Quarterback Trent Edwards faced some adversity at the end of his rookie year, as the Bills, after getting to the periphery of playoff contention at 7-6, dropped three straight games to end the year with a thud and out of the postseason for the eighth consecutive year.
After Monday night's horrible 29-27 home loss to Cleveland, the Bills are now 5-5, their playoff chances severely damaged, and Edwards is in crisis mode.
Edwards did not play well late last season, but the adversity he faced was easily written off to him being a rookie quarterback in the NFL, the old it-goes-with-the-territory argument. In a way, that theory still holds because Edwards is only in his second year and has made only 19 career starts.
However, his play during Buffalo's demoralizing four-game losing streak has been just short of inept, and while there are many people to blame for the Bills' free-fall from first to last in the AFC East, Edwards is high on the list.
He threw three interceptions in the first quarter against the Browns, and his confidence appeared shaken the rest of the night. He completed 16 of 26 passes for just 148 yards, with 10 of the completions going to running back Marshawn Lynch netting only 58 yards. Edwards looked afraid to throw the ball downfield, and star wide receiver Lee Evans didn't even catch a pass.
Teams have found success lately in playing coverage against the Bills, and Edwards has been unable to figure out how to beat it. Because the offensive line has been struggling in every aspect, pass protection included, teams have been able to rush just four and cover with seven, sometimes eight. This has made it tough for Buffalo's receivers to get open, and Edwards has nowhere to go with the ball.
"I was thinking that their defense was rushing about three guys every down and dropping eight guys in the coverage, so again it's the same thing that we've faced every week," Edwards said. "We only have three or four receivers out, so it's tough to find holes in that defense. So that's why Marshawn Lynch got the ball a lot (Monday), and that's why we're not throwing the ball down the field because there are not really a lot of chances to do that. We have the game plan to do that, but we're not really calling those plays because of the defense that they're giving us."
Edwards has now committed 10 turnovers in the last four games (eight picks, two fumbles). His passer ratings in his last four games have been 67.2, 79.3, 49.2 and 50.3.
Coach Dick Jauron remains high on the 2007 third-round pick and refuses to call into question Edwards' confidence, but he did admit that the three early interceptions probably affected his quarterback.
"I would say that for a young quarterback, it's got to affect you when things start to slide a little bit and go downhill," Jauron said. "I think that the guy is a terrific player. I think he's just going to get better and better as we move on. We have to live through some of these issues when you're playing a young quarterback. I just think he's going to be a really good player. You saw him at the end, once again, he took us right back to where we needed to be to have a chance to win it."
Which is true, but some would argue that when the Bills reached the Browns 34 with 1:03 to go, they needed to keep pushing to set up an easier field-goal attempt for Rian Lindell. Instead, the Bills ran Lynch three times into the line and only advanced to the 29, and Lindell had to try a 47-yarder into a swirling breeze on a 25-degree wind-chill night. He missed.
It seemed as if the coaching staff was leery about having Edwards throw the ball in that situation.
"I was just doing what they told me to do," Edwards said. "That's well within his range, and to be perfectly honest though, we shouldn't have been in that position to begin with. We should've been putting more points on the board and not having it come down to that situation, but that's the way it happened and that's the nature of the game."
Courtesy of The Sports Xchange