Eric Moulds and Lee Evans stopped short of questioning the play calling, but the wide receivers are clearly frustrated by their lack of involvement in the Buffalo Bills' offense.
Moulds and Evans combined for just five catches for 25 yards in Sunday's 24-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. They had just three catches and 20 yards between them last week and have 15 catches for 153 yards and no touchdowns for the season.
Both players recognize their lack of production is due in part to having an inexperienced quarterback in J.P. Losman. But the source of their frustration Sunday was the Bills' inability to exploit a Falcons secondary that didn't have three of its four top cornerbacks and was without its best corner, DeAngelo Hall, for most of the first half.
"You've got to take advantage of those guys outside," Evans said. "It's frustrating."
With the Falcons playing their safeties deep, the Bills chose to focus on the running game. The ploy paid off as running back Willis McGahee ran for a career-high 140 yards.
However, Moulds and Evans would have liked to test the Falcons' thin secondary more.
"When you've got corners that are not starters you want to go after them," said Moulds, who joined Andre Reed as the only Bills receivers with 600 career catches. "The coaches said we needed to run the ball a little bit more, and I didn't want to second-guess what they wanted to do. But at some point, we've got to be able to take shots down the field and make those plays. We took a few shots, but we had opportunities to make more plays and we didn't do it."
The Bills actually came out throwing deep passes to Moulds and Evans on consecutive plays to open the game. That approach apparently forced the Falcons to play more two-deep coverage to take away the long ball.
But Moulds said other calls could have been made to open up the passing game.
"You can run deep a lot, but at the same time you can run short routes against press coverage and make plays that way," he said. "You catch the ball and then you make one guy miss, and now you've got a big play, so you really don't have to throw it deep every time. We've got to find a way to make plays down the field and we have to do it on a consistent basis because it's frustrating the way it's going right now."
One week after being called out by coach Mike Mularkey for running tentatively, McGahee responded with a career day.
However, McGahee said Mularkey's comments had nothing to do with his inspired performance.
"Basically, I didn't change anything," he said. "I did the same thing. I started moving the ball a little more, the holes started opening up and I started hitting them."
Whether McGahee was pumped up by the criticism or not, Mularkey was glad to see McGahee run with more authority Sunday.
"I knew Willis would (respond) because he's a prideful guy," Mularkey said. "We talked earlier in the week when we watched the tape. Again, sometimes it's a matter of learning from experience, and it was evident that he was hitting up things strong. We were making yards; the pile, the line of scrimmage with our O-line and him, was moving."
While the Bills may have lost linebacker Takeo Spikes for the season with an Achilles tendon injury, two other defenders played hurt.
Strong safety Lawyer Milloy played with a cast on his broken right thumb and middle linebacker London Fletcher performed with a sore hamstring. Both were injured last week.
"I really didn't know if I was going to be able to play until right before the game," Fletcher said. "Our plan initially was to monitor me very closely and use me on just some first- and second-down stuff and get (Angelo) Crowell in on nickel situations and see how things were going. But when Takeo went down, they needed me to be out there and do what I could do.
"I wasn't anywhere near 100 percent. Probably about 80 percent. Some of the plays that I'm normally able to make, from sideline to sideline, running and pursuing plays and getting after the quarterback, I wasn't able to do because of my limited ability. But I was able to do what I could do. It's something that I have to deal with until I get back to 100 percent."
In a surprise move, starting right guard Chris Villarrial was replaced by rookie Duke Preston for the two most critical plays of the game. Losman ran to Preston's side on his failed fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak at Atlanta's 29 yard line with 3:25 to play. On the Bills' next possession Preston was beaten by Atlanta defensive tackle Rod Coleman, who stripped the ball away from Losman for the game-clinching turnover.
Coach Mike Mularkey's explanation for the personnel change: Villarrial was tired.
"It was more of being winded," Mularkey said. "We were planning on getting Duke in there more than we did. So it was give Duke a chance there at the end."
Right tackle Mike Williams was held out due to a sprained ankle. Greg Jerman took his place. Other Bills inactives were wide receiver Roscoe Parrish, running back Lionel Gates, tight end Tim Euhus, safety Jim Leonhard, offensive lineman Justin Geisinger and defensive tackle Lauvale Sape.