Don't blame the defense. A unit marred by injury has gift-wrapped the offense possession after possession to bury opponents. For two weeks in New York and Carolina, the Bills got away with futility. Ryan Fitzpatrick made enough plays. The running game melted enough clock. And the Bills inched toward .500.
But, really, we knew this couldn't last. The offense couldn't keep stumbling into wins. Sunday's 31-10 loss was a sobering reality check.
Eight games in, the Bills' offense still lacks an identity. Jairus Byrd can't bail the offense out every weekend. He isn't Barack Obama. Despite Byrd's two picks and the unit's three quarters worth of shutting down the most explosive quarterback in the league, Buffalo's offense tripped into three-and-outs all day.
A shame to say the least. The offense was supposed to be a shining light. Two prolific receivers, two explosive running backs and a quarterback who could at least serve as a placeholder should have been enough to produce two or three touchdowns a game. Minimum.
But, no. The broken record keeps on skipping — Dick Jauron ruins the offense with annual, permanent errors. He held onto the no-huddle offense too long, fired his offensive coordinator too soon, continues to misuse his running back and has no sense of surprise. He's too safe when he should take a shot and too risky when he should play it safe. Coaching 101 passed Jauron by. Buffalo's fake punt was another painful case study in Jauron's careerl-long ineptitude. Somewhere, a Bears fan laughed.
Then again, so was Houston. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans said the Bills were a cinch to defense. Laughable, really. Misdirection was foreign to Buffalo.
"It was easy," Ryans said. "They kind of had the same formations, they didn't give us a lot of motions and things. So it was a simple offense to go against."
This is what happens when you plug in an offensive coordinator on a whim. Jauron made offseason-long decisions — like replacing Turk Schonert for Alex Van Pelt and Langston Walker for Demetrius Bell — in a week. That's cheating everybody. Rightfully so, Jauron pointed the finger at himself after Sunday's lost.
Will Trent Edwards' return help? Don't hold your breath. The offense was worse with him under center. Horizontal checkdowns galore. Hard to imagine Edwards improving on his lethargic play. Last year, he caved after a concussion.
The sad thing is, the Bills don't really have any other options. Fitzpatrick didn't do much to earn a starting job. In three games, he completed half of his passes for 356 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Eh. You can dig out that kind of production on the waiver wire. This is what the Bills should have expected when they signed Fitzpatrick back in free agency. He's a great guy and a smart player but not the type of fallback option the Bills should have added. Rather than signing someone to compete with Edwards, Jauron (again) played it safe.
At some point — due to an unhappy T.O., plain ineffectiveness or another injury — Buffalo should have known it'd need an above-average No. 2. With a handful of veterans available, the Bills settled for less. So back to Edwards it is. The team should stick with Fitzpatrick. The fact that he consciously looks for Lee Evans and Terrell Owens downfield is enough justification. You have to think some of those could win a game here or there. In that sense, he's the antithesis of Edwards.
But we'll see Edwards again. He'll get another chance to prove himself. It's the J.P. Demise 2.0.
The good news? Buffalo doesn't play this weekend. A battered and bruised team on both sides of the ball finally has a chance to exhale and recover. Winnable games against Tennessee, Jacksonville, Miami, New York and Kansas City await. At 3-5, there should at least be a tint of optimism. Instead, the ceiling feels like 7-9 tops.
Offensively challenged, the Bills keep spinning their tires in the mud.