The Bills can't stop the run, and now, apparently, they can't stop the pass either.
Sunday's 48-10 shellacking at the hands of the San Diego Chargers and quarterback Drew Brees stunned Buffalo's 13th-ranked defense, which entered the game ranked 31st in stopping the run but was second against the pass and second in sacks.
Buffalo felt that if it ganged up and stopped Chargers star running back LaDainian Tomlinson, its veteran secondary would be up to the task of playing a lot of single coverage on the likes of Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker and tight end Antonio Gates. How wrong the Bills were.
L.T. was held to 67 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries, but Brees and Co. more than picked up the slack in exploding for 35 first-half points, scoring touchdowns on five of six possessions.
With Buffalo frozen by play-action and the front four failing to generate a pass rush as it did the week before at home against Trent Green and the Kansas City Chiefs, Brees scorched the Bills for 265 yards and four touchdowns through the air in the first half alone. With no interceptions, Brees' first-half rating was 152.3.
Brees would fire TD passes of 27 yards to Gates, 23 yards to Parker, 2 yards to fullback Lorenzo Neal and 29 yards to McCardell, and the rout -- Buffalo's worst loss in a non-strike game in 20 years -- was on.
Brees finished 28 of 33 for 339 yards, setting a single-game record for completion percentage by a Bills opponent at 84.85 percent. It was the most passing yards against Buffalo in two years.
"They didn't have to run the ball on us the way they were throwing it on us," Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay said. "Maybe we did sell out to shut down Tomlinson. We have a great defensive backfield, it's one of our strengths, but they took advantage of us. We didn't get a lot of pressure on them."
Indeed, the Bills had just one sack, that by linebacker Jeff Posey, and failed to come up with an interception. The Bills have 12 interceptions this season but none in their five road games, all losses.
Taking the full brunt of the pass coverage woes was cornerback Nate Clements, the Bills' best cover man who will be an unrestricted free agent and didn't do his bank account any favors. Clements was beaten cleanly on the Parker and McCardell touchdowns.
"Personally I'm disgusted by the way I played, no excuse," Clements said. "We didn't compete as far as pass defense. We just didn't get the job done. I hold high standards for myself and I didn't get the job done, I didn't take care of business."
Parker left Clements frozen at about the 15-yard line on a pump fake by Brees. McCardell beat him down the middle.
"They pretty much set me up with the hitch and then ran a slant and go," Clements said. "The other one, he bended it out and came back in and he got the inside leverage on me. Those are routes I can play, there's nothing that they did that I can't cover, I just didn't step up and challenge and play the way I'm supposed to play."
The killer drive for Buffalo's defense came late in the second quarter after the offense had scored to cut the lead to 28-10. With just 1:23 on the clock, Brees drove the Chargers 83 yards in 46 seconds to their fifth score, completing passes of 17, 26, 16 and 29 yards along the way.
"That was terrible, terrible," Vincent said of that particular drive.
Things may have been even worse for Buffalo if the dominating Gates, the NFL's emerging tight end superstar, hadn't left the game with a foot injury early in the second half. He toyed with linebacker Angelo Crowell and strong safety Lawyer Milloy, catching five passes for 77 yards and a TD.
With physical mismatches all over the field, Buffalo had no answers, giving up season highs for points (48), yards (478), first downs (28) and yards per play (7.0).
"He exploited us individually, he exploited the scheme," Vincent said of Brees. "We obviously showed some holes on tape, and they exploited them. They ran the ball, too, in chunks. Third-and-long ... we never got off the field. That's very frustrating. We were prepared, they countered. All the calls from upstairs, they had something else."
--The 48 points allowed by the Bills were the most since a 49-31 loss to Oakland at home on Oct. 6, 2002, and the fifth-most allowed by Buffalo all-time. The Chargers led 14-3 after one quarter and 35-10 at halftime. Buffalo had allowed a league-low 10 points in the first quarter all season. It was the sixth time an opponent scored 35 points or more on the Bills in the first half. The last to do so was Peyton Manning and the Colts on Sept. 23, 2001. The 38-point margin of defeat is the worst in GM Tom Donahoe's tenure which began in 2001. In fact, it's the worst Bills loss in a non-strike game in 20 years: 39 points (42-3) to the New York Jets in 1985. In 1987, the Bills lost a strike game by 41 points to the Colts, 47-6.
