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BILLS HOPE TO SMOOTH ROAD WITH FAST START
BLEDSOE: EARLY POINTS NEEDED IN SEATTLE

Along with their toiletries, suits, ties and football gear, the Buffalo Bills are hoping today that they remembered to pack something that usually gets left behind when they hit the road: Their A game.

Too often they seem to bring their C, D or F performance.

"It's supposed to be hard to play on the road, but it's not supposed to be something you're not able to do," said Bills tackle Jonas Jennings. "We've just got to go out and take the game to them instead of just sitting back."

"We want to get the monkey of our back," said defensive end Chris Kelsay.

The Bills stand 0-4 on the road entering today's game against the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks (6-4) at Qwest Field. Dating to September of last year, they have won just two of their last 12 away from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Somehow, the Bills say, they need to find a way to stop playing from behind on the road.

"We need to come out and put some points on the board early, kind of start taking the crowd out of the game," said quarterback Drew Bledsoe. "That will help us; that'll go a long way toward making our ultimate goal of winning this game a lot easier."

The Bills have been outscored, 54-6, in the first half on the road this year. Overall, they're scoring just 9 points per game on the road and 25 at home.

"Obviously we have to not turn the ball over, that's a critical point," said coach Mike Mularkey. "I think a big issue (on the road) is sacks being disruptive early in the game. We need to start the game faster in all phases."

Bledsoe has sustained 17 of his 26 sacks on the road. He has nine of his 11 interceptions on the road. The Bills could not run well, either, in their games at Oakland, the Jets, Baltimore and New England. They're averaging 70 rushing yards on the road as opposed to 126 a game at home.

Turnovers will be a worry for the Bills today. Seattle is tied for second in the NFL with 14 interceptions. Cornerback Ken Lucas, a former second-round pick, has four. So does rookie safety Michael Boulware, also a second-round pick. Corner Marcus Trufant, a first-round pick last year, has three.

"They're opportunistic," Bledsoe said. "When they have a chance to get the ball, they come up with it. That, as much as anything, has been what has caused some of our troubles on the road. . . . We're going to have to be very conscious -- I'm going to have to be very conscious -- of protecting the football against an opportunistic defense."

Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons why today's game should not be mission impossible for the Bills (4-6). Buffalo just whipped a St. Louis team that beat Seattle twice.

Seattle's defense is decent but not dominant. It ranks 15th overall, eighth against the run and 21st against the pass. The Seahawks started the season on a pass-rushing tear, but have not been able to get much heat on the quarterback the past month. Their blitz package has not been effective. The Bills, of course, tend to be troubled by the blitz on the road.

Also: Seattle's special teams are below average. The 'Hawks rank 21st on kickoff coverage and 23rd in net punting. The Bills are No. 1 on punt returns and No. 4 on kickoff returns. Seattle's return game is likewise ordinary -- 27th on punts and 13th on kickoffs.

The Bills' offense can use all of the good field position the special teams can give it.

Mularkey stressed that the road woes are surmountable.

"Out of four games, we've had chances to win three of them," he said. "I can't say that about the New England game, but I can say that about the Baltimore game. If we get the correct calls from the officials, we have a chance to win that game. We were in three of them. So it's not like it's a major thing right now."

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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