There was a NFL Ted Ginn Jr. sighting for the first time ever Sunday.
And it wasn't by mistake.
No, the Buffalo Bills' No. 1 cornerback was not ready to start. Not when a first-round bust erupts for most of his 175 yards and seven catches on him. The whines for Brady Quinn are still fresh. The fast-college-player-marginal-pro-player label was entrenched. Ginn has posted ninth-round numbers, not ninth-pick numbers. But on Sunday, the Dolphins didn't skirt around the obvious point of exploitation: McGee.
Chad Pennington went after McGee all day and still lingering from his knee injury, McGee stuck out like a successful entrepreneur at an Obama rally.
"I felt a step behind anybody who was out there," McGee said. "My mama could have been out there and I'd have felt a step behind. I was a step behind, so I wanted to make sure I was on top of everything and at least kept things in front of me so I could make a play."
Ginn exploded for gains of 64 and 46 yards against the Bills to break an otherwise tight contest wide open. The 64-yarder was what truly cracked Buffalo's spine. Trent Edwards had just orchestrated a picturesque 70-yard touchdown drive to start the second half and the Bills grabbed a commanding 16-7 lead. And whap! Ginn burns McGee for the play of the day on a simple deep slant. Miami kicked a field goal to slice the deficit and rolled from there.
This problem is worth monitoring. Buffalo can ill-afford to lose a 100-percent McGee. While Jabari Greer, Leodis McKelvin and Ashton Youboty have been pleasant surprises – they're finding-a-$5-bill-in-your-pocket surprises. At full strength, McGee is the lockdown, playmaking corner the Bills must possess to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Look at the Road to the Playoffs. It's murderer's row for a slapdash secondary: Brett Favre (twice), Randy Moss (twice), Braylon Edwards, Mike Martz, (dare say) Ginn again and Denver's third-ranked offense in the NFL. If the 5-2 Bills are going to even make the postseason, McGee must return to full strength. Pass-happy offenses are raiding the schedule.
The knee-jerk response is to blame head coach Dick Jauron – new contract extension ‘n all. He's the one that put a still-hobbled McGee out there. But let's be real. Would McKelvin have fared any better? Eh, probably not. Great returner, sloppy cover man. McGee is a must have on this defense. Without a distinguished pass rusher (no single player on the Bills has three sacks), pickle-lid tight coverage in the secondary is imperative.
Buffalo needs McGee to heal up ASAP
More of the McGee that was brutalized Sunday will doom Buffalo's season. Period. Yes, the defense is vastly improved. The Poz and co. fly to the football. Newcomers Kawika Mitchell and Marcus Stroud have made direct, undeniable impacts. But this kinked chain at cornerback could be a lingering problem.
Last season, the Detroit Lions were an early season darling. The Jon Kitna-led, Matt Millon-fed Lions started 6-2. And in an instant, their pass defense fell apart. The Lions surrendered more than 30 points in five of their last eight games as its young, sloppy secondary finished 31st in the NFL. And the Lions lost six of their last eight games. Gulp.
Buffalo is 13th. The ship isn't sunk yet, but it's sinking. When Chad Pennington – who possesses the arm strength of Urkel in arm-wrestling contest – goes for 314 yards and Ted Ginn Jr. – who came into the game without any receptions over 20 yards – averages 25 yards per catch on seven receptions, metaphorical red flags invade One Bills Drive.
McGee knows the recipe to success against the Bills. He knows the Fins would go after him.
"The position is tough as it is, even if you're 100 percent," McGee said. "I knew since Tuesday they were going to try something. I was fresh off an injury, sure they were going to test the knee and see how fresh I was."
Whether Buffalo's top cornerback will continue to be a slow puppet of manipulation depends on the recovery of his bum knee. To everyone's surprise, McKelvin is not ready to start. With a throng of pass-first offenses and big-play weapons on tap, McGee better get healthy fast or the Bills could easy slip into last place in the AFC East by the end of November.