JP Losman is sacked. AV correspondent Dave Staba reports…
by Dave Staba (@DavidStaba) - posted 12:16 pm, December 2, 2008
AV correspondent Dave Staba reports on Sunday’s loss from the cheap seats at Ralph Wilson Stadium:
Trent Edwards rolled to his right.
And he rolled to his right.
And then he rolled some more.
Finally, a moment before he would have run completely off the field, Buffalo’s quarterback flung the ball towards his intended receiver, who was evidently sitting in a third-row seat near the southerly corner at the tunnel end of Ralph Wilson Stadium.
No one wearing a Bills uniform was in the vicinity of Edwards’ throw, which he released midway through the second quarter, with his team trailing San Francisco 7-0. The National Football League’s play-by-play insists the intended receiver was Josh Reed, whom it places in the “front right corner of end zone.”
As the official account of the game is understandably commentary-free, it does not mention that Reed would have needed to be roughly 19 feet tall to have gotten a hand close to Edwards’ fling.
Taken in isolation, the third-down play was unremarkable. With no open receiver or clear running lane, Edwards did the sensible thing. Following the incompletion, Buffalo was in position for a kick no more daunting than a routine extra point. Neither the quarterback nor the coaches who called the play could have known that the generally reliable Rian Lindell was about to become far less so, bonking the sure thing off the left upright.
The truly galling part about the incompletion, one of 11 issued by Edwards before a worsening groin injury forced to him to pack it in for the day at halftime, was that it was immediately preceded by another one. With the Bills all of six feet away from tying a game they absolutely had to prevent a steadily unraveling season from complete disintegration.
This, after Edwards guided them 85 yards on 16 plays to get so close, converting two third downs with short, accurate throws and a third by plunging ahead on a quarterback sneak.
In an even more mystifying bit of strategy, Bills offensive coordinator Turk Schonert chose to ignore his most consistently productive option, Marshawn Lynch, on what would prove the most damaging plays of a 10-3 loss.
Edwards changed the second-down play from run to pass at the line, so he wears that one. But Schonert’s third-down decision makes you wonder if he was paying any attention at all to what was happening down there at the 2-yard line.
The Bills lined up in the shotgun formation, a clear hint to the 49ers that a pass would ensue. Edwards never so much as faked to Lynch, instead sending him into the same general vicinity as every other Buffalo receiver, allowing San Francisco to defend only a tiny geographic area.
Of those clustered targets, only Reed was anywhere near the end zone by the time Edwards, having meandered all the way back to the 15-yard line.
Even from the Season Ticket vantage point three rows from the top of the stadium, it was clear from the snap that the play was going nowhere.
Thanks to the near-equal ineptitude of the visitors, the Bills would get several more opportunities to fail, which they seized.
The most glaring came with 10 minutes left, with Buffalo facing a fourth-and-2 from San Francisco’s 7-yard line.
J.P. Losman, having replaced the hobbled Edwards, did not roll to his right. Nor did he hand the ball to Lynch, who, to be fair, was probably exhausted after running for 134 yards to that point.
Instead, Losman just sort of stood there as Lee Evans broke free near the goal line, looking much like a visitor from another land who had been whisked off a plane, forced into a Buffalo uniform and exposed to American football from the perspective of a participant.
Having been released only after Losman was grabbed by San Francisco defensive end Ray McDonald, the ball hit the turf well before reaching Evans, the game and Buffalo’s season skidding along with it.
There are still mathematical scenarios that would grant the 6-6 Bills entry to the NFL’s postseason tournament, given a four-game winning streak and several good teams suddenly playing very badly.
But, as on their two best chances to accomplish the relatively simple feat of scoring a touchdown Sunday afternoon, they don’t seem to have any idea how to get there, even if everything else breaks their way.