Sunday, September 24, 2006

How loud is the THUD when 53 guys hit the ground?

The Buffalo Bills just lost their home opener to the New York Jets, 28-20. They looked great out of the gate, with JP Losman being really on-target with the ball and with Willis McGahee running well, but three turnovers by Losman, some bad defensive tackling (especially in the second half), and more bad offensive line play in key situations allowed the Jets to win. So let's can the playoff talk, OK, Buffalo? The key term this year is still "growing pains".

The Bills looked talented to me today, but not seasoned. JP Losman's two fumbles resulted from his failing to react to pressure. (His interception was a deep pass on which his arm was hit as he released, so I'm cutting him a little slack there.) Still, Losman showed to me a lot of heart in the way he kept battling until the very end -- he scored a rushing touchdown himself with little more than a minute left, and then tried to do a tying drive after the Bills recovered an onside kick, but he couldn't pull it out.

Since a lot of people were mentally pencilling the Bills in for a playoff spot after they beat Miami last week, I fully expect them to go off the deep end the other way this week and bitch up a storm about Losman. And yes, he made mistakes that were probably the biggest reason the Bills lost today. But he did a lot of good stuff in this game, stuff I've been waiting to see him do, and the fact still remains that good teams find a way to overcome mistakes like the ones he made today.

The defense didn't record a single turnover. Nate Clements, the overrated cornerback who dubbed himself "playmaker" two years ago, once again didn't figure in a single play until he got called on a tripping penalty that helped a Jets scoring drive. The defensive line failed to generate any consistent pressure on Chad Pennington. The tackling was often poor.

And the offensive line? Well, Losman's protection was better than usual, and Willis McGahee had a good day running the ball. But on a crucial goal-line situation in the fourth quarter, the line couldn't command the line of scrimmage enough to get the ball through to the end zone.

So today, the Bills showed a lot of talent and a bit of heart at the end. But when the real chances were before them to either respond to a big play with one of their own or to get back in the game, they failed.

Like I said, I'm down on Losman's results today, but I'm not getting down on him as a player. He's still young, and even in spite of the bad mistakes he made today, he did a lot of good things that I've been looking for (big passing plays, mostly). He showed a ton of ability today; now we need to start seeing some growth.

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