Well, that was bad, but not as bad as I feared.
1. First to last in the division in three weeks. Lose three division games while all three teams in the division are going 3-0. That’s as bad a stretch as you can have. The only possible good news is that the division may actually be stronger than I thought. Maybe the Jets are one of the really good teams in the league. I think the Pats are very good. The Bills played them both close.
How’s that for looking for a silver lining? But it may be true.
Even though the Bills played them close, they never seemed to be in the games. This team needs help; it has players but it needs help.
2. The defense. The defense isn’t bad. It just isn’t all that good. It’s 14th in the league in pass defense, and they gave the Pats just over the average yards the Bills are giving up. It’s 12th in the league in rushing defense, and they gave up a little more rushing yards than the Pats, one of the league’s good running teams, ordinarily gets. They’re 13th in the league in scoring defense, and they gave up less than their average to the Pats. And the numbers are much better than last season; 31st in yards per game last year, 14th this year. 18th in points per game last year.
The fact is, on Sunday this defense performed on its averages, more or less, on the road against a good team.
The problem is that this defense doesn’t make plays. One takeaway isn’t enough, for the Bills or for the Ball Burglar. The two most important drives of the game – after the opening kickoff, and after the punt in the fourth quarter, the defense could not get off the field. Winning teams need someone to step up at important times in the game. It happened early in the season, but now that the games really count, it isn’t happening.
I don’t think it’s the injuries. Whitner doesn’t get the Bills off the field. Schobel doesn’t.
This defense is loaded with players who are good at playing their positions, but none of them ever does more than that. Every team needs more some of the time, and the Bills need more. Nobody is giving it to them.
3. Looks like what the coaches were saying about McKelvin is right. He’s a serious return man. It was particularly nice to see him break one when it counted. You can say it was garbage time if you want, but the Pats play 60 minutes. The only way the Pats were going to lose that game at that point was to give up a big kick return, so McKelvin’s return wasn’t because the Pats weren’t paying attention. It was a quality return, as was the earlier return.
Before people start screaming that a first round pick has to do more, well, yes, but it’s still early. He’s learning. McGee returned kicks well before he played corner well, too.
4. Trying to stay positive: the offensive line is starting to look more like last year’s offensive line. That is, they protect the quarterback pretty well. They gave up two sacks, and Trent got hit a few times, but by and large Trent had time. Against a clever Pats defense, they did a nice job.
But they can’t run block. Can’t. Pitiful. Those are good running backs the Bills put back there. Every bit as good as running backs on the best teams. Every bit as good as BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Both of our backs gain yards, when they have SOMEPLACE to go.
Individual plays that troubled me: Dockery and Peters got absolutely scorched on a stunt the Pats ran. The Bills get beaten on stunts all the time. They can’t slide and find the man coming around. They haven’t done it all year. In the Giants-Eagles game, I saw what I think was the RIGHT guard pull and run behind the line of scrimmage outside the LEFT tackle to pick up a defensive tackle who was looping all the way around the defensive line. Dockery and Peters couldn’t simply hand off two payers side by side.
Chambers got mowed down on one play shown on the replays – completely off balance and leveraged.
Peters had his obligatory penalty.
The Bills have to do something about the line. They haven’t solved this problem.
5. Trent is a second-year quarterback. The first INT was really poorly thrown. Did he misjudge the wind? The second INT, as they showed on the replay, was a play where he read the defense wrong. I’d guess Belichick drew that one up. Trent has to learn to see the field better. He will. Plus, every QB makes mistakes. McNabb made his fair share last night. Favre did against the Bills. You’re going to make mistakes. But Trent still has to play better.
What troubled me more was that his accuracy abandoned him Threw behind Hardy. Threw behind Roscoe. Led Marshawn too much in the flat.
And he threw too late to Royal on a big third down.
Trent isn’t getting it done. That’s okay if he’s learning. Jauron says he is. I’m from Missouri.
6. The entire offense did not get it done. For the third consecutive week, the offense was anemic. Not enough sustained drives, not enough points. 10 points a game does not win.
7. Hardy is like a lot of tall receivers running after the catch – he doesn’t. Moss, Burress, even Owens, go down easily. That third down pass Hardy caught might have been a first down if he would just turn upfield, running hard and driving into the tackler. He didn’t do that, and probably never will. He isn’t Josh Reed. But that’s not why the Bills drafted him. (By the way, I’m sure the Bills miss Reed. Reed is one of those guys who makes plays in crunch time.)
Hardy’s TD was sweet. Nice plays by Trent and Hardy. Too little, too late, but a nice play and something to build on.
