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Jump start The Bills' offense has seen a spike in second-half production, in large part due to the efficient play of quarterback Trent Edwards

PHOENIX -- The Buffalo Bills can start getting picky about their path to victory after opening the season with four straight wins.

The Bills wouldn't mind a little less suspense today against the Arizona Cardinals, considering they had to come from behind in the fourth quarter each of the past three weeks.

"If we get caught in these situations every week, we are not going to be able to pull these out every week," quarterback Trent Edwards said.

The Bills could use a faster start today against a Cardinals team that boasts an explosive passing offense.

"We can find ourselves getting down quite a few touchdowns with the way Arizona throws the football and the offense that they have," Edwards said. "So we need to make sure offensively we are right there with them."

The Bills were slow out of the blocks the last two games. They fell behind at halftime against both Oakland (9-7) and St. Louis (14-6).

It hasn't been all futility for Buffalo early. The Bills scored on the opening possession in Jacksonville and had a first-quarter TD against Seattle.

However, Edwards' numbers show the offense has clicked far better in the second half. Edwards has completed 57.1 percent of his passes for 394 yards with no touchdowns and nine sacks in the first half.

He has 75.0 percent completions, 536 yards, four TD passes and two sacks in the second half.

Each week it has taken the Bills' offense awhile to adjust to the tactics the defense has employed. Last week, for instance, the Rams' defense was ready for the running plays the Bills were calling.

"We had to make some adjustments at halftime," offensive coordinator Turk Schonert said. "We went to some different types of runs, some strong-side runs. They were attacking us weak side in the first half. We had a lot of weak-side runs, and they were starting to play that. We went to the strong-side runs [in the third quarter], and then we went back to the weak-side runs, so we kept them off-balance pretty good in the second half."

A 1.8-yard first-half rushing average put the Bills in plenty of third-and-long situations. That allowed the Rams to unleash a variety of exotic blitzes.

Edwards has only 13 career starts, and he admits he has been unfamiliar with some of the defensive looks he has seen.

"They are showing things that we haven't prepared for, that we haven't seen before," Edwards said. "That's going to happen throughout the season. And we just haven't done a good job, on my end at least, of recognizing that. There are some sacks I've taken that I shouldn't have taken, and that's just a credit to good defensive schemes."

Hence, the nine first-half sacks allowed.

"It's just that and our guys are getting a feel for what [opponents] do," Schonert said. "Jason [Peters] has had a couple bad plays because he's in his third week of training camp, basically. But he's just going to get better and better and better, which is exciting for us."

Schonert also said the Bills have plenty of room for improvement in their execution.

"We had more mental errors last week than we've had in any other half," he said. "That was our worst half as an offense, and a lot of it had to do with mental errors."

The good news is the offense is showing far more potency than last year. The Bills' pass offense ranked 30th in the NFL last year with an average of 164.6 yards a game. This year it's 12th, at 217.5 yards a game.

The Bills are scoring 27.2 points per game, and they may need to put up points against the Cardinals, who have ranked among the top 10 in pass offense each of the last three seasons. Arizona is fourth in passing this year.

The strength of Arizona's defense is in its front seven. The Cardinals play a 3-4 front on run downs and have good linebackers. Travis LaBoy is a stand-up rush linebacker acquired in free agency from Tennessee. Outside backer Chike Okeafor has 46 career sacks, and Karlos Dansby is an effective rusher from the inside. The Cards' best lineman is defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who had nine sacks last year and went to the Pro Bowl.

"Dockett gets off the ball extremely well," Schonert said. "We have to change up the snap count on him or else he's going to tee off on you. He's quick. They like to bring Okeafor [on blitzes]. He's a good pass rusher, and they like to get him on running backs. That's going to be a big challenge when our running back has to block him in pass protection."

The Cardinals' cornerbacks are not as accomplished. Roderick Hood is a sixth-year player who started his career as an undrafted rookie in Philadelphia. Eric Green is a fourth-year player who was a third-round pick in 2005.

The Cards gave up 56 points and 289 passing yards to Brett Favre and the New York Jets last week. However, the Cards' defense was burdened by seven offensive turnovers.

Arizona's defense might be hindered by injuries today. Defensive end Bertrand Berry, the team's best outside pass rusher, is expected to sit out with a groin injury. Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson did not play last week and did not practice all week due to a sore hamstring.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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