AFC East: 49ers-Bills
Hate to do this to Buffalo Bills fans trying to get over their team's ineptitude in the red zone Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, but ESPN Stats & Analysis has discovered something about the offense's colossal breakdowns.
The Bills had two possessions of 15 or more plays and over 75 yards, making them the first team all season (that's 384 games) to have two such drives in the same game. They did it with different quarterbacks, no less.
Of the 29 times a team has mounted such a drive this year, none failed to score. They produced 21 touchdowns and eight field goals.
The Bills didn't score on either of theirs.
Rian Lindell missed a field goal in the second quarter, and the Bills turned over the ball on downs in the fourth quarter.
For the game, the Bills entered the red zone four times and scored three points.
In the same Monday news conference in which Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron said of his team's problems "I'm where it stops," he declared he wanted Marshawn Lynch to run the ball more in the fourth quarter of Sunday's indigestible 10-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Lynch ran 16 times for 134 yards, but offensive coordinator Turk Schonert gave him only one carry in the fourth quarter.
"I wish he would have touched the ball more, obviously," Jauron said.
Jauron wears a headset. He was in position to make sure that happened if he wanted.
Perhaps even more baffling is that Lynch, known as one of the NFL's hardest runners, had three carries in Buffalo's four trips to the red zone and just one attempt inside San Francisco's 10-yard line despite the Bills playing half the game with backup quarterback J.P. Losman.
Left tackle Jason Peters acknowledged that Jauron "took it on it shoulders to admit that he should have ran it more, and we know we should have ran it more in the red zone."
Four trips inside an opponents' 20-yard line should be plenty often to beat a team that could score only 10 points. But Buffalo came away with only the field goal.
The Bills missed two field goals and failed to get enough yardage on a fourth-and-2 situation from 7-yard line. On that final set of downs they tried Lynch on first down, passed incomplete, handed off to Fred Jackson and passed incomplete.
Leaving your team's fate in the hands of your backup quarterback and your backup running back with the game -- and your waning playoff hopes -- on the line sure doesn't seem like wise play calling to me.
"Nothing's a good utilization of anything if it doesn't work," Jauron said. "So that's kind of where we are. Nothing worked very well for us [Sunday] on that side of the ball in the red zone. Nothing worked very well."
On the Bills' 14 plays in the red zone, they managed 29 yards. They ran eight times for 13 yards.
"I'm where it stops," Jauron said. "I'm the guy. The things that go wrong, I've got to get them corrected. I've got to do my part to do that."
But his failed attempted from 20 yards out, essentially an extra point, set a stomach-churning tone in Sunday's 10-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Ralph Wilson Stadium and affected strategy for the rest of the game.
"I am not going to make excuses," said Lindell, who has made 276 straight extra points, an NFL record to start a career. "I stunk. I don't know what to tell you."
The miss likely played a role in Buffalo coach Dick Jauron's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the San Francisco 7-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Lindell also missed a 40-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter.
How sickening was Lindell's afternoon?
On the surface, maybe it isn't, but consider what Elias Sports Bureau has discovered:
Heading into the game, Lindell had made 56 consecutive field goals of 40 yards or shorter, an NFL record.
"It was going along pretty good, just in general," Lindell said. "I just haven't hit my target line this year. It has just been kind of an uphill climb. I get something going, then something like today happens, and that's ridiculous."
Lindell missed a 47-yard try that would have beaten the Cleveland Browns in a Week 11 heartbreaker, but he rebounded to score a career-high 18 points in a Week 12 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.
That should pretty much do it.
The Buffalo Bills have a .500 record and are alone at the bottom of the AFC East with only four games to play.
So much for that scalding hot 4-0 start. The Bills also were 5-1 and the darlings of the AFC.
The Bills' defense, playing without safety Donte Whitner, cornerback Jabari Greer and Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel, performed well enough for a victory. The Bills gave up only 195 net yards (62 rushing, 133 passing) and just 12 first downs.
But the Bills' offense didn't show up, and kicker Rian Lindell missed two field goals.
Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was awful. J.P. Losman emerged from the bullpen at the start of the second half and mustered a semblance of offense, but not nearly enough. The Bills have stumbled against 3-4 defenses all season. Now they're 1-5 against them.
The 49ers, meanwhile, became the first team in 15 tries to travel three time zones eastward and win.
Those poor Buffalo Bills fans. Their heads must be spinning.
Backup quarterback and Western New York pariah J.P. Losman was inserted after halftime of Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers in Ralph Wilson Stadium reportedly because Trent Edwards suffered a groin injury.
Edwards hasn't been able to decipher 3-4 defenses very well and did little in the first half to dispel concerns in that regard.
Buffalo desperately needs a victory. But lowly San Francisco took a 10-0 lead into intermission.
Losman has sparked the offense somewhat, driving Buffalo to a field goal and then getting to San Francisco's 6-yard line early in the fourth quarter. But rather than kick another field goal, Bills coach Dick Jauron went for it on fourth-and-2.
Losman, who probably got a scant few reps with the first-team offense this week, threw an incomplete pass.
But who can blame Jauron? Rian Lindell already had missed an extra-point-length try in the first half. His 40-yard attempt clanked off the left upright with 5:32 left in the game to keep San Francisco seven points ahead.
The Bills are 6-5 and badly need to win to keep their dim playoff hopes flickering.
Teams traveling three time zones eastward are 0-14 heading into Sunday.
The Bills are 1-4 and averaging 18.6 points per game against 3-4 defenses this year. But when they play a 4-3 defense they are 5-1 and averaging 30.8 points.
The Buffalo Bills will honor their greatest ambassador when they dedicate the Tim Russert Plaza before Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The late moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press" was a South Buffalo native and often professed his love for the Bills on air, sometimes signing off with a hopeful "Go Bills" and occasionally mixing in a "Go Sabres."
Buffalo was proud of Russert on his professional merits alone, but his unashamed love for the city and its sports teams on an international stage made him a beloved figure at home. Some fans started a petition to add him to the Bills Wall of Fame.
Here's an excerpt of commencement address Russert delivered at American University in 2005:
Graduating from AU has given you incredible advantages over others in your generation. Yes, I too have heard smug remarks about non-Ivy League schools. You think you have it bad? You should try being a Buffalo Bills fan in Washington D.C.
I actually took "Meet the Press" to the Super Bowl a few years back. At the end of the program I looked at the camera and said, "Now it's in God's hands. God is good, and God is just. Please, God, one time. Go Bills!"
My colleague, Tom Brokaw, jumped up and said, "You Irish Catholics from South Buffalo are shameless. You can't pray on the public airwaves." I said, "You'll see the power of prayer, Brokaw." Well, the Dallas Cowboys slipped by the Bills, 52-17. After the game, the first person I saw, of course, was Brokaw, who yelled across the room, "Hey, Russert! I guess God is a Southern Baptist!"
In reporting his friend's death, Brokaw gave tribute by ending his emotional report with "Go Bills."
Russert suffered a fatal heart attack on June 13, while recording voiceovers at NBC's Washington bureau.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Speaking of coincidences and the Buffalo Bills, one series of recurring events has been a disconcerting topic among their fans.
The Bills routinely have been successful against 4-3 defenses, recording all but one of their victories against them.
Against 3-4 defenses, however, the Bills have struggled. They have won just once against that setup, which unfortunately for them is used by the rest of the AFC East.
The Bills will face another 3-4 defense when the San Francisco 49ers visit Ralph Wilson Stadium to challenge another trend Bills coach Dick Jauron considered coincidental.
The 49ers switch in and out of 3-4 and 4-3 looks depending on how they want to use Justin Smith, but their base is a 3-4.
