Bills' Struggles: As Old As Football Itself

Garrett HirschmanContributor INovember 3, 2008

Like most Buffalo teams this decade, the 2008 Bills have become an emotional roller- coaster that fans always get stuck on.

Sunday, Buffalo put themselves in a predicament by losing to the New York Jets, 26-17.

After a 4-0 start, things were looking promising for Buffalo.  They were playing well and Trent Edwards looked like the next coming of Jim Kelly — all was well in Buffalo. Fast forward to Week 9, and the Bills sit at 5-3 with two straight divisional losses.

People are panicking in the Queen City.

I wrote before the San Diego game that the next four weeks could make or break the Bills season.  Well it is not broken yet, but much like Perry Fewell's defense, it is doing a lot of bending.

Both against the Jets and against Miami the week before, Buffalo displayed that its problems start in one very fundamental part of the game: the line of scrimmage.

Anyone who knows football can tell you that football starts at the line of scrimmage and branches out.  It doesn't matter if your talking offense or defense. Winning "the battle of the trenches" is as cliched yet as fundamental as you can get.

The Bills were dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage yesterday.

The biggest offensive line in the NFL cannot run-block whatsoever. Marshawn Lynch is a good running back, but his yards are a credit to his own ability, not the big gaping holes he has to run through. I have never seen a running back take as much of a beating as Lynch has in his first two years.  The offensive line rarely gets him to the second level, and when they do he is more than most defensive backs can handle.

Pass blocking has been good for most of this year. The last two weeks it has struggled a little bit. Trent Edwards has not helped the cause by holding the ball too long, but the line has to take its share of the blame too.

So what is the problem? Is the offensive line just that bad?

I have heard some theories on the offensive line's troubles and I am not sure they are valid. Some suggest they are so big they can't move well enough to run block.


Then why is it they can pass block so well at times?  Pass blocking takes more advanced footwork than run blocking. Run blocking is about putting your head down and essentially falling forward. Shouldn't the biggest line be able to fall forward pretty hard?

I have heard, and thought myself, that Buffalo didn't have a good enough center. This is probably true, but its only one position on the line. Can a bad center make that much of a difference when the rest of the line is thought to be pretty good, or should I say their contracts suggest they are pretty good?

I have a theory of my own: Desire.

What else could it be? The offensive line doesn't want it bad enough, that has to be it. Football at the NFL level has a lot to do with desire. By this time most players know the fundamentals. They can tackle and block, and do the basics. Executing them well usually comes down to the will. 

I will admit I may be reaching on this one, but I challenge someone to come up with a better reason, I am open to anything.

The Bills' defensive line is not so mysterious. 

They just are not good enough as a front four. Aaron Schobel has some good numbers, but few consider him elite in the NFL. Chris Kelsay has shown some promise in the past, but he should be playing at a higher level right now than he is. Marcus Stroud looked great early on, but the magic has disappeared. Kyle Williams is a good tackle, but he will never be dominate.

The rest of the rotation doesn't matter when your top four are not getting it done. I realize Schobel has been injured and not playing, but I don't think his presence last week or this week changes the outcome of either game.

The Jets were the better team yesterday. They had a better game plan and were better up front. At the skills positions, I would argue man for man that Buffalo is just as good right now as the Jets. However, the Jets showed they are ahead when it comes to line play, and that is where games are won and lost.

It's going to come down to the Bills' coaches realizing what they have and adjusting accordingly.

Offensively, the Bills need to use some more counter runs and misdirections to help the front five out.

Defensively, the Bills have to send more guys on more downs. Yesterday when Favre had a man in his face it resulted in six points the other way. Coincidence?  I think not.

It may mean leaving man coverage on the corners, but getting to the quarterback is so important to defensive success.

Next week its that typically dreaded time of the season — a trip to Foxboro. New England has not scared me this year, but after seeing where the Bills are, I am afraid once again. New England is well coached and they have excellent line play, so Buffalo has to play with some desperation if they want to win.

I want to believe, but I don't see our losing streak to the Pats ending yet: Bills 13, Patriots 27.