AFC East: Bills-Chiefs
We don't know for sure, but we do know that a Bills victory in that ugly Monday night matchup would have the Bills within striking distance of first place in the AFC East.
The Bills on Sunday ransacked the Kansas City Chiefs, 54-31, in Arrowhead Stadium to end a four-game losing streak. The Bills surrendered way too many points, but the Chiefs provided the perfect elixir for quarterback Trent Edwards' troubles.
A few notes:
- The Bills scored the second-most points in franchise history. They rolled up 58 points in 1966.
- They scored the most points of any Chiefs opponent.
- Edwards became the first Bills player to throw for at least two touchdowns and run for at least two touchdowns.
- The Bills became the fourth team since the NFL-AFL merger to score at least 50 points and not allow a sack or a turnover.
The Bills are 6-5 with the San Francisco 49ers coming to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.
Now that loss to the Browns stings a bit more. The Bills could be riding a three-game win streak before playing three of their last four games against the division. They went 0-3 in their first tour of AFC East opponents and need every non-divisional victory they can muster.
Buffalo's remaining schedule:
- Sunday: San Francisco 49ers at home.
- Dec. 7: Miami Dolphins in Toronto.
- Dec. 14: New York Jets at the Meadowlands.
- Dec. 21: Denver Broncos at Mile High.
- Dec. 28: New England Patriots at home.
The Bills are tied with the Miami Dolphins at the bottom of the tightly bundled division. The New England Patriots are 7-4. The New York Jets are out front at 8-3.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
The Buffalo Bills couldn't have drawn up a better script for Trent Edwards. Not only did they win Sunday on the road, but they also received a strong performance from a quarterback who badly needed to end a period of wretchedness.
But their path to the playoffs is tougher than it sounds. They're tied with the Miami Dolphins, who are playing well. The New England Patriots are also ahead of the Bills at 7-4. The Bills will host the San Francisco 49ers before returning to AFC East play in two weeks.
Edwards' passer rating looked more like the temperature on a frosty, late-autumn Western New York morning over a four-game losing streak that sent the Bills from first to worst in the AFC East. But against lowly Kansas City, he showed he might be starting to get his act together. He completed 24 of 32 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't throw any interceptions. He ran for two touchdowns.
Edwards also found Lee Evans six days after failing to complete a single pass to the Bills' highly paid receiver. Evans had five catches for 110 yards. Buffalo survived the absences of cornerback Jabari Greer and strong safety Donte Whitner against a revitalized passing game. Chiefs quarterback Tyler Thigpen threw for three touchdowns but connected with No. 1 wide receiver Dwayne Bowe only once.
The Bills lead 30-17 at halftime and appear to have some fight in them after losing four straight and five of their past six to tumble into last place in the AFC East.
Edwards desperately needed a confidence builder and the Chiefs are obliging.
Rather than curl into the fetal position, he has completed 13 of 18 passes for 15 yards and ran 15 yards for a touchdown before intermission.The Bills are on the outer margin of the AFC playoff picture, but their fans must be relieved to see their quarterback is starting to bouncing back from a horrific spell -- even if it is against one of the NFL dregs.
Kordell Stewart on Thursday told me Buffalo must stick with Edwards, who has been struggling mightily for four games.
But on "NFL Total Access," Woodson said the Bills should make a switch for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs because the playoffs are on the line.
"You treat a quarterback just like a DB, a tackle, a tight end, a receiver," Woodson said. "If they're not playing well, you've got to give your team the best opportunity to win.
"I understand you don't want to play head games with a young guy like this, but you still owe it to your team to give your team the best chance to win and put those guys on the field."
While chatting with ESPN analyst and former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese on Friday, I asked what he thought about Edwards' amazing drop off.
Over the past four games, Edwards has thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions.
"People want to talk a lot about the concussion" Edwards suffered in Week 5 against the Arizona Cardinals, Reese said. "I don't see that in the same vein. The concussion probably has come and gone.
"As it is with a lot of young quarterbacks, he's a reflection of what the team is doing well. They're turning the ball over. There's an inappropriate number of fumbles. They're not running the ball well. They're not getting the big plays out of the receivers like they did the first seven games of the season.
"A young quarterback can't carry a team in the NFL yet. He's so young. He's just a reflection of what's going on with everything else. If they could run the ball, then he could play-action pass, cut down on his interceptions the times he's getting hit, get the ball to Lee Evans more."