--LB London Fletcher, who reporters kid for always finding a silver lining after losses, didn't mince words after this one. "Frustrated, upset, I can't think of enough words to describe how it feels," he said. "I love playing on the road; there's nothing better than to be able to go into someone's stadium and get a victory. Playoff teams do that, playoff teams win on the road, and we haven't won the road, so we're kidding ourselves right now to think that we're a playoff football team being 0-5 on the road."
--QB J.P. Losman, a native of Venice, Calif., about 130 miles north of San Diego, played in front of about 450 friends and family. He had a gutsy if not successful performance playing under near impossible circumstances trailing by 25 points on the road. He finished 20 of 36 for 168 yards, one TD, one interception and six sacks. "It doesn't matter if I'm home or where I'm at, who I'm playing in front of, losing sucks," Losman said. With the Bills (4-6) still in the AFC East playoff picture, two games behind New England (6-4), Losman added: "We have to come back swinging. Sometimes you get beat up, so you have to get back up. Either you're a man or you're not. We'll find about our team in the weeks to come."
--To their credit, Buffalo's offensive players weren't washing their hands of this loss and blaming it all on the defense. The Bills had just 202 yards in total offense, went 3-for-13 on third down and held onto the ball just 22:30. Buffalo never played keep-away from Drew Brees and the NFL's third-highest scoring team. "We never got in sync. We never got the running game going," guard Chris Villarrial said. "We didn't do anything. We left our defense hanging, and we can't do that. Against teams like this, you have to be able to hold onto the ball. (But) that's a great team, and today was their day."
--QB Kelly Holcomb, who had started five games in a row, dressed as the No. 2 quarterback at San Diego following a severe concussion. He's close to being fully recovered but it still has not been determined if he'll get the starting job back for this week's game against Carolina at home.
--QB J.P. Losman's record as a starter fell to 1-4 with Sunday's 48-10 loss at San Diego. He threw the ball much better and his decisions were quicker, but it still has not been determined if he'll start this week's home game against Carolina.
--RB Willis McGahee isn't lighting things up lately, topping 100 yards just once in his last four games. He was held to 39 yards on a season-low 10 carries by San Diego and had a costly fumble. He did raise his career yardage to 2,023, passing the 2,000-yard milestone in his 26th career game. He's the fastest Bill to hit that milestone.
--FB Daimon Shelton's pretty 2-yard TD catch in the first half at San Diego was just the second of his career. His first was in 2001 while with Chicago. That was a 3-yard reception from Shane Matthews, currently a Bills backup quarterback.
--DT Sam Adams injured his ankle in the second quarter on a running play and did not return. He was able to walk off under his own power. His status for the Panthers game will be updated Wednesday.
--K Rian Lindell likes that San Diego fresh air. His 53-yard field goal on Sunday was the second longest of his career. He booted a 54-yard at San Diego in 2001 while playing for Seattle.
--WR Roscoe Parrish, subbing for an injured Terrence McGee, had six kickoff returns for 176 yards, the fifth-highest mark for a single game in Bills history. Buffalo had 239 yards on nine kickoff returns as a team, a dubious new mark.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban said Monday that middle linebacker Zach Thomas will miss "probably a couple of games" if not the rest of the season because of a separated shoulder suffered the previous day in a 22-0 loss to Cleveland.
"The doctors have not made a determination as to what they are going to do," Saban said. "Some guys who get this injury come back in a couple of weeks and can play in a harness. Some, relative to the severity, which is what they are looking at right now, can't do that. It takes longer. In some cases, it requires some kind of surgery."
Saban said the Dolphins (3-7) likely would shift weak-side linebacker Channing Crowder to middle linebacker for Sunday's game at Oakland (4-6). Crowder, whose 63 tackles rank second on the team to Thomas' 123, started at middle linebacker during some preseason games when the latter was recovering from a sprained ankle.
How the other linebacker spots are filled will depend largely on whether strong-side linebacker Junior Seau will be able to practice during the week at weak-side linebacker. Seau, who was shifted from strong side to weak side just before the start of the regular season, has been limited in some practices because of a strained calf that has lingered throughout the year.