8. Violence. Give me some violence. I have to believe that these players can hit people with authority, instead of simply executing picture-book tackles. This is a violent game, and violent players make winners. I’m not seeing much violence. Watch the Giants-Eagles. Watch the Colts-Steelers. Our guys are trying to make tackles. Their guys are trying to make hits.
The best hit by the Bills all day was Simpson’s hit on Moss. By the way, compare the unnecessary roughness penalty on that hit to the non-call when Wilfork mowed down Edwards after Edwards released a pass. It was, in my mind, the same play – defender going full speed about to apply the hit (in Simpson’s case, not knowing whether Moss would get his hands on the ball). Defender follows through with the hit. One team got flagged.
9. I have to ask if these coaches know how to win. As each goes by, it becomes more clear that the coaches are the weak link.
I have to believe that there is a way to get Marshawn and Fred the ball in space.
I have to believe that there is a way find Hardy more than once a game.
I have to believe these offensive linemen actually can move the defense.
I have to believe that the offense can be tricked up some way from week, rather than looking so absolutely predictable.
I have to believe that the defense can attack the offense, some way, some how. I have to believe they can be more aggressive, they can blitz (when’s the last time the Bills brought a DB on the pass rush?).
I have to believe that the Bills can play with the kind of heart that it takes to actually WIN important games, not just stay within a touchdown or so of the winner.
Here’s what I saw in the paper this morning:
Jauron said “They’re a very, very talented team, a well-coached team, and they beat us.”
Every week Jauron says we have to eliminate mistakes and get better. Well, maybe he needs to watch that game again. The Bills didn’t lose on mistakes – the Bills lost because series after series, the Pats were better. They made runs, they found open receivers, they stopped runs. They were better. The Bills need to be better.
In his Monday press conference Jauron said it’s a tough division, because all three teams play the 3-4; they give you a lot of different looks and it’s difficult to adjust. Well, if that’s true, why is it that the Bills are playing this passive 4-3 that Tom Brady – er, no, that wasn’t Tom Brady – and Brett Favre and Chad Pennington can pick apart? I mean, I don’t know which is a better defense, but if you want me to believe that it’s tough to win against a 3-4, I’d like to know why we aren’t in it.
Dick is talking about how good the other guys are. I’m concerned that Dick doesn’t get it. Hey, at least Mora would scream “PLAYOFFS?? PLAYOFFS???” and Singletary would drop his pants. Dick says “We played hard. They’re a good football team.” Well, I say screw that. Who cares if you played hard and you LOST? Everyone plays hard. The point is to make the OTHER guy say “the Bills are a good football team.”
One of my favorite quotes is attributed to George Patton. It’s something like this: “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” Fortunately, people aren’t dying on football fields. Unfortunately, for the Bills, it feels like they are. They need a general out front leading them. I don’t see Jauron in that role.
Kawika Mitchell said: “We thought we were on the verge of changing the culture around the clubhouse. It comes down to believing you can beat your guy out there in every situation, and the last three weeks I’m not sure we’ve had that.” He will not throw his coach under the bus. Maybe the players on their own can get themselves to the emotional place where they need to be, but I think they need a coach who says more than “we need to get better.”
10. Contrast Jauron with Belichick, who I believe is the best coach in the history of football. Look at this quote from Ellis Hobbs: “We know how to prepare. We know how to make adjustments on the fly. We know how to handle the pressure.”
James Sanders (safety) said: “We were a very physical team today. We kept everything in front of us, beat up their receivers and our front seven stopped the run.”
What are we, punching bags. Do the Bills go out on the field so other teams can beat them up?
Belichick gets the entire game. His guys play with heart, desire, violence and intelligence. The Bills play with heart and probably desire. The Patriots look prepared every week; the Bills have looked prepared once in the last five games.
Now, everyone has trouble beating Belichick, so I’m not totally depressed. Right now I’m wondering if Jauron can beat anyone.
Okay, for the fourth week in a row, the Bills face a big game. A lot is on the line. I hope the fans will be into it, but I’ll certainly understand if they’re a little hesitant. The Bills haven’t been giving them much to cheer about.
Ball Burglar Totals: 12 takeaways so far this year, with two returned for touchdowns. The Burglar’s Bounty is up over $360 per takeaway – that’s over $6,800 raised for charity this year. All raised by Bills fans like you and me, pledging a buck or two for every takeaway the Bills get. Add your buck to the total today – just go to http://www.ballburglar.com/, click “Pledge” and follow the directions. It’ll only take a minute, and you’ll be glad you did. Thanks.