Heading into Sunday’s game at New Era, the joke around town was whether the Bills could keep up with the Sabres. Buffalo’s pro hockey team had scored nine goals the day before in a rousing win over Ottawa. But it wasn’t really much of a joke. It was more a statement of reality. The thought of the Bills actually scoring 10 points was difficult to contemplate.
After all, they had scored five points in a loss at Indianapolis two weeks earlier and six in a defeat at the hands of the Patriots the previous Monday. Maybe Bills fans should have begun one of those hockey chants: Five, six … we want seven!
Well, they soared past seven and matched the Sabres with nine, though they couldn’t scale the football Everest of scoring in double figures. Ten points was too high a bar for the Bills, who lost at home to the Bears, 41-9, to drop to 2-7 on the season and lower the NFL’s worst scoring offense two ticks to 10.7 points a game. Suffice to say, Chicago didn’t miss UB legend Khalil Mack.
Until scoring a late touchdown, they hadn’t managed a TD on a drive that began in their own end since the second quarter of the Minnesota game. Yes, that was six weeks ago. They went 25 quarters, nearly 40 percent of a full NFL season. According to Pro Football Reference, they did avoid becoming one of 10 teams since 1940 to score only seven touchdowns in their first nine games.
It’s beyond laughable at this point, though Twitter had a field day on Sunday. The Bills’ offense is being acknowledged around the sports world as quite possibly the worst in NFL history. They can’t score. They can’t pass. Their wideouts stink. LeSean McCoy is a lost soul. He had 10 carries for 10 yards. His last 21 carries, going back to the first play of the Pats game, have gone for 11 yards.
At some point, you figured Nathan Peterman would justify Sean McDermott’s obsessive belief in him. Oh, not an historic breakthrough performance like Nick Mullens for the Niners on Thursday in his NFL debut. Just a modestly competent and effective game that would at least prove that Peterman belongs in the league.
He doesn’t. Peterman started for the fourth time in his career against the Bears and it was once another unqualified disaster. Sure, Peterman went 31-for-49 passing, but for only 189 yards. All but five of his completions were for under 10 yards. At halftime, he had 12 completions for 75 yards.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll gave Peterman a timid, remedial game plan that called for a lot of safe throws that often didn’t travel past the line of scrimmage. Peterman still threw three interceptions, one that newcomer and self-professed “baller” Terrelle Pryor juggled into the arms of an opposing defensive back.
Peterman threw a deflected pass that was picked off and run back for a touchdown by Leonard Floyd. Zay Jones, the intended receiver, was clearly hit before the ball got to him, but he wasn’t far enough beyond the line of scrimmage for it to be ruled interference. That’s what happens when you’re afraid to have your quarterback throw the ball any real distance.
There was also a completion that Jason Croom fumbled away, leading to a 65-yard TD return by Eddie Jackson. So yes, Peterman had some bad luck. Kelvin Benjamin, softer than the flavor of the day at Anderson’s, dropped a TD pass in the end zone.
Spare me the rationalizations. Peterman is still pathetic. At least he managed to reach the fourth quarter for the first time in four career starts. But he’s severely limited as a passer. You hold your breath every time he attempts a pass to the sideline because it takes so long for him to get the ball there.
He didn’t even have the stomach to attempt a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the first half, on an untimed play that came after a Chicago penalty. He ran out of bounds as the first half mercifully came to an end. You have to wonder if he didn’t want to tack on another interception to his stunning career total.
Peterman’s head coach didn’t have a lot of guts, either. Early in the second half, the Bills put together their best drive of the day, marching from their own 25 to the Bears’ 23-yard line. On fourth-and-6, McDermott had Stephen Hauschka run out to kick a 41-yard field goal.
I’m sorry, that’s weak beyond belief. They were down 28 points and hadn’t scored a touchdown on a drive that began in their own end in more than 24 quarters. So what does Prof. Process do? He goes for three, in what looked like a clear attempt to avoid the humiliation of being shut out.
If McDermott is worried about being embarrassed, he’s a little late. His offense is a walking, cliche-spouting joke. It only adds to the embarrassment that he would think not being shut out was some kind of moral achievement. Dick Jauron did it once and admitted it. I hope Bills fans are happy to hear the visionary coach channel his inner Jauron.
The problem isn’t minimizing the degree of a loss. It’s how often McDermott’s team gets blown out. It’s amazing that a coach who professes such a clear vision can have his team fall apart so often. The Bills have lost games by 44, 32 and 32 points this season. They lost consecutive games by 37 and 30 a year ago and gave up 135 points in a three-game stretch.
He could say they didn’t quit on an ugly afternoon in which the teams combined for 292 yards in penalties. The Bills did march heroically to a touchdown against soft coverage in the fourth quarter, with Peterman keeping for a 1-yard touchdown to snap the TD drought (starting from any point on the field) at 39 total possessions.
That’s a small accomplishment in a league where teams basically hand you passing yards on a platter in blowouts. The amazing thing is that it took them this long to score a TD. But McDermott brought it on himself by showing such faith in Peterman and mishandling the backup quarterback situation with Brandon Beane enabling him.
They weren’t expected to be good this year, but this is ridiculous. I’ll say what I did when the Sabres hit their historic lows during the tank era: No team should be this bad, regardless of the overall strategy.
McDermott’s worthiness as an NFL head coach comes into question every time Peterman plays and every time his team goes to pieces when things are going against them.
Prof. Process is in no danger of losing his job. But he needs to figure out how to build a legitimate offense, or take his hands off and give the job to Beane and Daboll or anyone else who understands what a real quarterback looks like.
So they didn’t get shut out. Big deal. If McDermott finds any consolation in that, he’s no better than anyone on the long list of mediocrities who came before him.