Winning Without Drew

IRVING, Texas -- There is justification for why the good people of Buffalo, N.Y., went south on Drew Bledsoe. The reason is mid-season, when they believe Bledsoe always went south on them.

It was always after the eight-game mark, Bills fans believe, that Bledsoe let them down. And if you look at Drew's numbers this year after Game 8, there is evidence that suggests they are on to something.

After all, did Dallas beat Philly 21-20 last week because of Bledsoe's dazzling numbers? Hardly. He was 17-of-24 for 196 yards, with one zany interception and one clutch late-game TD toss.

And did Dallas beat Detroit 20-7 on Sunday because of Bledsoe's dazzling numbers? Hardly again. He was 12-of-23 for 110 yards, and that was it.

So maybe the numbers from Buffalo tell at least a cautionary tale. Or maybe there is another factor in play that makes Bledsoe's post-halfway mark passing numbers of 19-of-47 for 306 yards, one score and one pick insignificant. First, those historic factoids:

  • Bledsoe's road record while in Buffalo, and even before that, in New England, was abysmal against good teams.

  • Bledsoe's work in three prime-time Bills appearances (Sunday night affairs) was horrific.
  • Bledsoe's in-season decline can make an ugly appearance even after a brilliant start. The statistical details:

    Since 1998 (and excluding this year) while with New England, Bledsoe had started 26 road games against teams that finished with winning records. His record: 3-23.

    Then, during his three-year starting tenure in Buffalo, Bledsoe started 14 road games against teams that finished with a winning record. His record: In 2002 he was 1-4; in 2003 he was 0-5; in 2004 he was 1-3.

    Grand total for those three years: 2-12.

    During that time in Buffalo, Bledsoe's total road record was as follows: In 2002 he was 3-5 on the road and 8-8 overall; in 2003 he was 2-6 on the road 2-6 and 6-10 overall; in 2004 he was 4-4 on the road and 9-7 overall 9-7.

    Grand total for those three years: road 9-15, overall 23-25.

    The prime-time thing? During those three years, the Bills and Bledsoe made three appearances on the road in prime-time (Sunday nighters all). Here's how he did:

    Sept. 21, 2003 at Miami: 10-of-25, 98 yards, 2 INT, 4 sacks; Bills lose 17-7.

    Oct. 26, 2003 at Kansas City: 23-of-34, 153 yards, 3 INT, 3 sacks, 2 fumbles; Bills lose 38-5.

    Nov. 14, 2004 at New England: 8-of-19, 76 yards, 3 INT, 2 sacks; Bills lose 29-6.

    Total numbers: 41-of-78, 327 yards, 8 INT, 9 sacks, 0-3 record.

    All of this sounded pretty ominous going into last Monday and then again Sunday. ... because Bledsoe is sure to break down or crack up, right? And then add this: In Drew's first eight games with Buffalo in 2002, he was 5-3 and the team was thinking playoffs. His descent began in Game 9 when they were trounced in New England 38-7. He finished the second half of '02 with a 3-5 mark, and finished his career in Buffalo with an 18-22 record -- despite those first eight games when he was absolutely lights out. ... not unlike he'd been in the first half of the 2005 season in Dallas.

    How first-half lights-out was Drew in '02? he threw 16 touchdowns, 5 INTs and averaged 313 yards passing How faded-out was Drew in the last eight games in 2002? He threw 8 touchdowns, 10 INTs and averaged 232 yards passing And again, the first-half Bills were 5-3. ... just like the first-half Cowboys were going into this past week's pair of games!

    But is there a key difference between those Bledsoe-and-the-Bills teams and this Bledsoe-and-the-'Boys team? I mean, if you throw for, say, 110 yards. ... aren't you supposed to lose? Said Bledsoe: "If we win, and I don't throw it one bit, then I'm happy. I would like to see us execute better in the passing game. But we did enough today to get the win and that's all that really matters."

    See, his team doesn't NEED Bledsoe to average 313 yards passing per game. It doesn't NEED Bledsoe to toss two TD passes a game. It doesn't seem likely at all to lose many games 38-7 and 29-6 and 38-5. It is able to forge a 7-3 mark -- and a 2-0 mark after the midseason point -- because of the clubs ability to win games with defense or win games with running or, yes, at times, win games when Bledsoe is allowed to spread his wings.

    In this game, the Lions appeared to be taking guesses at the snap count to gain an advantage at the line of scrimmage. They are also very talented upfront. And they did hit Bledsoe once in such a way as to make him feel foggy. But in the end, Bledsoe had his poorest statistically game of the year -- this is the first time Dallas has failed to throw a TD pass in a game -- and still eked out a victory.

    "I don't know exactly what the problem was,'' said Bledsoe, "but we will look at it and obviously address the issues."

    Meanwhile, the good people of Buffalo will chomp on their hot wings and guzzle their Molson and ponder "the issues'' and not be able to understand why Dallas' Bledsoe is superior to Buffalo's Bledsoe.

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