Last week we witnessed an encouraging sign with respect to Buffalo's run game as Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch teamed up for most of the team's 200-yard rushing total in the win over the Chiefs. The problem was balance on offense was again absent as they threw for less than 100 yards for the second straight week.
Finding offensive balance is an issue that I'm afraid has caught up to the Bills and passed them. They've got to find some way to recapture that, especially this week because you can't be unbalanced against the New England Patriots. They're experts at taking away your strengths and if you don't have a counter to that strength you're in trouble.
That being said when you're shorthanded on the offensive line due to injuries it compromises the effectiveness of Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's dropping back and he doesn't have an opportunity to read defensive coverages because his focus is drawn more to the defender that may not be blocked. As a quarterback you have to focus on the coverage, but when you don't have time to do that it makes it real tough and your confidence level can take a hit.
The thought process has to be a lot quicker for the signal caller and the receivers have to get into their routes quicker and the quarterback has to get rid of the ball quicker and eventually the entire timing of the offense is off and finding a rhythm in the passing game becomes near impossible. There hasn't been a whole lot of comfort back there in that pocket.
I know Alex Van Pelt and the offensive staff has tried this before, but you just have to be able to narrow the amount of plays called during the course of a ball game. Going through the course of the week they might have to cut back on the playbook a little bit and focus on particular routes by receivers. Third and long is when quarterbacks need time to survey the defense and the receivers need the time to get the proper depth that they need on their routes. To this point that has rarely been the case.
So a big focus is not putting yourself in long distance situations and hopefully continued success with the run game will help accomplish that. You don't want an opposing defense in a position where they can tee off because when they can do that the Bills offense and most offenses in the league are not going to be successful.
The continuity of the offensive line has been a compromising factor in all of this and I feel bad for the offensive linemen trying to hold that thing together despite all the changes. As a quarterback I know it has been no picnic for them and for Ryan Fitzpatrick. When the quarterback is getting hit and sacked the first set of guys that are blamed are those linemen.
They take the brunt of the blame for the lack of production on offense, and I believe it's due more to the inability to keep the same five to seven guys in the lineup for more than a few weeks at a time this entire season. It really disrupts everything you're trying to do, and we've unfortunately witnessed it firsthand this season.
To the credit of the guys on offense they've stuck together in an effort to persevere because the amount of injuries the Bills have had this season has the potential to tear a locker room up due to lack of success. Buffalo hasn't just had injuries for a couple of weeks here or a couple of weeks there. They've got 15 guys on injured reserve right now. When you're dealing with those kinds of losses your team is going to take a hit.
No one knows what their record is going to be at season's end, but to be honest 5-8 is a record I'm surprised they have with the amount of injuries they've sustained. Each week they come out and continue to push forward. Watching them each week they come out and battle. Granted their offense hasn't been very successful, but you can tell that the fight is still there and that's what I personally look for when I see a team that's struggling.
This time of year when playoffs are off the table there's a lot of talk about being the spoiler for other teams that have a lot more to play for. I think it's a good thing for fans to talk about, but for the players they couldn't care less about the spoiler role. The players focus on winning and if they happen to be a spoiler so be it.
As a player you don't want to be a spoiler in the first place because it means you're out of the playoffs. Players are playing for pride at this point. You're playing for the name on the back of your jersey.
Just to touch briefly on the Patriots and all the media-driven hype surrounding them this past week with Randy Moss and players getting sent home and so called turmoil. It's something that the media has stirred up and I feel it's been made to sound a lot worse than it really is. That group of players is a lot closer than you think, but any time there's an opportunity to focus on something negative with a team that has been king of the hill for so long they're going to jump on it.
Move on to something more important that's worth talking about. I'm so sick and tired of that stuff. The bottom line is Bill Belichick is going to have his guys ready to play.
I'm not denying that as a player if you hear enough of that it will get to you, especially if you read what's written and listen to what is broadcast. And they heard it earlier this week on Wednesday and Thursday.
But when Sunday rolls around I'll guarantee that Tom Brady will have that offense ready to play and we better have our chin straps buckled and be ready to play because it's going to be an all out brawl.