Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman stood in the end zone as he took the snap from center and prepared to pass. But he wasn't prepared for what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense was about to throw at him.
Blitzing cornerback Ronde Barber charged toward Losman, flushing him out of the pocket and into the path of safety Jermaine Phillips and linebacker Shelton Quarles. Losman tried to avoid them, but he inadvertently stepped out of bounds for a safety.
That play was not only the turning point in Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers, it typified the struggles of the Bills' offense.
The Bills had the ball 10 times Sunday. Seven of their drives ended in four plays or less.
The safety culminated a woeful five-possession stretch in which the Bills gained a meager 20 yards on 16 plays. They had just one first down through the game's first 42 minutes and gained just 82 yards before a face-saving 63-yard drive that ended on downs at Tampa Bay's 9-yard line.
The Bills did have one drive end with a field goal, but other than that, there was nothing the Bills' offense did right Sunday. So the team returned to work Monday trying to sort out what went wrong and how to fix it.
"Everybody's down," said offensive guard Chris Villarrial. "There's no easy solution to it. It was an embarrassing loss and we've just got to find out what's going on."
Clearly, Losman was most affected by the crafty Buccaneers defense. Losman completed just 12 of 29 passes for 113 yards, all but 40 coming on the Bills' last drive. He didn't throw an interception, but had at least three passes that should have been picked off. He also was benched for one series in favor of Kelly Holcomb.
Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin seemed to know everything the Bills were doing. In some cases, he appeared to be two steps ahead.
Kiffin counted on Losman's inexperience at not picking up the zone blitz, which caused the safety.
Outside linebacker Derrick Brooks, who lined up in the middle, shifted to his left before the snap. That created an overload of seven defenders on the right side of the Bills' offensive line, usually a sign that a blitz is coming.
At the snap, defensive end Simeon Rice and defensive tackle Ellis Wyms dropped into coverage and Barber blitzed to the inside. Right tackle Mike Williams was late coming off a double-team block with Villarrial to get Quarles, and no one picked up Phillips.
Once Willis McGahee whiffed trying to block Barber, Losman had no chance as Quarles and Phillips had a clean shot at the young quarterback.
"They did a good job of scheming us, knowing a couple of our plays and just gave us a little window of opportunity for success," said Losman. "We weren't able to overcome it. It's frustrating."
Bills coach Mike Mularkey said the Bills worked on the Bucs' blitz that created the safety. He added that Losman missed his hot receiver (Eric Moulds) and should have thrown the ball away.
"It was a good learning experience," Mularkey said. "The positive thing is he recognizes his play and where the shortcomings were in that game. We're going to go through some of these situations and I think he's going to get better from it."
While Mularkey acknowledged Losman missed several open receivers, the running game didn't do its part to give the offense a lift.
Mularkey again called out McGahee, who ran tentatively against the Bucs.
"Whether a hole's there or not, we've got to have Willis hitting up in some of the creases that were available," Mularkey said. "We need to make yards when we run the football. It's very hard to call plays and get into a rhythm when you're having three-and-outs. I just think the run game will help J.P.'s progress in the passing game."
After scoring on their first five drives in the opener against the Houston Texans, the Bills have managed just six points in the last six quarters.
Losman wasn't particularly happy with his performance against Houston, and he's even more disappointed by Sunday's offensive showing.
But in a season that still holds so much promise for the Bills, Losman is determined to bounce back.
"It's extremely motivating," he said. "It's like you've been punched in the mouth. I don't know if you have been in a street fight before, but I have and I don't like it when I've been hit in my face. The way I retaliated is you get back whatever it is. However someone did it to you, you do it back to them. In this case, it's a football thing. When someone attacks you like that, they outphysical you, they were more mentally prepared than you were, then you take it out on the next team.
"Losing (stinks). You can't say anything good about losing. I don't believe in moral victories. Losing is not good and it's not going to be accepted by me or this organization."