The end result certainly wasn't what Buffalo wanted, but despite a difficult one-point loss at the hands of the Patriots, the outlook for the Bills offense isn't nearly the concern it was heading into the season after new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt's debut as the team's play caller.
After Buffalo's opening possession went three-and-out, the Bills did not have another the entire game as they successfully moved the football.
"I think Alex did a terrific job," said head coach Dick Jauron. "The whole staff did a terrific job really in preparation for this game with a lot of things going on. They really came together. I thought the team came together."
Van Pelt, who had all of 10 days to prepare after being handed the coordinator job, made good use of the backs and tight ends helping to get the ball out of Trent Edwards hand quickly to help neutralize the pass pressure. The extended use of the screen pass with Jackson the receiver in most cases worked well.
"I've said all along that Fred Jackson is one of our best players on the offensive side of the field," said Edwards. "And we need to do a good job of getting him the ball. That's an easy completion, keeps the pass rush from coming as hard the next time with the threat of a screen pass."
Jackson finished the game with five catches for 83 yards as he averaged an impressive 16.6 yards per reception despite running most of his routes out of the backfield.
But it was Van Pelt's ability to put Edwards in situations that put the quarterback's mind at ease allowing him to just focus on his progressions in the passing game. He had more poise in the pocket Monday night than he did at any point in the preseason.
"I thought Alex Van Pelt called a great game," said Edwards. "He got us in some formations that I felt comfortable with and some plays I felt comfortable with. It's a credit to him. This is his first NFL game coordinating and calling plays out there and a lot of credit goes to him."
Buffalo's most impressive drive came in the fourth quarter when the Bills were trying expand a 17-13 lead. The offense marched 62 yards on 14 plays before Jackson took a short pass on the left side of the formation to the end zone behind a convoy of blockers downfield for a 10-yard score (24-13). The Bills went 2-2 on touchdowns in the red zone.
Jackson finished with 140 all-purpose yards while Edwards finished with a passer rating of just over 114 and a pair of touchdown passes. All this offensive success happened despite the fact that top outside receivers Lee Evans and Terrell Owens were not prominent factors in the offense, though Edwards intends to change that moving forward.
"Give credit to their defense, they're a well-coached, well-oiled machine on that side of the ball," he said. "Those guys are sitting back there pretty deep and a lot of the time we're going to look to the interior guys knowing they would take away Lee and Terrell. And it's a chance for the interior guys to try to take advantage of it and getting Josh and Roscoe and Derek Schouman the ball. I need to see it on film to see when I can take my shots and when I can't."
Still Evans was encouraged that despite being limited in making contributions himself that the offense had alternative answers to how the Patriots played them.
"I think we came in here with a good plan and we executed it well," said Lee Evans. "We moved the ball up and down the field. We got our running game going so it's a tribute to those guys up front. They were doing a good job. Fred ran the ball hard and we were right there and we gave ourselves a chance. We fought hard the whole game we just came up short."