November 13, 2011
Wheels coming off Bills' bandwagon
By Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency
Don’t be alarmed by that loud, hissing noise coming from south of the border.
It’s just the air coming out of the tires of the Buffalo Bills and all of their fans.
Buffalo’s inspiring 4-0 start is now a distant memory. The team is 5-4, after getting throttled 44-7 by Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.
Romo, the NFL’s most unpredictable quarterback — you never know if you’re going to get a stinker or a stunner out of him — had his way with the Bills, completing 23-of-26 passes, including his first 13 attempts, three of them for touchdowns as Dallas scored its most points in four seasons.
Buffalo’s resurgence was a stunning early story this season, but if the team is to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, another long unbeaten run needs to come about soon.
Based on the results from the past two weeks (the Bills fell to the New York Jets 27-11 in Week 9), it is hard to see such a streak coming.
Buffalo had no clue how to stop Romo, who is again in peak form, having recovered from some dicey efforts earlier in the year.
Evading Buffalo pressure, Romo was able to pick apart the Bills downfield.
He heaved a 34-yarder into the end zone for Dez Bryant early and the flashy receiver made a fine play to haul it in.
Life got easier for Romo later in the first half as he continuously completely flummoxed Buffalo’s once-hawkish secondary.
Romo found a wide-open Laurent Robinson for a five-yard touchdown late in the first quarter and hooked up with him again on a 58-yarder after Robinson completely fooled cornerback Drayton Florence to get into the clear.
Injuries have had a lot to do with Buffalo’s decline. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, two of the most impactful defensive players on the team — particularly against the run — have been lost for the season. Kicker Rian Lindell is sidelined for 4-6 weeks, and outside linebacker Chris Kelsay and left tackle Demetrius Bell were also unable to play.
To make matters worse for the Bills, starting centre Eric Wood and backup linebacker Chris White left the game against Dallas with knee injuries while banged-up top receiver Stevie Johnson was invisible (two catches for eight yards).
Dallas has had some issues of its own, but has been able to overcome roster depletions due to admirable depth. Top receiver Miles Austin remained out on Sunday and running back Felix Jones was unable to play either.
But with Bryant and Robinson clicking with Romo, Austin’s absence has not been a factor.
Even more less so, has been the inability of Jones to get onto the field.
That’s because rookie DeMarco Murray has been unbelievable. A week after rushing for 139 yards against Seattle, Murray lit up the Bills for 135 on the ground.
Murray has rushed for 674 yards on just 100 attempts.
At the other end, Fred Jackson continued his All Pro-calibre season for the Bills with 114 rushing yards on a mere 13 carries, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick delivered another troubling effort.
Fitzpatrick threw three more interceptions, a week after completing just 48% of his passes and tossing a pair against the Jets.
Since being rewarded with a huge contract extension, Fitzpatrick has had one strong game (the 23-0 win against Washington in Toronto) and two horrendous ones.
That has to be a concern for Bills head coach Chan Gailey, though, to be fair, the Jets are a good team against the pass and Dallas brings all kinds of pressure on quarterbacks thanks to all-world outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
Ware had 16 sacks last season and set the tone in this one by getting to
Fitzpatrick for his 13th of the season early on.
Romo completed 18-of-19 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns in the opening half against the Bills … When Fitzpatrick finally got the Bills into the end zone with a rolling strike to David Nelson, it set up some unexpectedly awkward entertainment when Nelson sprinted around the sidelines to give the ball to Cowboys cheerleader Kelsi Reich, who looked about as confused as Buffalo’s secondary … Dallas has now scored in 19-of-20 quarters at home this season … Dallas’ next three opponents were a combined 6-18 entering play Sunday … Carolina had been averaging 415 yards of offence per game, but Tennessee held the Panthers to 279 … Denver lost running backs Knowshon Moreno (sprained knee) and Willis McGahee (hamstring) early while Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel left after getting hit 12 times.