Regardless, replacing Thomas won't be easy. Even playing in a new defensive system for the first time in his 10-year NFL career, Thomas was playing at such a high level that he was leading all linebackers in fan voting for the Pro Bowl in the first batch of results issued by the NFL.
--After the Browns loss, Dolphins defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday ripped the effort of his team by saying, "It seems like we had some people give up." Coach Nick Saban took umbrage with that comment during his Monday news conference.
"No one should think that there was anything but a lack of execution relative to our ability to sustain and do what we were supposed to do," Saban said. "I did not see players quitting. That is a natural, frustrated reaction."
--Saban reflected Monday on the death of Steve Belichick, who was one of his coaching mentors at the Naval Academy in the early 1980s. The father of New England coach Bill Belichick, Steve Belichick died of heart failure Saturday night at age 86.
"Of all the people I respect in this business in terms of what I was able to learn from him and how he has helped me through the years, I probably have as much respect for Steve as anyone," Saban said. "It is kind of a unique situation. My dad was a coach and Bill's dad is a coach. My dad was probably a better coach than me, and if the truth was ever known and they ever had the opportunity, maybe Steve is a better coach than Bill. That is no disrespect to Bill, but Steve was a great coach
Coach Herm Edwards named Brooks Bollinger the starter for Sunday's home game against New Orleans.
Whether that's good news for Jets fans or for Bollinger himself is debatable.
It means a fourth start for a quarterback who has produced no touchdowns in three NFL starts, after his appearance at Denver was cut short by a concussion late in the first quarter. It also likely means another week of Bollinger running for his life, as a banged-up offensive line has had trouble providing adequate protection in recent weeks.
Sunday was a case in point, as Bollinger was crunched by Al Wilson on a first-quarter blitz and left the game shortly afterward. He later vomited on the sideline.
"He couldn't go back, I know that," Edwards said Monday. "He couldn't go back and participate in the game. For his safety, it was the best thing to do, not putting him in the game. He had a little headache today, but it's getting better, clearing up. He went and took the (CT) scan and all that, and they said he's going to be OK."
OK is something the Jets ceased being awhile ago. The 27-0 loss to the Broncos was their fifth consecutive defeat, and it dropped them to 2-8. The only consolation is that after playing two straight division leaders in Carolina (NFC South) and Denver (AFC West), the Jets draw the vagabond New Orleans/San Antonio/Baton Rouge Saints, who also are 2-8.
Edwards defended the progress of some of the young players, mentioning Bollinger specifically.
"Players are getting better," he said, "but it doesn't show up on the scoreboard. People say these guys are terrible. You can say what you want, but there's young guys that are getting better. Brooks Bollinger has gotten better, OK. He's gotten better. There's some young players that have gotten better on our football team. It doesn't show right away. You've got to keep coaching, that's what you've got to do."
--Coach Herm Edwards explained his rationale for leaving Vinny Testaverde in the game against Denver on Sunday. Testaverde suffered what Edwards termed a "twisted" right ankle when his right lower leg buckled as he stepped up to try to avoid the intense pressure the Broncos were applying, knowing the Jets were passing on every down.
Kliff Kingsbury "wasn't ready to play," Edwards said Monday, indicating that all of the No. 3 quarterback's practice snaps in the week leading up to the game had been as the scout team quarterback, running the Broncos offense for the Jets' starting defense. "He didn't get any reps playing. Maybe I should start doing that. Maybe I should get three quarterbacks to do reps in practice, but it's impossible to do. He wasn't equipped to go out there and go play. Then it really gets strange. So Vinny was better equipped than Kingsbury. That's not fair to Kingsbury or the football team. That's not right. He'll be more equipped this week, but that's the reason. You never want to get shut out, that's true."
--Edwards lamented the NFL salary cap and its effect on teams that experience massive amounts of season-ending injuries, as the Jets have this season. "You don't anticipate all this," he said, "so you're limited on the (amount of) players you can bring in once all these injuries start taking place.
"I don't know if they can change the rules, but I think what has happened to us, obviously, it affects you. If it happens to another team, it's going to affect another team the same way. This is something you don't anticipate. No one anticipates this. I mean, no team ever anticipates this. It puts you in a little bit of a disadvantage."
Edwards wouldn't speculate on whether the NFL might relax the cap rules in the offseason to deal with teams that suffer multiple season-ending injuries as the Jets have.
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