ORCHARD PARK - I remember a time when the stadium formerly known as Rich was a House of Horrors for visiting teams. A time when this was one of the toughest places in the NFL. But that seems like ancient history now. The Ralph has become a welcome wagon for visiting teams.
Sunday’s 31-10 victory by the Houston Texans marked the eighth time in the past nine games that the opposition has left town happy. In the last five home losses, the Bills have managed just one offensive touchdown, meaning the home team has not only been bad, but boring.
There’s no way to sugar-coat this: The Bills offense continues to be putrid. A week after mustering just 167 yards, Buffalo racked up 204. They converted just 2-of-10 third downs and managed just 9 first downs, marking the first time since the 1971 season they’ve had consecutive games where they failed to reach double figures in that all-important category.
Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 117 yards and zero touchdowns and was picked off twice for a paltry 41.4 passer rating. The Bills rushed for 97 yards, and that figure was skewed as 29 of those yards came on Terrell Owens’ reverse for a touchdown. That run, by the way, was the longest play of the day for the Bills.
It was another anemic day for T.O. and Lee Evans, the two combining for a whopping 7 receptions for 68 yards. Owens is on pace to catch 46 passes for 562 yards and 2 scores, while Evans is looking at 46 receptions for 662 yards and 6 touchdowns.
So, that’s 92 receptions for 1,224 yards and 9 TDs – combined. Contrast that with last year’s production when T.O. finished with 69 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 TDs for the Dallas Cowboys, and Evans had 63 receptions for 1,017 yards and 3 scores.
Viewed another way, they have been about half as productive as they were in 2008.
The diamond amid the ashes continues to be Bills safety Jairus Byrd. The second-round pick out of Oregon picked off two more passes Sunday to become the first rookie and only the second player in NFL history to have multiple interceptions in three consecutive games. It’s been amazing to watch these past few weeks. He had two more picks bounce his way in the first quarter against the Texans. He’s like a magnet.
The Bills worst-ranked run defense yielded 186 yards rushing against Houston, but that stat is misleading. One hundred and nineteen of those yards came in the second half after Buffalo’s “D’’ wore down. The fact the Bills offense can’t sustain a drive definitely has taking its toll on the defense.
Another reason to cut them some slack: With injuries to defensive end Aaron Schobel and linebacker Keith Ellison, Buffalo was forced to play most of the second half with seven reserves.
Some people want to know if there will be a quarterback controversy at One Bills Drive following the bye week. My response: You need to have a quarterback in order to have a quarterback controversy.
I’m not trying to be a smart-aleck. I really don’t believe the Bills have a true starting quarterback on their roster.
When you compare the performances of Trent Edwards and Fitzpatrick, there really isn’t a lot to choose from. Their statistics are similarly mediocre and neither one makes me believe he has what it truly takes to be the Bills long-term answer at the position that has been a revolving door since Jim Kelly’s retirement following the 1996 season.
Edwards has completed 59.5 percent of his passes and has 5 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions to go with a 2-4 won-lost record. (It should be noted that Edwards received credit for the win against the Jets even though Fitzpatrick played three quarters of that game and staged the comeback.) Fitzpatrick has completed 51.4 percent of his passes and has 2 TD passes and 3 picks to go with a 1-1 record.
Put the two names in a hat, spin a bottle, flip a coin, play rock, paper, scissors. It doesn’t matter. They play like the same guy.
A nationally recognized sports columnist and best-selling author, Scott Pitoniak is pursuing new challenges after 35 years in the newspaper business. He hopes one day to write the great American novel and hit a baseball over the wall at Yankee Stadium. In the meantime, he runs his own website – ScottPitoniak.com – and blogs about sports and life’s other adventures.
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