Latest Meltdown Has Bills’ Season On Verge Of Imploding

Posted on November 16, 2009 by Patrick Moran

When it comes to meltdowns, Amy Winehouse has nothing on these Buffalo Bills.

It was the defining play of the game and for the  Bills, their season.  In the fourth quarter Sunday of a deadlocked game with Tennessee, the  defense faced a third down and goal from just inside the two.  Hold the Titans to a field goal and momentum was one their side.  Allow a touchdown and the game is likely over.

Chris Johnson took a handoff from Vince Young and went smack dab into Bryan Scott and Paul Posluszny.  Two guys went down.  Johnson wasn’t one of them.  He ran through both Bills defenders, into the end zone, and just like that the Bills were down a touchdown with 10:44 remaining to play.

From there the Bills did what has been customary this season.  They folded like a lawn chair.  A Titans field goal and two interception returns for touchdowns closed out the game, as the Bills gave up and gave out in their 41-17 defeat.

“What’s new,” Terrell Owens said.  “It’s how its been the last seven to eight weeks.  We lose games in the third and fourth quarter.”

The loss dropped Buffalo to 3-6 and all but out of playing contention. With Kansas City the lone opponent left on the  schedule where Buffalo will be favored, Dick Jauron’s fourth annual run towards 7-9 is in serious jeopardy.

“We played hard again but not smart all the time,” Jauron told reporters following the game.

I’d love to know Jauron’s definition of “playing hard.” The Bills resembled a team that ran for the bus after Tennessee got up two scores in the fourth.

Someone should put a stick of deodorant on Jauron’s desk and see if he gets the hint.  His football team stinks.

The Bills were outscored in the fourth quarter, 24-0.  Couple that with the 22 unanswered points Houston laid on them before the bye and it doesn’t take a mathematician to explain why the Bills are losing by lopsided scores.   For those keeping score, that’s 46-0 for the opposition in the final quarter the past two games.

Johnson completely shredded a Bills defense that was missing three starters, four if you count Donte Whitner.  Johnson carried the ball 26 times in rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns.  For good measure he caught 9 passes for 100 more yards.  It’s only the second time in franchise history they’ve surrendered 100+ yards rushing and receiving to a running back in the same game.

The defense played on their worst games of the season.  The offense has been the easy and often accurate scapegoat for the generous numbers  allowed this year, but this game was all on them.  Tennessee faced a third down 17 times and converted 11 of them, a success rate of 65%.

Vince Young looked very good in winning his third straight start for Tennessee, completing 17-of-25 passes for 220 yards.  He also hurt the Bills often with his feet, picking up 29 yards and a few big first downs in the process.

Conversely, Trent Edwards faded as the game went on following a promising start.  He completed 18-of-28 for 185 yards and a touchdown, but only threw for 21 yards after connecting on a 37 yard pass to Terrell Owens in the first minute of the third quarter.

He was benched after throwing an interception Vince Fuller returned 26 yards for a touchdown to put the Titans up 34-17 with 2:54 remaining.

Following the game, Jauron was unusually non-committal when asked if Edwards would start again next week.

“We’ll discuss it as we go along,” he said.  “I got to see the whole game because from the field you can’t see everything that happened.  After the fact, you get information.”

The Bills scored the game‘s first touchdown thanks to some uncharacteristic offensive trickery.   After Fred Jackson took a direct snap in the wildcat formation for a two yard gain, they ran the same formation again on the very next play, but this time Jackson faked a run and threw a perfect pass to a streaking Lee Evans for a 27-yard score.

It would turn out to be the only time Buffalo would lead all game. The Titans came right back with a nine play, 80 yard drive culminated when Johnson took a hand off right and went untouched 27 yards into the end zone.

Tennessee took the lead late in the first quarter after Vince Young spotted Aaron Schobel dropping back in pass coverage and found Nate Washington for an easy 14 yard touchdown pass.  A 38 yard field goal by Rob Bironas 5:01 into the second quarter stretched the lead to 17-7.

Terrell Owens  was visibly upset following the Bills first possession of the second quarter.  After a drive that saw a sack, false start penalty and a one yard screen pass on 3rd and 24, Owens was vocal in his displeasure on the sideline.

For awhile at least, something positive clicked.  Owens ended up catching three passes for 85 yards with two of the receptions going for 46 and 37 yards.

But he also dropped passes, including one threw his hands in the final minutes that went into the waiting arms of Rod Hood.  He returned it 31 yards for the game’s final score.

Owens’ frustration with the team and his role are increasing. I suspect the feeling is mutual after seeing too many dropped passes and half heartedly run routes.   Owens has been rather robotic with his words publicly this season, but something has to, and probably will give soon.

“Well according to you (media) I’m washed up and everybody else,” Owens said.  “It is what it is. I pay no mind to it.  I hear it.  I go out and I play and again I’m just going with the plays that are called.  If I’m involved, I’m involved.”

While Owens continues to be a colossal disappointment, rookie Jairus Byrd remains the biggest bright spot.  He intercepted a Young pass in the second quarter, his eighth of the season.  It tied the team rookie record originally set by Archie Matsos in 1960, and set another team mark by getting a pick for the fifth straight game.  The feat hadn’t been accomplished since Champ Bailey did it with Washington in 2005.

The Bills started the second half by going 76 yards down the field before stalling, leading to a 25 yard chip shot by Rian Lindell to tie the game at 17-17.

From there, blame could be spread all around.   Edwards showed all the characteristics that have plaqued him this year.  He also got very little help from the running game.  Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch combined for just 85 yards, and 28 of them came on three garbage time runs at the end of the game.

The offensive line was pathetic again.  They committed five more false start penalties and now lead the league with 22.  When they weren’t jumping pre-snap, they were problematic at doing that blocking thing offensive lines are supposed to excel, or at least be adequate at.  Edwards was only sacked twice but was under duress for almost the entire game.  To make matters worse Demetrius Bell injured his knee in the first half and didn’t return, forcing Andy Levitre to move from left guard and putting Seth McKinney into the lineup.
“I believe they’re going to be a good line,” Jauron panned.  “Its just going to take time and time is not something we have a lot of.”

Speaking of time, this time the defense deserves more than just a little culpability.  Game planning for Tennessee shouldn’t have been difficult.  Don’t let Chris Johnson run wild, and make Vince Young beat you with his arm.  It quickly became apparent it was mission impossible.  Despite everyone in the stadium knowing Johnson would be the focal point, he still gashed the Bills.  The Titans gained 168 yards on the ground.  Sadly, it was  an improvement for a run defense that gives up 173.6 per game.

“He’s a tremendous running back,” Jauron said.  “His speed is so exceptional and he’s got great balance.  He accelerates so quickly.”

Bryan Scott is a hard worker and undervalued performer on this team, but he’s not a starting linebacker.  Starting in place of Keith Ellison (thigh), Scott was mauled by offensive linemen.  Posluszny looked good on the stat sheet (12 tackles) but was frequently caught out of position and had his lack of athleticism on full display more than a handful of times.

For all intents and purposes, even with seven games remaining the Bills are already playing out the string.  They travel next Sunday to take on the resurging Jacksonville Jaguars.

Somewhere, Maurice Jones Drew is licking his lips in anticipation.

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