Pass protection looms as one of the worries for the Buffalo Bills' offense in the wake of Sunday's loss to Miami.
The Dolphins, who ranked just 23rd in the NFL in sacks, dropped Jim Kelly seven times in the 21-7 defeat.
All but one of the sacks came from pressure over the right side of the Bills' line, where guard Jerry Ostroski, tackle Glenn Parker and, at times, tight end Lonnie Johnson work.
Massive Dolphins tackle Tim Bowens was the biggest problem for the Bills. His play prompted the Bills to bench Ostroski in favor of Corbin Lacina for the final three offensive series. In addition, Trace Armstrong applied pressure against Parker, and Johnson gave up a sack in a key situation.
The problems only accentuated the fact Jim Kelly is not a mobile quarterback and Kelly had difficulty getting rid of the ball as quickly as Todd Collins seemed to do in the previous two games.
The Bills rank 27th in the league in sacks allowed, thanks mostly to two rotten games, Sunday's and the opener against the Giants in which Kelly also was sacked seven times.
What are the Bills going to do about it? Coach Marv Levy said today they are going to work to correct the mistakes but they are not going to make any lineup changes. He said Ostroski would remain the starter at right guard and would not give way to or alternate with Lacina.
"They had a tough game," Levy said of the right side of the Bills' line. "We feel how we execute and how we gain smoothness in our operation is what we need to correct. I don't think at this stage the proper move is to plug in new parts."
Offensive line coach and coordinator Tom Bresnahan concurred and stressed the line wasn't fully responsible for all the sacks.
"You start making serious adjustments when it's obvious you're in trouble," he said. "I don't think anyone feels we're in trouble yet. We're just terribly disappointed with the overall production of our offense. That's much more of a concern than an aberration like the seven sacks.
"To berate the offensive line for all seven sacks would be totally incorrect," Bresnahan said. "There are so many factors involved. . . . At the same time, as the offensive line coach, I along with the linemen am extremely disappointed and distressed by what happened Sunday."
Parker was responsible for one of the sacks and allowed Armstrong to get some pressures that didn't result in sacks. He rejected the idea he had a particularly bad game, and Bresnahan agreed.
"None of us played real well," Parker said. "We didn't play well enough. Going over the film, every mistake is one of execution. It's one guy here, one guy there. . . . There are protections that are more complicated than what appears. It's not always what you're seeing."
"I don't think he had a problem (Sunday)," Bresnahan said of Parker. "His problem was the first game, back against the Giants. He hasn't had a real problem since, other than getting hurt." (Out one game with a calf injury.)
The fact the Bills have a promising young player in Corey Louchiey behind Parker makes some Bills followers wish for a change. But that obviously isn't happening.
Meanwhile, the Bills were shaking their heads over the Dolphins' pass-rushing success.
"Going into the game we didn't feel like this was a very good pass rush team," center Kent Hull said. "We watched Indianapolis do a really good job on them. And that was the same Indianapolis line that got shredded out here (in Rich Stadium).
"That was really troublesome. And it wasn't like they were in a lot of blitzes. One time Zach Thomas came with a defensive back. Other than that, most of the time it was breakdowns in the line."
Besides the single sacks allowed by Parker and Johnson, Ostroski's man got past him three times for sacks. It was difficult to tell if an error by a receiver or the quarterback contributed to any of those three. On another sack, guard Ruben Brown tried to go low to block Miami's Thomas on a blitz, but the linebacker went over the top of him to get to Kelly. The Bills were in the perfect protection call on the play. On the other sack, it was clear Kelly set up deeper than he was supposed to, and Armstrong went wide on Parker and into the quarterback.
Hull explained the difficulty in blocking the 310-pound Bowens.
"They've got such big guys in the middle in Bowens and (Daryl) Gardener that as a guard you don't want to give up too much ground, because they get a push on you," he said. "So you wind up setting up a little short (instead of taking a normal step back to get in pass-protection stance). And when you do that you set yourself up for a pick. The end comes in and picks the guard and winds up being free.
"I think as the game went on our guards decided they wanted to settle shorter and shorter, and Miami did a good job, picked that up and started running some stunts."
That happened on the second-last sack, when Armstrong came inside on Ostroski, and Bowens came outside and was picked up by Parker. Armstrong made the sack.
Bowens got his first two sacks of the season. Armstrong's 2 1/2 pushed his season total to four. The two seven-sack games of Kelly this year are the most he ever has been sacked in his career.