This time, Buffalo couldn't overcome its anemic offense.
Sputtering and stumbling with numbing regularity, the Buffalo Bills (3-5) lost to the Houston Texans (5-3) on Sunday, 31-10. This time, the defense couldn't bail out an imploding offense that generated only 204 yards of offense.
The numbers took a new, scary turn on Halloween weekend. Jigsaw and Michael Myers might as well of been calling plays. Buffalo held the ball for only 20 minutes, converted only two third downs and had four three-and-outs. In short, the bye week couldn't come at a better time. The injury-stricken Bills have nine offensive touchdowns in eight games.
Players aren't sure why and aren't sure where to turn for production.
"For whatever reason we weren't able to generate any big plays," receiver Lee Evans told reporters afterward. "We changed formations a little bit, changed looks and had some success moving the ball between the red zones for a little bit, but we weren't able to get in a good rhythm offensively to generate big plays, and that's what you need."
Things got so bad head coach Dick Jauron attempted a fake punt in the fourth quarter that resulted in a three-yard loss. Half of the season is over and the unit still has no identity.
Buffalo's only touchdown came courtesy of a 29-yard reverse to Owens. Outside of that, it was the same old story. Dropped passes. Miscommunication. No big plays.
Houston linebacker DeMeco Ryans poked fun at Buffalo's simplicity after the game. Plays and formations were telegraphed.
"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."
Without question, the hot topic this bye week will be who should start under center. If Edwards is ready, he may be re-inserted at quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick did little to earn the job outright. In his third game as the starter in place of Trent Edwards (concussion), Fitzpatrick couldn't stretch the field. Fitzpatrick completed 15-of-23 passes for only 117 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Yet still, for a while, it seemed like the Bills might steal this one. Much like their previous two wins against the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, the Bills' secondary kept its inconsistent offense in the game. Buffalo led 10-9 through three quarters in large part to Jairus Byrd's two picks. The rookie became only the second player since 1960 to have two or more interceptions in three straight games. Flocking his arms, ball in hand, Byrd has instantly become the NFL's answer to Chris Andersen. Without the collage of tattoos and past off-field troubles, of course.
But his efforts were for nil this time around. Buffalo shuffled on and off the field like clockwork. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson each had nine carries, the passing game floundered and the team is still trying to figure out what it's M.O. is.
Given opportunities to cash in on Houston's mistakes, the offense tripped over itself. Be it a bobbled lob in the end zone by T.O. after a 71-yard return by Jackson or an ugly mixup between Fitzpatrick and Owens that resulted in a pick, the Bills had no answers again on offense. Players were left scratching their heads afterward.
"I couldn't tell you exactly what it is," Jackson said. "As a unit we're just not functioning the way we need to be whenever our defense is giving us opportunities like that. We've got to make plays. We have potential to and we have all the players to do it but we're not doing it and that has to change."
The Bills have two weeks to devise an exit strategy. Right now, they're on the fast track to a fourth straight 7-9 season. Despite adding arguably the most explosive wide receiver os this generation, the results have been the same.
Like he has been all season, Owens was baffled afterwards. What hurts, he says, is that the team has the weapons to be much, much better.
"I can honestly say we work hard in practice but what we show out on the field is not indicative of what we're doing in practice," said Owens, who had five catches for 39 yards. "As an offense we're not doing what we're supposed to do especially with the weapons we have in the backfield with Lynch and Jackson and me, Evans and (Josh) Reed. We're just not getting it done on the offensive side of the ball, period."
So...what now? Let your voice be known in the Rockpile. Is there time to right the ship?