Just before today’s telecast kicked off, color analyst Randy Cross fired this salvo at beleaguered Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards.
“Come on Trent,’’ Cross said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “It’s time to put on the big-boy pants and throw it down the field.”
Now, far be it for me to come to the defense of a quarterback whom I don’t believe has what it takes to lead the Bills out of this decade-long abyss. (Heck, at this point I’m wondering if even Peyton Manning or Tom Brady could perform that miraculous feat.) But after watching Green Bay’s omni-present linebacker Clay Matthews spend almost as much time in the Bills pocket as Edwards, I’m thinking that even an opinionated former All-Pro offensive lineman like Cross might be willing to cut the battered QB some slack next time around.
It is, after all, pretty difficult to throw the ball anywhere, let alone downfield, when defenders are practicing the Lambeau Leap on you virtually every pass play.
During the 34-7 romp in the paper-mill town that Lombardi made famous, Matthews and Co. took full advantage of the Bills matador pass protectors – Ole! – to sack Trent four times for minus-40 yards and hurry him on at least a dozen other occasions.
And Buffalo’s receiving corps did little to help matters.
Steve Johnson displayed alligator arms while going across the middle, allowing a catchable pass to slip through his fingers and into the hands of Packers linebacker Brandon Chillar. That turning-point miscue initiated a scoring drive at the start of the second half that turned a six-point deficit into a 13-point hole. And that hole became a crater two possessions later when rookie Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett stole the ball from Roscoe Parrish, setting up the final Packers touchdown of the day – a nifty 30-yard strike from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones that gave the victors 21 unanswered points.
Again, I’m not trying to play apologist for Edwards, who completed just 11-of-18 passes for a measly 102 yards and no scores. But it clearly has taken a team effort for the Bills offense to become this bad and this boring.
The one and only time Edwards managed to go deep to Lee Evans, Packers veteran cornerback Charles Woodson was flagged for a 24-yard pass interference penalty that set up the Bills only score on a short run by Fred Jackson. Despite an improved ground game, fueled by some spirited runs by Marshawn Lynch (17 carries, 64 yards) and Jackson (9 for 39), the offense remained offensive – as in putrid, lousy, rotten. You pick the adjective.
So, here’s the statistical carnage two games into the season: Buffalo’s 22 possessions have produced two touchdowns, one field goal, 12 punts, two interceptions, one fumble and 17 points. The Bills have just 352 yards in total offense during that span. That paltry yardage total includes 241 through the air. In contrast, Rodgers threw for 255 yards today alone.
As was the case for most of last season, Evans, the Bills top receiver, remains a non-factor. After a mediocre four-catch, 34-yard performance last week, he was shut out by the Packers. Yes, a large part of that is Edwards’ fault, but the lack of pass protection and a legitimate No. 2 receiver to prevent the constant double-coverage of Evans also contribute mightily to this dilemma.
There was hope that rookie running back C.J. Spiller would help awaken this offense from its lethargy. But the dynamo from Clemson is still getting his NFL feet wet. He quickened the pulse a tad with his 41-yard kickoff return in the second half, but his contributions on offense remain negligible. To date, he has 9 yards on 8 carries and 63 yards on eight receptions. Going against the speedier, stronger, more physical defenders of the NFL has been more challenging than expected, particularly behind an offensive line that isn’t exactly the Great Wall of China.
At some point, I suppose, Chan Gailey might throw in Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm in hopes of finding a spark for an attack that’s averaging 8.5 points per game. But unless the Bills line does a better job protecting the quarterback and their receivers do a better job getting open, it probably isn’t going to make much of a difference.
Award-winning columnist and author Scott Pitoniak has covered the Bills since 1985 and has written five books about the team, including the recently published, Buffalo Bills Football Vault: The First 50 Seasons, which is available at any book store, the Bills team stores and Amazon.com. You can read more by Scott at .