After starting 0-4, the Buffalo Bills, led by former Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe, have rebounded and look to run the table to qualify for a Wild-Card berth into the playoffs.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Plenty of touchdowns, a string of 30-plus point games and a balanced scoring attack now that’s an offense more to Drew Bledsoe’s liking.
“This team has really started to play like we were supposed to,” the Buffalo quarterback said. “The thing that has changed is we’ve eliminated the mistakes that were stopping us early on.”
Shedding the blunders that contributed to the Bills’ 0-4 start, the offense has gained confidence and potency, helping the team win four straight and seven of nine to climb back into AFC playoff contention.
Buffalo (7-6) has been particularly prolific in its last four games, scoring 37 or more points in each for the best stretch in franchise history. And the Bills, who play at the Bengals on Sunday, have scored 154 points during that span, one better than the previous best set by the Jim Kelly-led team in 1992.
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So much for the sputtering squad that managed just six offensive touchdowns all passing in its first six games, five losses.
Bledsoe’s own turnaround has been even more noticeable. After throwing nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his first nine games, he’s had nine TDs against four interceptions in his last four.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “In this league, it changes so dramatically based on whether you won or lost coming into the next week. You feel better about everything.”
Bledsoe is nowhere near the pace he had in 2002, when he set 10 franchise passing records in his first year in Buffalo. For example, it’s been 28 games since he last passed for 300 yards.
Thing is, he doesn’t need to throw for that much with an offense that’s much more balanced with Willis McGahee now providing a consistent run threat.
The Bills are 7-1 in games McGahee’s started, and have won all six in which he’s had 100 yards rushing.
Rookie receiver Lee Evans, meanwhile, has emerged as a deep threat, taking the pressure off Eric Moulds. Evans has 14 catches for 213 yards and four touchdowns in his last three games.
And finally, there’s the offensive line, which has shored up its early-season problems. After allowing 23 sacks in its first six games, the Bills allowed only nine in their last seven.
On the opposite side of the ball, the defense is enjoying a turnover binge with 18 takeaways in its last four games. That plays a big role in giving the Bills’ offense better field position and providing more chances to score.
The old knock against the offense was that its ineptitude placed too much burden on the defense to keep the game close. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter how many points opponents score, because the Bills’ offense is suddenly believing it can keep up with anyone.
“Early in the year we’d get frustrated. We’d get down. Now things are starting to happen,” said guard Chris Villarrial.
They happened against St. Louis, with the Bills overcoming a 10-0 deficit for a 37-17 win on Nov. 21. And they happened two weeks later in a 42-32 win against Miami, letting the defense off the hook after falling behind 24-14.
“Early on in the season, if they got up early, we would probably panic because we weren’t moving the ball,” Moulds said. “But now, if a team goes up 10-0 on us, we just feel like we’ve still got a chance to win.”