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SNOW MIGHT MEAN 'GO' FOR HENRY AND WILLIAMS

One of the big problems for the Buffalo Bills' offense the past three weeks has been the inability to stick with running back Travis Henry.

That might not be an issue today.

Snow may put a blanket on the passing game when the Bills meet the Miami Dolphins in today's AFC East showdown at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service are calling for lake-effect snow to reach the Southtowns this afternoon. Snowfall is expected to reach up to a foot.

So it could be a repeat of the "Snow Bowl" game of Dec. 17, 2000, when New England beat the Bills in overtime, 13-10.

That might put the running backs on center stage.

Miami's Ricky Williams ranks third in the National Football League with 1,056 yards rushing. Henry ranks fourth with 957 yards. But the Dolphins have a big edge on the other side of the ball. Miami's defense is No. 2 against the run. The Bills are No. 26.

Somehow, the Bills (5-6) must overcome the mismatch if they want to keep their faint playoff hopes flickering. They can move within a game of first place in the AFC East with a win. Miami (7-4) needs to win to stay a game ahead of New England (7-5).

But even if you don't believe the Bills have a playoff prayer, it's a big game for Buffalo. Besides the archrival Dolphins being in town, the Bills desperately need to stop the downward spiral of their three-game losing streak.

If the Bills don't win today, when are they going to win again? They are likely to be underdogs their next three games: at New England, at home against San Diego and at Green Bay. They close with Cincinnati. An eight-game losing streak to finish the season would not be good for the job security of coach Gregg Williams or a bunch of his players.

The Bills need their offense to get something going. It averaged 30 points per game the first eight weeks but has managed 12 ppg the past three.

"We need to go out and get back to playing Buffalo Bills ball," Bills left tackle Jonas Jennings said. "If you're playing catch-up it's really hard to run. So long as we're close, we're able to play our game and stick to our game plan."

Henry is on the verge of becoming the first Bills back to hit 1,000 yards rushing since Antowain Smith did it in 1998.

Henry is averaging a healthy 5 yards a carry the past three weeks. But against New England the Bills fell behind, 24-7, early in the third quarter. Against the Jets, the Bills fell behind, 24-3, early in the third quarter.

At that point, running a balanced offense is forgotten, and defenses can sit back in their safe zone defense with two deep safeties and let the clock run out.

The Bills' offense has been making too many little mistakes of late and has not been able to finish off long drives against Cover Two zone defenses. Miami is especially adept at the Cover Two scheme.

"In the passing game, our execution has fallen off a little bit," Bledsoe said. "We have to get back to a situation where we look like a well-oiled machine.

"We have to be able to execute 12 and 15 plays in a row with precision in order to march it down the field rather than hitting one or two big plays and putting it in the end zone," Bledsoe said. "Our execution has to step up because of the way teams are approaching us."

Bledsoe admits he's frustrated but says he's determined to help the offense work out of its slump.

"When we don't win I take it personal," he said. "It's laying awake staring at the ceiling thinking about the plays that I've missed. I always have been that way, and I always will be. . . . But when you play in this league, you go through tough stretches. If you're going to be successful, then you have to be resilient. You have to be able to bounce back when things have gone poorly for you."

The Dolphins have shown resilience since losing three straight last month. They are on a two-game win streak thanks in large part to their big back, Williams, who figures to make them better equipped to handle winter football than ever.

"You can't prepare for Ricky, especially the smaller guys on the other side," Dolphins tackle Todd Wade said. "An arm tackle is not going to do it. I think most of the DBs in the NFL fear Ricky more than anything. They don't want to make that big tackle against that guy."
e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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