The Bills weren't as inept on offense as many NFL observers thought they might be after seeing the first-string bumble and stumble through the preseason, but there are still some pressing concerns that must be addressed in the wake of Buffalo's disheartening 25-24 loss to New England.
Trent Edwards was efficient in completing 15 of 25 passes for 212 yards and two TDs with no interceptions, but once again, he seemed unwilling to take shots downfield, and the Patriots were able to take both of his outside receivers, Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, out of the game.
Owens' arrival was supposed to open things up for Evans. Instead, he caught only three passes for 25 yards while Owens had a mere two receptions for 46 yards. Edwards threw only nine balls their way.
"Give their defense a lot of credit, they're a well-coached, well-oiled machine on that side of the ball," Edwards said of the Patriots. "Those guys were sitting back there pretty deep and a lot of times we're going to look to the interior guys. We knew they were going to try to take away Lee and Terrell. I need to see it on film to see where I can take my shots and when I can't."
Taking shots has been a problem for Edwards in his two-plus years in the league. He has become known around Western New York as Captain Checkdown because he throws so frequently to his backs and tight ends. Running back Fred Jackson was the leading passing game threat as he caught five balls for 83 yards and a touchdown.
"Fred is one of our best football players and we need to do a good job of getting him the ball," said Edwards.
Edwards praised new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt for the way he called the game. "I thought Alex called a great game," said Edwards. "He got us in some formations that I felt comfortable with and he got us in some plays I felt comfortable with. It's a credit to him, it's his first NFL game (as a coordinator). But one point short stinks."
Evans said that despite the loss, the Bills should gain some confidence from their performance. "We can learn a lot from this game and the bottom line is we have to be able to finish," he said. "If we can continue to play together like this we'll be fine moving forward."
The Gillette Curse?
--What is it with Gillette Stadium? Two years ago when MLB Paul Posluszny was a rookie, he suffered a broken forearm in Week 3 against the Patriots and was lost for the season. In the season opener at Gillette on Monday, Posluszny broke a bone in his arm again, and while Dick Jauron doesn't think it's as serious as the 2007 injury, it will definitely knock Posluszny out of action for a while. Marcus Buggs, a second-year player with limited experience, took over in the second quarter and was not credited with a tackle. The Bills are already woefully thin at linebacker, and they may have to make a move and bring in a veteran player. Also on the injury front, DE Chris Kelsay exited in the second quarter with a knee injury, the severity of which won't be known until at least Wednesday.
Offensive Line Solid
--The Bills' young, unproven offensive line actually held up pretty well against a talented New England front seven. The Bills became the first team since the 1981 Washington Redskins to start in a season opener three players on the offensive line who had never played a down in the NFL. Rookie guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre and second-year player Demetrius Bell were the unique trio, and it wasn't the disaster that some had forecast. Wood and Levitre held their own, and Bell's problems at the difficult left tackle position were due primarily to rules infractions. He didn't line up on the line of scrimmage twice, he had a false start, and there was also a holding penalty, which was declined. The Bills ran the ball fairly well, and the line gave Trent Edwards reasonable time to throw. Two of the four sacks allowed came within the final four plays when the Bills were in Hail Mary mode and the Patriots were coming after them. "I'm certainly proud of the way the young guys performed," said coach Dick Jauron.
More Tough Losses
--If nothing else, the folks at Monday Night Football should keep inviting the Bills back to play just for the sheer entertainment value of their games. In 2007 Dallas pulled out a miraculous 25-24 victory by scoring 10 points in the final 20 seconds, one of the most gruesome losses in Bills history. Last year, Cleveland's Phil Dawson made a 56-yard go-ahead field goal with 1:39 to play to give the Browns a 29-27 lead, and it held up when Buffalo's Rian Lindell missed a 47-yarder on the game's final play. And then Monday, the Bills blew a 24-13 lead and allowed New England to score two touchdowns in the final 2:06 to pull out a 25-24 victory. So distraught by this latest loss, FS Donte Whitner was moved to tears. "We don't care about that," Whitner said while wiping his eyes when reminded that no one gave the Bills a chance of winning. "We know what we have in this locker room. It's tough, we played really, really hard and we just came up short. I wanted to shut everybody up that thinks we're not a good football team and we had an opportunity and we let it go. We can't lose like this."
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