Next Sunday I don't have to watch the cowering-at-the-line-of-scrimmage that is the 2006 Buffalo Bills, because they have the week off. Thank God.
The New England Stupid Patriots came into town and walked away with the usual result, a dominant win. Score? 28-6. JP Losman threw one interception and lost two fumbles, and although I don't really blame him for the fumbles, the INT was pure Losman as he took the snap and stared at his receiver the entire way so that if any astronauts were on the International Space Station at the time of the game and the station was passing over Ralph Wilson Stadium at the time of the play, those astronauts would have been able to see where the ball was going. This is Losman's worst habit by far, and it's been such a damned stubborn habit that now I'm starting to wonder why the hell the coaches haven't managed to cure him of it just a wee bit. Losman's mistakes don't bother me nearly so much as the fact that the coaches seem to have absolutely no idea how to fix them, and Losman himself seems unaware that the problems exist. You've got to have more than an arm to play QB in the NFL, and if Losman's ever going to show that he's got a head as well, he's got to start doing it now.
(The fumbles were, respectively, another example of an O-line guy -- Chris Villarial in this case -- completely whiffing on a block so a blitzing linebacker had an unimpeded route to Losman's blind side, and a freak thing where Losman was trying to run the ball himself late in the fourth quarter when the game's outcome was no longer in doubt, and suddenly the damn umpire got in his way. In the course of trying to avoid the official -- who, true to NFL form, was a fat old guy -- Losman had to try to change hands with the ball, which ended up on the ground. I suppose I could be churlish and goat him for that second fumble, but what's the point?)
Other coaching decisions leave me scratching my head on offense. I wonder why the Bills don't make more use of very quick drop-and-throw patterns, that might only move the ball a handful of yards but still would serve the purpose of slowing down the opposing pass-rush a bit. The StuPats do this kind of thing all the time, and it seems to serve their nefarious purposes nicely. And fairly late in the game, there was a maddening moment when Bills TE Robert Royal made a very nice catch and run for a first down, the exact kind of thing I'd almost kill to see more of from the Bills tight ends, and then on the very next play Royal was on the sidelines. What the hell was that about?
No StuPat points came off the turnovers, but that's not a consolation. The INT was a backbreaker, killing a drive that had been going very nicely, and once again, the O-line failed to consistently pass or run block. Willis McGahee had a few decent plays and even a couple of excellent ones, but it was too little too late; as for the defense, it sucked. One New England's opening drive, they barely put up a fight; on a later NE drive, they had Tom Brady sacked and on the ground when Chris Kelsay came from somewhere else and put the hit on Brady anyway. Unnecessary roughness call, half the distance to the goal, automatic first down, Corey Dillon walking untouched into the end zone on the next play. The fact that Aaron Schobel always sacks Tom Brady multiple times when the Bills play the StuPats is of little consolation when the StuPats manage to win by commanding margins all the time.
So I'm forced to repeat myself: JP Losman, while playing in a way that can be most charitably described as "uninspiring", is still the least of the team's problems. If Marv Levy doesn't spend the coming offseason seriously addressing the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, then 2007 is another doomed season no matter who the Bills start at QB next year. Even if they decide to end the JP Losman era this offseason, I'd almost be willing to see the Bills use their likely high draft pick at the line of scrimmage, rather than on one of the two or three big-name QBs in the 2007 draft, whoever those may end up being. Sign another journeyman QB -- Kurt Warner comes to Buffalo! -- but start fixing this team's ability to fight in the trenches. Please oh please.
(And since there's been a lot of Matt Leinart handwringing going on this week, with the Bills in freefall and Leinart now starting for the Cardinals, it's worth pointing out that today Leinart got humiliated by the Oakland Raiders, who just may be the NFL's worst team. Yeah, it's only his third NFL start, but it's a reminder that there are no slam-dunks in the NFL. The StuPats, after all, have forged a dynasty around a sixth-rounder who only got the starting nod when the guy ahead of him, a former first pick overall, got injured.)
BTW, seeing as how it's StuPat time, once again I see that they do absolutely nothing spellbinding on either offense or defense. They simply manage to minimize completely the making of stupid mistakes, and what's more, they seem to have this almost Beelzebub-like ability to (a) identify what mistakes their opponents are likely to make, and (b) just sit back and wait for those very mistakes.
Say, does anybody know how the average StuPat player scored on the Wonderlic test? I suspect that would mean something....