As much as Buffalo's struggles offensively have been about more than one player, there's no debating that the success of an offense runs largely through its quarterback. And last week despite a strong rushing performance and good pass protection Trent Edwards had three more turnovers and looked hesitant at times in delivering the football.
Edwards maintains that he is still a confident player and is still trusting what he is seeing unfold in front of him each and every snap. He claims his issue is adjusting on the fly to new wrinkles opponents are throwing at him.
"The hardest thing that is happening to me is that I'm preparing for defenses that we're not really getting on Sundays and Monday night and they didn't really bring the defense that we saw the Browns played against the Broncos," said Edwards. "That's what we're practicing out here on the practice field all week and then we're facing an entirely different defense. So I have to adjust to that."
And quickly according to offensive coordinator Turk Schonert. Edwards faced five straight opponents that play a 3-4 defensive front and almost all of them committed seven or eight men to coverage a good portion of their games against Buffalo. Naturally teams are not going to play exactly the same way they did the week before, but that's on the quarterback to have the answers.
"He's got to learn," said Schonert. "You play those types of teams and you see Peyton Manning do it all the time, where they just play Cover 2, drop eight and he just keeps hitting Joseph Addai or whoever is the running back and that is his leading receiver. That is what happened with Marshawn (Lynch) and he got to that. It took him a little while, but he got to that."
Buffalo's offense on the whole was successful moving the ball after that approach clicked with Edwards and Lynch had a career-high day catching the ball with 10 receptions. But what about getting the ball to their most potent weapon in the passing game in Lee Evans?
For the first time in 67 games Evans went without a catch Monday night. Schonert said he called 83's number about a half dozen times as the primary option, but he's not the one throwing the ball.
"It wasn't that we didn't try," said Schonert. "He was open three or four times down the field and Trent (Edwards) went elsewhere with the ball. Believe me, I tried to get him the ball. He is our money guy. One got tipped, and Trent, like I said misread a couple and didn't get it to him. We are always going to try to get him the football. He didn't disappear. He was there, he played hard and I dialed up his number half a dozen times. It was one of those nights where he didn't get it."
Evans, though admittedly frustrated immediately following the Monday night game, understands his young quarterback is going to get crossed up at times with disguised looks from an opposing defense. At the same time the offense has to have answers to counter those strategies.
"They threw a couple looks at Trent (Edwards) that kind of threw him off a little bit, but you have to still be able to make plays in those situations because you are not going to be able to prepare for everything a defense does, or wants to do or throws at you during the football game. There are just not enough hours in the day to do that so you have to be able to react. Moving forward, I think there are lessons we learn from that."
Head coach Dick Jauron admits Edwards' play has fallen off, but has no intention of pulling his young signal caller. He also confirmed that there's no way to prepare for anything and everything a defense might employ in a given week.
"You only have a limited amount of preparation time, so you prepare for what they've shown you," said Jauron. "If you tried to prepare for every potential defense that they could throw against you, you wouldn't get any kind of repetitions against what they've done."
Edwards simply has to take the different defensive looks that he's seen the past month and file them away to draw on later this season when all three division opponents, with their 3-4 defensive fronts face the Bills a second time in addition to San Francisco.
But that's why for a veteran quarterback it's easier to come up with answers in the course of a game. They've seen every defensive disguise, scheme and coverage in the playbook. Edwards hasn't.
"It is just the first time he has really faced eight defenders all the time," said Schonert. "You just have to learn to have patience, take your check down, take your check down, check to a run. We talked to him before the game about how he is going to have to use his legs in those situations when they drop that many people."
"One of the values of experience is that you've seen most of what people can do over time, and that's what's happening," said Jauron. "That's what's happening to Trent in situations. He's getting that experience. Unfortunately, he does see things for the first time. Every week, he'll see something, probably, for the first time. You just have to log it. He's a bright enough guy that it (will) all add up for him. It all adds up, but it's painful to go through at certain times."
For Edwards and for Bills fans.
But Buffalo's quarterback is determined to fight his way through these agonizing growing pains and come out of it a more consistent player.
"I don't want to make excuses," said Edwards. "There are still plays out there to be made for me. I'm not saying that this is something that I haven't seen before, but 10 years down the road, if I've faced this situation before, it would be much easier to handle."
But Edwards doesn't have that kind of experience right now and the Bills don't have that kind of time. At 5-5 their season is teetering on the brink and they need answers now.
Fortunately for Edwards he gets a one week break from the 3-4 fronts with Kansas City's 4-3 defense up next.
Facing what is currently ranked the worst defense in football along with the prospect of Josh Reed returning to the lineup Sunday might be just the combination Edwards needs to get back on track.