Bills offense hits speed bump at midway point

Receiver Stevie Johnson doesn’t need to analyze the numbers to

realize Buffalo Bills once-prolific offense has hit a sudden speed


”Yeah, I kind of sense it. I think we all sense it,” Johnson

said before practice Wednesday. ”We feel like we should be more

explosive than what we are.”

Turnovers are up and production’s down for a unit that was among

the NFL’s best in helping the Bills get off to a surprising 4-1

start. Buffalo (5-3) has dropped two of its past three in preparing

to open the second half of its season facing a daunting three-game

road swing that starts at Dallas (4-4) on Sunday.

And if the Bills are serious about staying in the playoff

picture, the offense needs to regain its uptempo swagger.

”It’s something we’ve got to fix now,” receiver David Nelson

said. ”We’re in the AFC East hunt. We’re trying to get to the

playoffs. And guys have to step up and make plays.”

The Bills are coming off their first dud of the season in which

they were stymied in a 27-11 loss to the New York Jets. But their

troubles on offense were becoming apparent well before Sunday.

After scoring 133 points and racking up 93 first downs in their

first four games, the Bills have managed just 89 points and 69

first downs in their past four.

They’re no longer perfect when it comes to scoring in the red

zone. After scoring 96 points (12 touchdowns and four field goals)

on 16 drives inside an opponent’s 20, the Bills have managed just

51 points (six TDs and three field goals) in their past 12


Running back Fred Jackson hasn’t scored in his past two games,

after having six touchdowns in his previous five. And quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s numbers have suddenly sagged.

He had1,040 yards passing, with nine touchdowns and four

interceptions in his first four starts. In Fitzpatrick’s past four,

he has 890 yards, six TDs with six interceptions and a lost


”At times, me in particular, I’ve been a little bit more

careless than I probably need to be,” Fitzpatrick said. ”And

that’s something that I’ll address and look at, move forward and

try to eliminate.”

One thing Fitzpatrick’s sure of is the faith he has in himself

and the offense’s ability to bounce back.

”We don’t like the losses that have come. But I think we’ve

still got a lot of confidence,” Fitzpatrick said. ”We still think

we’re going to do good things every week.”

The offense will need to produce to compensate for a defense

that’s allowing 381 yards and 22 points a game and banged-up –

linebacker Shawne Merriman (Achilles tendon) and defensive tackle

Kyle Williams (left foot) are on injured reserve.

Despite the offense’s recent struggles, the Bills are still off

to one of their best starts in reaching the midway point of a

16-game season.

Their 27.8 points per game rank fourth in team history, while

their 368.5 yards per game rank fifth.

Individually, Jackson’s 1,194 yards from scrimmage through eight

games is the second-highest total behind O.J. Simpson, who had

1,300 yards at this point in 1975. And Fitzpatrick’s 92.3 passer

rating through eight games is the fourth highest.

Coach Chan Gailey is disappointed by the sudden rash of

turnovers and how his offense has lacked finish. And yet he also

chalks up part of the sputters to going up against some imposing


Two of Buffalo’s three losses have come against teams whose

defenses are currently ranked among the NFL’s top 10 – Cincinnati

(fourth) and the Jets (eighth).

As disappointing as the loss to the Jets was, Gailey reminded

his players this week that the Bills still control their own


It’s a message that resonated with Fitzpatrick.

”There were a lot of guys that were disappointed and frustrated

and down, me included,” Fitzpatrick said. ”You can lay an egg,

which you don’t want to, but sometimes it happens. But you put it

in the past, and then you get back on track.”

NOTES: Gailey said Williams had surgery to repair his injured

left foot on Wednesday, a day after being placed on injured

reserve. … PK Dave Rayner practiced for the first time a day

after signing with the Bills to replace Rian Lindell, who’s out

indefinitely with a broken bone in his right shoulder. …

Fitzpatrick has combined to throw six TDs and seven interceptions

in the first half this season, and eight TDs and two interceptions

in the second half.