Sunday, December 27, 2009

More of the same with Brohm at the controls

The hope was that new quarterback Brian Brohm would somehow defy the daunting odds and provide a sparkling finish to this dreary season and decade of Bills football.

But to virtually no one’s surprise that didn’t happen. Predictably, Brohm looked rusty and the Atlanta Falcons clobbered Buffalo, 31-3, in the Georgia Dome Sunday, ensuring the fourth double-digit-loss season for the Bills since 2000. At 5-10, they will close out the season against Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts next Sunday at the Ralph, and then the housecleaning will begin in earnest.

New general manager.

New coach.

Drastically revamped roster.

There will be no “off’’ in this off-season, and that is how it should be.

Brohm didn’t look sharp in his NFL regular-season debut, finishing with two interceptions and a long completion of just 15 yards. But it’s hard to accurately assess a guy who’s only been with the team for a month-and-change and who worked with the first unit for the first time this week. Of course, it’s difficult to assess anybody behind this patch-work offensive line. That said, it’s a pretty good bet the guy who was claimed off the Green Bay Packers practice squad isn’t the Bills quarterback of the future.

Brohm did seem to find a little rhythm as the game progressed, but his final stat line – 17 completions in 29 attempts for 146 yards – was similar to the mediocrity we’ve grown accustomed to from Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Both of his interceptions were poorly thrown. Still, the first one, intended for Terrell Owens in the end zone, might have had a different outcome had T.O. at least competed for the ball.

The Bills had hoped to take some of the pressure off of Brohm with their run game, but it wound up being almost non-existent. Fred Jackson managed just 39 yards in 13 carries against a Falcons defense that consistently put eight defenders in the box.

Interim Bills coach Perry Fewell’s players didn’t help his case for the permanent job. They wound up being embarrassed by the Falcons, especially by quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 250 yards and three scores in workmanlike fashion. And a 10-penalty game on the heels of an 11-penalty game doesn’t convey the idea of a well-coached team. Fewell didn’t help matters when he opted for a 42-yard field goal instead of going for it with his team already down by 24. At that point, what the heck do you have to lose?

The uninspired effort capped a weekend in which Mike Shanahan officially removed his name from the Bills coaching sweepstakes. That was hardly a surprise – the feeling here was that Shanahan was never truly interested in coming to Buffalo and was just using the Bills as a bargaining chip to squeeze even more millions out of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Still, Shanahan’s announcement, coupled with Mike Holmgren’s earlier decision to rebuild the Cleveland Browns is further proof that Buffalo is not going to land a marquee name to right the ship.

Perhaps that isn’t a bad thing. If Bills COO Russ Brandon needed some encouragement in his search for the right football minds to revive this franchise, he only had to look at the Falcons model. In general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith, they found two relative unknowns who were ready to move into starting roles. Of course, their resuscitation of the Atlanta franchise wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t gambled and won with Ryan, the Boston College product who has proven the skeptical scouts wrong.

And whomever Brandon chooses to run the football front office and sidelines will have to eventually gamble and win at the quarterback position, which has been in flux pretty much ever since Jim Kelly hung up the helmet and shoulder pads more than a decade ago.

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