schemes to give Edwards a safe, cozy pocket. He must do the rest. Enough small ball. Buffalo needs to stretch the field. Terrell Owens bit his tongue and stayed mum after the Saints' loss. Funny thing is, T.O. had a legitimate beef for once. For the most part, Buffalo's offensive problems have been on Edwards. He's still playing a like a wide-eyed freshman. Another loss full of check-downs could — brace yourself — vault Ryan Fitzpatrick into the discussion. There are too many weapons on Buffalo's offense to waste with a dink-and-dunk quarterback.
For Trent Edwards, this is a must-win game.