Reese said he thought Edwards was playing scared by the end of the first quarter of Monday night's loss to the Cleveland Browns.
As for Bills coach Dick Jauron's decision to run three straight times before unsuccessfully trying a game-winning field goal, Reese said, "Heck, he was probably scared to death to throw the ball, too."
More than most quarterbacks, Kordell Stewart has endured serious scrutiny.
|AP Photo/David Duprey|
|Former QB Kordell Stewart suggests the Bills stick with Trent Edwards, above, despite having thrown eight INTs over the past four games.|
"I sure could write the book on it," Stewart said.
Stewart estimates only three of his 11 NFL seasons weren't inflicted by some sort of quarterback controversy. That includes the season he spent with the Chicago Bears, playing under Dick Jauron.
Jauron's Bills have lost four straight games and five of their past six. Their postseason hopes are in critical condition. Desperate for a victory, they will visit the abysmal Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
But nothing can be taken for granted with Edwards lately. The second-year pro has been dreadful. In Buffalo's four-game slump he has a 52.5 passer rating. He has thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has lost two fumbles and been sacked nine times.
Even considering Sunday's make-or-break stakes, Stewart categorically recommended Edwards remain Buffalo's quarterback.
"Ride it out and let the man play," Stewart told me from his home in Atlanta. "The last thing you need to have happen to you as quarterback is the feeling you're going to get yanked.
"It has to be a true dying situation before you let that happen because if you do, then what happens next? You're playing musical chairs and you look foolish."
Edwards looked like a Pro Bowler through six games. He guided the Bills to a 5-1 record, the only loss occurring when he suffered a concussion on his third pass attempt against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5.
"Trent Edwards this season came out like a cannon explosion," Stewart said. "Since he had the concussion against the Cardinals, he hasn't been the same. If you go back and watch the first few games, he was on fire, no turnovers. He was really on point.
"Now, everything's crumbling."
But Stewart sees no upside to letting backup J.P. Losman give Buffalo's misfiring offense a try.
"I'm not a big fan of sitting the starter and putting the backup in," Stewart said. "You sat J.P. Losman down for Trent Edwards, so you have to ride Trent Edwards out. You have to let him play.
"You have to ask 'If I make this change, will I really have a chance to succeed with the next guy?' I really don't think they have a chance with J.P. Losman to make the playoffs."
Stewart was the target of wicked criticism during his eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fans called for his ouster more times than he could count.
"There was a time when it seemed like in the first half of all my games I had a tendency of throwing an interception or two," Stewart said. "Bill Cowher would tell the team 'Just get ready. We might not start off easy. We might turn over the ball a couple times. But just be patient, and we'll win the game.'
"That allowed me to have confidence and made me responsible. It's not like every time you make a mistake you get ran to the bench."
Stewart said the Bills need to "finagle the game plan" to put Edwards in a position where he can find a rhythm without hurting the team.
Stewart noted that opening the game with three possessions that end in a punt would be fine, especially after Edwards threw interceptions on his first, third and sixth passes Monday night against the Cleveland Browns.
"They need to manage his psyche and put him in positions to not fail," Stewart said. "They need to reprogram his mind. The coaches need to make sure the game is as easy as possible.
"It's one of the most sensitive positions out there. At quarterback, you're on your own. Going to the bench won't help the situation at all."
Not having Greer would be another blow to an already ragged secondary in a critical game for the Bills' playoff hopes.
Strong safety Donte Whitner also is expected to miss Sunday's game at Arrowhead Stadium, although the source noted there's a chance Whitner might try to play. Whitner separated his shoulder Nov. 2 against the New York Jets. He missed one game but made a surprising return Monday night to play his hometown Cleveland Browns.
Neither Whitner nor Greer finished the game.
Greer suffered a knee injury. He missed practice again Thursday, but BuffaloBills.com reported he worked out in the weight room.
Greer has started all 10 games for the Bills. He has two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. Greer has 33 tackles and nine passes defensed, according to the Bills' internal stats.
So the Bills won't go into Sunday's game with only three cornerbacks, they're expected to sign Dustin Fox off their practice squad.
BuffaloBills.com reported receiver Josh Reed "stands a good chance" of playing against the Chiefs. Reed has missed the past three games with a sprained ankle, but has practiced two straight days.
As competitive as the AFC East is this year, there has been plenty of wretchedness to consider in the past decade or so.
Three times in the past dozen years, a team managed one victory in a 20-game span. All of them represented the AFC East.
