By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Somebody - anybody - convince me the Bills are NOT the worst team in the NFL right now. While you're thinking about that, here are some reasons in favor of that depressing thought if you're a Bills fan.
The Bills can not pass the football effectively. Trent Edwards? He's gone after two horrible games, but except for some brief glimmers of hope at New England, is Ryan Fitzpatrick any better? It's tough to tell, because the Bills also can not protect the quarterback effectively. If nothing else, Fitzpatrick is a whole lot less frustrating to watch than Edwards, which counts for something, right?
Yes, Fitzpatrick threw a couple td passes in the 38-14 thumping by the Jets, but he threw for a TOTAL of 128 yards in the game, completing only 12 of 27 attempts. That total certainly will not bring the Bills out of 32nd, and dead LAST in the NFL, in passing through four weeks.
To be fair, Fitzpatrick's completion totals might look a little better if supposedly sure-handed Lee Evans didn't have a couple catchable balls go right through his hands. Evans had one catch for 6 yards, and in 4 games, has only 9 catches for 88 yards. Unacceptable for a #1 receiver, and Steve Johnson is actually the #1 guy right now with 12 grabs for 168 yards.
A running game would help, but the Bills can't run the football well enough to help the struggling passing game. They are actually averaging 4.7 yards per rush through four games, although that stat is skewed somewhat by Fitzpatrick's 74 yards in scramble yardage against the Jets. Suffice to say, you don't want your qb to be your leading rusher.
Because of this, the Bills were, and this is an amazing stat, 0-10 on 3rd down in the Jets game. Zero per cent. But another stat makes that more understandable; on 6 of those 3rd down situations, the Bills faced 3rd and 10 or longer.
So summing up offensively, the Bills can't pass well enough or run the ball well enough, and as we all are well aware, that starts with the offensive line.
The offense is probably the GOOD news.
The defense is worse - MUCH worse. The switch to the 3-4 was supposed to help the Bills improve their terrible stats of a year ago against the run, but things have actually gotten worse this season. The Jets rushed for 273 yards, which means in four games, teams have rushed for just under 700 yards against the Bills and are averaging 4.64 yards per carry. That means long drives, lots of third and short yardage situations, and reduced opportunities for takeaways. Other than that, its not a problem!.
As an example, the Jets converted 7-15 3rd downs against the Bills, or 47 per cent, but here's the big difference being able to run the ball effectively can make; 9 of the 15 3rd downs were third and five or less. Making matters worse, not only were the Bills unable to stop the run, they put almost no pressure on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez all day long.
The Bills 'D' didn't have a single sack, and didn't force a single turnover. In fact, in four games, the Bills have forced exactly ONE turnover, and they're still looking for their first interception of the season.
The only area in which the Bills are not in NFL-worst territory, is special teams, and yet the Jets caught the Bills totally flat-footed with a high, short kickoff right after their opening touchdown, and Chris Ellis, a linebacker, fumbled it right back to the Jets.
So , in summary, the Bills can't stop the run or pressure the quarterback, and they can't pass protect or make plays in the passing game or run the ball effectively on offense.
Over simplifications, sure, but you get the point. There is no hope of winning when an NFL team is weak in these key areas on both sides of the ball.
Is there any GOOD news? Maybe the Packers, Pats and Jets have above average offenses, and the Bills 'D' will also begin to learn the nuances of playing a 3-4 defense. Yeh, and maybe Aaron Maybin will suddenly develop into the pass rusher Dick Jauron thought he was. Wrong.
Offensively, although Fitzpatrick had a tough day against the Jets, you have to admire the guys grittiness. He wasn't afraid to give up his body to run for 1st downs, which may mean Brian Brohm gets his chance sooner rather than later, and he at least recognizes the need to get the ball out quickly when he reads the blitz coming.
Although Marshawn Lynch had a tough day with only 8 yards on four carries and lost a fumble, the trio of Bills backs are still doing ok and simply need for the o-line to become more consistent. I still think Fred Jackson is the best running back right now, but let's start giving C.J. Spiller more totes. That could actually happen over the season, and the offense could improve quickly if it does.
Defensive Coordinator George Edwards is known to have a good defensive mind, but so far, what he's doing with the Bills is simply NOT working.
We've rehashed all the reasons the Bills are where they are, but their only way out of this hole is to strive for some improvement as this season moves along - ye gads, 12 games left? - and find out who can play, and who wants to play. GM Buddy Nix knows talent, I believe that, and I also think Gailey can coach, but there is no quick fix here.
Rock bottom is finally here for a city that frankly, deserves better.