The Buffalo Bills were defeated by the New England Stupid Patriots yesterday, 31-17, although the game wasn't nearly as decisive a victory for the StuPats that this score indicates; the Bills were actually driving for a potential tying touchdown when Drew Bledsoe got sacked, lost the ball, and sat watching as the StuPat defender who scooped up the ball proceeded to return it for a touchdown with two minutes to go in the game.
On that particular play, I find it hard to fault Bledsoe, since not one but two StuPat defensive linemen had an unblocked path right to him; Bledsoe was sacked before he could even finish dropping back, much less even think about planting his feet and looking for a receiver. I've been flogging this point for pretty much the entire time I've been blogging about the Bills in this space, but until things change, there it is: the Bills' offensive line is completely lousy. They gave up seven sacks, for the second straight game, and while the running game was mildly effective, the Bills were never really able to get it established.
(And there's a frustrating point. It's there for all to see, that the only real way to beat the StuPats in a close game is to run the ball, run the ball, and then when you're done running the ball run some more; and yet, in a game in which the Bills were never down by more than a touchdown until the last two minutes, the Bills had only 26 rushing attempts, with none of those coming from former first-round pick Willis McGahee. Huh-whuh?!)
I listened to a bit of local sports-talk radio stuff last week, and one point I heard from a show that I like is that this game would probably either make or break Drew Bledsoe here. If he played well and won (or played really well despite losing), it could mean that maybe he's not washed up yet, whereas if he stunk up the place again, he was done. So sure enough, Bledsoe did neither. I've been very long to give up on the guy, and I guess I still can't; he looked yesterday like what I've long believed he actually is: a decent quarterback playing behind a really crappy offensive line and stuck in a system that pays no heed whatsoever to his actual strengths. Bledsoe had some really good throws yesterday, and only one interception that seemed to me to be a clear example of a miscommunication on a timing play (with Eric Moulds breaking inside, rather than outside). Bledsoe was 18 of 30, with 247 yards and a touchdown. Not bad.
Defensively, though, I'm getting pretty worried. I've never yet seen a great defense, a Super Bowl-caliber defense, that had to rely on constant blitzing to generate pressure, and yet that's what the Bills did yesterday. They blitzed Tom Brady constantly, and since their defensive line pass rush is already suspect, Brady was able to rely on the fact that the Blood of Satan runs in his veins and never once succumb to the blitz and get sacked. For all that blitzing, the Bills didn't sack Brady a single time. And the StuPats' O-line isn't exactly the second coming of the Hogs of the Washington Redskins of the 1980s. Add to all that some colossal blunders by supposed "veteran" players, and it all added up to a game in which an undisciplined team with some talent managed to stay in a game against a more talented, and much more disciplined team, only to lose in the end.
The Buffalo Bills have some serious problems. If they're to finish this year with the 8-8 record I predicted, they'll have to go 8-5 the rest of the way. I don't see that happening. Can we say, 4-12?
(And Geez, for the second time this season, I have to agree totally with Jerry Sullivan. I hate agreeing with Jerry Sullivan, a guy who has spouted more crap than a broken sewer line. But he's right on, today.)