The Miami Dolphins did it twice in overlapping fashion, including the first part of this season. That puts their amazing turnaround in context. When they host the New England Patriots on Sunday, the winner will enter a first-place tie if the New York Jets lose to the undefeated Tennessee Titans.
The Jets also won a single game out of 20 tries in the mid-1990s.
Here are the last four times it has happened.
- 1-19-0 Dolphins, Dec. 25, 2006 through Sept. 14, 2008.
- 1-19-0 Dolphins, Dec. 17, 2006 through Sept. 7, 2008.
- 1-19-0 Jets, Dec. 3, 1995 through Dec. 22, 1996.
- 1-19-0 Dallas Cowboys, Oct. 3, 1988 through Oct. 29, 1989.
Bills coach Dick Jauron was asked if he would consider a switch to backup J.P. Losman if the struggling Edwards got off to a slow start in a critical game for Buffalo's waning playoff hopes.
"Obviously, over the years, I've answered that question, other people involved," said Jauron, who dealt with plenty of quarterback controversies as Chicago Bears coach from 1999 through 2003, "and I've always answered it the same way because I do believe it's the truth.
"I don't think you can say. I know I can't say what I would or wouldn't do in any situation. It would depend on the situations. Do I intend to do it? Absolutely not. Do I have confidence in this young man? Absolutely. Neither you nor I can foresee every circumstance in a game."
The Chiefs are ball hawks. Only the Arizona Cardinals have forced more turnovers. The Chiefs rank second in the NFL with 11 fumble recoveries and have intercepted 10 passes. Their plus-9 turnover margin is second only to the undefeated Tennessee Titans.
The Bills are 5-5 and have tumbled into last place in the AFC East. They were in first place after starting 4-0 and then pushing their record to 5-1.
They have lost four straight games. In that drought, Edwards has been terrible, with a 52.6 passer rating. Edwards has thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has lost two fumbles and been sacked nine times.
"I think clearly, statistically, you'd say that he's not playing as well the last four games than he was earlier in the year," Jauron said Wednesday. "So I don't know if there is any more to be said than that.
"Though I know that he's four weeks more experienced. I know that he's four weeks smarter because I see him study. He's studying all of the time. So regression in that area, I would say no. I would say he's gone forward.
"So you see what I'm saying? You can take it either way. The bottom line is we're just not playing well enough to win, and he's one of the guys. He's one of those guys out there so he's part of it. So whatever all of that means, there it is. I don't see him in a slide backwards. But clearly, performance-wise, it hasn't been there."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
|Paul Jasienski/Getty Images|
|Trent Edwards has thrown three TD passes and eight interceptions in the past four games.|
They're in last place in the AFC East at 5-5. They are 0-3 against the rest of the division, so they can pretty much kiss an automatic playoff berth goodbye.
A wild-card spot seems remote. Tiebreakers aren't favorable, and they'll need to leapfrog two teams in their division, the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens to get in the mix. They'll also need to pray nobody else behind them gets hot.
Buffalo, to make matters worse, is trucking in the wrong direction with four consecutive losses.
In those games Edwards has thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions. His passer rating in that span is 52.6. He has fumbled three times, losing two. The one that was recovered was a safety. He has been sacked nine times.
Thankfully for Bills fans, they'll visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
What a perfect time for Edwards to rediscover himself.
Or for J.P. Losman to ease his way back into the offense.
Edwards will be a fine quarterback, but he's in a crisis period and clearly needs to regroup. His teammates don't have the luxury of allowing him to work through his problems on the game field.
Buffalo is entering do-or-die time. Their playoff hopes are already dim. They need a spark, and Edwards has shown no indication he's ready to provide one.
Bills coach Dick Jauron lauded Edwards for driving them into field-goal range for the potential winning field goal against the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. In reality, he completed one pass. Granted, it was a nice pass for 22 yards, but he didn't exactly march the Bills, who started on their own 44-yard line.
Edwards didn't find No. 1 receiver Lee Evans once all night -- against the 21st-ranked pass defense, no less.
Losman's name is met with shrieks throughout Western New York. He's maddening to watch, and there's a general perception in the weathered, blue-collar region that Losman has been a pouter since losing his job to Edwards.
To insert Losman now would be daring. He's an unrestricted free agent after this season and almost certain to split on an organization he feels jilted by.
The Bills are investing in Edwards as the quarterback of the future. But if they don't have him on a short leash against the Chiefs, then they're already working on 2009.