Owens, Evans incognito in Bills' offense
September, 27, 2009
By Tim Graham | ESPN.com
|AP Photo/Mike Groll|
|Terrell Owens was held without a catch in Buffalo's loss to New Orleans.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills astonished us all when they signed Terrell Owens, forming a dynamic duo with Lee Evans. Fans assumed they'd be Batman and Robin.
They've turned out to be a couple of Alfreds.
There has been no zip, bang, pow from Owens and Evans. They couldn't have been more mild mannered on Sunday, contributing essentially nothing in a 27-7 defeat to the New Orleans Saints in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Owens had zero catches for the first time in 186 games, nearly 12 years of Hall of Fame football.
His was the longest active streak in the league and third all-time behind Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison. Still, Bills offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and quarterback Trent Edwards found a way to squander the threat.
Owens was targeted five times. He bobbled one. Had the ball swatted away. Edwards overthrew him.
"Clearly, he's a big part of the offense," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "He certainly is a threat because they do pay attention to him. We've got to get him the football, obviously.
"We saw him open down the field. We just overthrew him a couple times. Underthrew him once, overthrew him once. When you get your opportunities you've got to take advantage of them."
Theoretically, defenses can't cover two game-breaking receivers on the same play. Double cover one, and the other will come open, right?
Evans was slightly more useful. He had four catches for 31 yards. His longest gain was 11 yards.
Defensive end Ryan Denney had a longer reception than that and more yards than Owens. Buffalo's only touchdown occurred on a fake field goal attempt. Brian Moorman, a punter, connected with Denney on a 25-yard pass play in the second quarter.
"We had plenty of opportunities to get the ball to us," Evans said. "We just didn't get it done. I feel like we had some opportunities and we just didn't take advantage of them."
What was supposed to be one the NFL's most formidable -- maybe the most formidable -- one-two punch has been rendered practically worthless.
Add their stats together and they have 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. One of those games was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Before Sunday night's Colts-Cardinals game, 24 individuals had more receiving yards than Owens and Evans together. Mike Sims-Walker, of all people, has 187 yards for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Bills can't figure out how to get Owens or Evans -- let alone both of them -- involved.
"I wouldn't say wasted," Bills running back Fred Jackson replied when asked if that's what was happening with Owens and Evans. "But I know we're not taking advantage of having them on the field like we're supposed to."
After losing to the Saints, Owens was one of the first players off the field. He didn't mingle or shake hands like many do after a game. He trotted to the locker room, and by the time reporters had enough time to get down there, Owens already was out of his uniform and nattily dressed.
He spoke at the podium, but the only insight you could elicit is between the lines.
Reporter: "Do you think you and Evans are being wasted?"
T.O.: "We're just going with the plays that are called."
Reporter: "You could say no, that you're not being wasted."
T.O.: "I'm just going with the plays that are called."
Reporter: "Do you like the plays that are called?"
T.O.: "Whether I like them or don't, just going with the plays that are called."
Reporter: "What about the decisions that are made [by Edwards] after the plays are called?"
T.O.: "I don't know. You have to ask him."
Reporter: "No, I'm asking you what you think."
T.O.: "Nah. I don't want to answer that."
Reporter: "I'll ask him when I'm done with you."
T.O.: "I don't want to answer that because whatever I say, you guys are going to turn it to however you want to say it."
Reporter: "We'll print exactly."
T.O.: "Well, I just answered you, sir."
Edwards completed 20 of 35 passes for 156 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception, a ricochet when he tried to force a third-quarter pass to Owens in Saints' territory.
Edwards' longest completion was for 18 yards. Saints quarterback Drew Brees had completions of 32 yards and 20 yards on his opening drive.
The comparison might seem unfair, but should it be? Edwards has a future Hall of Famer getting paid $6.5 million, and a speed demon the club rewarded last year with a contract extension that, at the time, placed him among the league's 10 highest-paid players.
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, making his first return to The Ralph since the Bills fired him as head coach, turned the Bills' offense into a mess.
The Bills converted only 2 of 14 third downs, failed to get into the red zone, surrendered eight tackles for losses and four sacks. The Saints were credited with 14 quarterback hits.
"Our offense as a whole just wasn't in a rhythm today," said Jackson, who ran 18 times for 71 yards. "We have to go back to the drawing board."
The offensive line began the season incredibly inexperienced and has gotten younger. Right tackle Brad Butler suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, but rather than sign a veteran to replace Butler, the Bills plucked a developmental player off the Green Bay Packers' practice squad and deactivated him Sunday.
The line committed six penalties. The Saints accepted five of them for 35 yards.
Would a veteran free-agent tackle such as Jon Runyan, Damion McIntosh or Langston Walker have made a difference Sunday? Probably not, but Edwards might have had that much more time to feed Owens or Evans the ball.
As for the streak, Owens shrugged it off. A receiver who once had 20 catches in a single game couldn't make one grab, even in garbage time.
Edwards claimed he had no idea about the streak, not even when the Bills had zero shot of scoring three times inside the final two minutes. The Bills certainly ran plays -- a Jackson run for no gain, Edwards to Josh Reed for no gain, Edwards incomplete -- before punting away so the Saints could kneel out the clock.