Here's the breakdown of how the Bills have fared against 4-3 teams:
- Week 1 vs. Seahawks, W 34-10
- Week 2 at Jaguars, W 20-16
- Week 3 vs. Raiders, W 24-13
- Week 4 at Rams, W 31-14
- Week 5 at Cardinals, L 41-17
- Week 12 vs. Chiefs, W 54-31
Here's how the Bills have fared against 3-4 defenses:
- Week 7 vs. Chargers, W 23-14
- Week 8 at Dolphins, L 25-16
- Week 9 vs. Jets, L 26-17
- Week 10 at Patriots, L 20-10
- Week 11 vs. Browns, L 29-27
The Bills average 30.8 points, 334.8 yards and 1.5 turnovers a game against 4-3 defenses. That includes Week 5, in which backup quarterback J.P. Losman played virtually the entire game.
The Bills average 18.6 points, 300.6 yards and 2.6 turnovers against 3-4 defense.
"I think that we've faced the 3-4s and we've seen what a majority of their defenses can do," Edwards said. "Hopefully we can handle it.
"The past couple of weeks the 49ers haven't shown as much defensively as they had earlier in the season. But, again, I've said this about past defenses that they don't show a lot and then once we play them they bring the kitchen sink. And that hopefully won't happen to us, but we've faced that before, and we've got to be able to handle it."
Here is Edwards' average stat line against 4-3 defenses (excluding the Week 5 game at Arizona because he was hurt on the third play):
- 20 of 30 for 240.6 yards, 1.2 touchdowns, 0.4 interceptions and 2.2 sacks. His passer rating against 4-3 defenses is 99.3.
Edwards' average stat line against 3-4 defenses:
- 20 of 30 for 209 yards, 0.8 touchdowns, 1.6 interceptions and 1.8 sacks. His passer rating against 3-4 defenses is 73.3.
Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron graduated from Yale, where he was a member of the prestigious Wolf's Head secret society.
So when he sheepishly said it was happenstance Pacific time zone teams are 0-14 in the Eastern time zone so far this year, you had to figure he merely was trying to avoid the topic with the San Francisco 49ers visiting Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.
A reporter asked Jauron what factors have played into the 0-14 record.
"You're asking me only what I think," Jauron replied Wednesday when asked what factors have played in the trend. "I think it's coincidence."
Math reveals otherwise.
If everything were equal, the probability of starting with 14 straight losses is .0061 percent, or one out of 16,384 possible outcomes.
But, of course, there isn't an even playing field because AFC West and NFC West teams simply aren't that good this year. They're bad enough in their own stadiums, but when they fly east to play games at what their players' bodies think is 10 a.m., winning is that much tougher.
To accomplish something that, in a vacuum, has six one-thousands of a percent probability indicates a rather powerful, legitimate trend that means the Bills better win Sunday.
Then again, Jauron's smart enough to realize those wouldn't have been very nice things to say.
After 11 games, the Bills are about as pedestrian as you can get. They rank 19th in scoring defense, 16th in total defense, 20th in run defense and 16th in pass defense.
"I am disappointed with where we are at this point," Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Wednesday. "I didn't think we were an elite defense. I thought we were good enough to be in the top 15 or top 10 defenses.
"When you allow explosive plays, that screws up every number that you could think of. And then we had trouble, maybe two weeks we didn't do very well on third down, maybe three weeks. It's an accumulation of things like our continuity isn't as good as it was early, and so now we just have to get our continuity back and try and get our mojo back."
A few injuries have exposed a stunning lack of depth.
While the New England Patriots suffer a series of monumental, year-ending injuries and keep winning, the Bills are staggered by some nagging problems.
Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel has been the biggest loss, a bum foot keeping him out six straight games. Whitner has missed time with a separated shoulder. Cornerbacks Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer have battled sprained knees.
"As we always say, everybody's got their injuries," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "You just have to find a way to play through them, over them, and find a way to get a victory somehow."
But what of their reserve linebackers? They made a controversial decision to put last year's leading tackler, Angelo Crowell, on injured reserve, seemingly to punish him for opting to have relatively minor knee surgery right before the season.
The backups behind Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell and Keith Ellison (he didn't practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury) have been a crew comprised of Blake Costanzo, Teddy Lehman, Jon Corto, Marcus Buggs and John DiGiorgio -- names that could be mistaken for the Tonawanda City Council.
Bryan Scott, the 6-foot-1, 219-pound safety, has been working out with the linebackers.