Buffalo's good fortune to start the season ran out on the third play from scrimmage Sunday and no matter what the Bills tried to do there was nothing that was going to get them out in front of the Cardinals as they dropped a 41-17 decision to Arizona for their first loss of the season.
"As you can imagine a disappointing game for us," said head coach Dick Jauron. "We tip our hat to the Arizona Cardinals. They deserved the win and we didn't deserve this win today."
"It's a tough way to go down, but when you don't play that well it happens," said Lee Evans.
Starting quarterback Trent Edwards was hit by Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson after delivering a third down pass to James Hardy over the middle for a first down on Buffalo's first possession. Wilson dropped his full body weight down onto Edwards. The crown of Wilson's helmet also struck the quarterback's exposed jaw when the two players hit the ground, as Edwards' helmet slid upwards on the initial hit.
"I did not think it was helmet to helmet," said Jauron. "But there are other things involved in any hit on the quarterback so we'll see where that one goes."
The result was a concussion as Edwards was escorted to the sidelines. The dazed and glassy-eyed quarterback was later carted to the locker room. Coach Jauron spoke to him after the game.
"Trent was responding, but still a bit groggy," said Jauron. "Hopefully he'll be fine as time goes by here."
As a team Buffalo looked a bit dazed as well. On the second snap J.P. Losman took, after replacing the injured Edwards, he and Marshawn Lynch could not complete the exchange on a hand-off leading to a fumble at the Bills 38-yard line, which was recovered by Arizona.
"We turned the guy free," said offensive coordinator Turk Schonert. "We had a defensive tackle right there and he was right in Marshawn's face and it was a mishandled exchange."
Six plays later Kurt Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald in the back of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown reception for a 7-0 Cardinals lead. It would be a lead they would never relinquish. After a Bills possession stalled near midfield, Arizona put together a methodical 14-play drive that covered 80 yards before Edgerrin James capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 edge early in the second quarter.
Buffalo would respond in dramatic fashion as J.P. Losman did what he does best. Rolling out to his right on a 3rd-and-14 from his own 13-yard line the backup quarterback unloaded a pass that traveled better than 60 yards in the air to a wide open Lee Evans.
The Bills top wideout then covered the remaining ground for an 87-yard touchdown reception and cut the Cardinals lead in half (14-7). Evans got behind the coverage and safety help from Antrel Rolle was late and it was all the room Buffalo's top wideout would need.
"He was so wide open that I just threw it," said Losman.
It was the fifth longest touchdown pass in team history and a career long for Losman. It was also the longest of Lee Evans' career, topping the 85-yard hookup the pair combined for in a road win over the Jets last season.
"I thought he made some real good plays, but as you're aware your number two doesn't get a lot of snaps," said Jauron. "So he hasn't had a lot of preparation time. I think he has applied himself and has really been into it through the year so he has a good idea of what we're doing and how to do it and conduct it. But if you don't get the reps you're just not as sharp, but I thought he made some excellent plays in the game."
Losman finished the game 15-21 for 220 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception, but he was sacked five times as Buffalo had to go to the air more in the second half. He also ran for a touchdown.
"I try to just mentally prepare like I'm going to go in and I was put to that test early, and that's my job right now," said Losman. "It was stepping stone to learn how it is and try to keep everything under control and try to keep moving us down the field. But as far as the penalties and fumbles we've got to clean that up."
"We have a tremendous amount of confidence in J.P. and he's prepared well," said Evans. "He stepped in and did as good a job as he could have done. We just didn't play very well offensively and we turned the ball over a lot and that's not just him, that's everybody."
Arizona's offense just kept rolling putting another long drive together that got James his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run to re-establish the Cardinals' two-touchdown lead (21-7). The Cardinals used a quick passing game and got away from their deep passing attack, which helped in keeping pressure off of Warner while helping them continue their third down prowess on offense. Arizona converted 60 percent of their third downs in the game.
"That was extremely frustrating," said Kawika Mitchell. "We had been pretty dang good on third down, but they've been pretty good also so we knew that was going to be a challenge. They had a pretty good game plan and we were struggling on first and second down and even when we did get them in third and long situations they'd still convert it. It was just one of those days."
The Bills' best offensive drive of the game came on the ensuing possession. Losman appeared to settle in after his long touchdown strike to Evans, as he and Lynch drove Buffalo's attack down the field. Lynch earned 19 yards on four carries, while Losman hit Josh Reed for a big third down conversion on a 3rd-and-6 play to keep the drive alive. Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert then called a quarterback draw on a 3rd-and-goal from the two, which Losman executed successfully for a two-yard touchdown run (21-14).
But Arizona got three more points on the board before the half on a 47-yard field goal by Rackers for a 24-14 halftime lead.
In the second half Buffalo again cut it to seven with a 48-yard Rian Lindell field goal, but from there on the Cardinals made the most of some Buffalo miscues. An offsides penalty on an Arizona field goal attempt gave Kurt Warner and the offense four more cracks at the end zone and Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald for his second touchdown of the afternoon (31-17).
Buffalo turned the ball over on their next two possessions and the Cardinals capitalized scoring 10 more points to put the game out of reach with better than 10 minutes to play (41-17).
"We cut it to seven early in that third quarter and kicked the field goal, but we couldn't get on track," said offensive coordinator Turk Schonert. "You can't turn the ball over four times against a good team on their home field. That's what killed us."
"We'll learn our lessons from this. 41 to 17 is ugly as hell, but it's still just a loss, so you try to take what you can from the experience," said Mitchell. "How we worked together and just rebound."
The Bills enter the bye week with a 4-1 mark and with a couple of injuries, most notably Edwards (concussion) and free safety Ko Simpson who left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury.