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POLLLOCK: BillsÞ offense sputters in Green Bay

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Posted: Monday, December 23, 2002 12:00 am

If somebody had told you the Bills would go into Green Bay, hold Brett Favre to under 50 percent completions, intercept him twice, surrender a mere 114 passing yards and give up only 10 points, only one conclusion could be drawn: Bills win.

Not quite.

In the seasonÞs penultimate game, Buffalo not only managed to lose to the Packers, but also thoroughly confused its faithful.

This team, whose early success was the product of a potent passing attack orchestrated by Drew Bledsoe to Eric Moulds and Peerless Price, continued its second-half swoon.

On a day when the maligned BillsÞ defense conjured its best effort of the season in one of the NFLÞs toughest venues for a visitor, BuffaloÞs flimsy playoff hopes crumpled because the offense didnÞt exist.

And it started with Bledsoe.

ITÞS OFFICIALLY time to start worrying about whatÞs happened to him the second half of this season.

Bledsoe is bound for his fourth Pro Bowl in 10 years, based on his performance over the first eight games. ThatÞs when he was completing 64 percent of his passes, averaging 313 yards a game through the air and had 16 touchdown passes compared to only five interceptions.

Since then, starting with Bill BelichickÞs inspired defensive scheme that gave his New England Patriots a 38-7 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Bledsoe has been a different quarterback.

In those seven games, his completions dropped to 57 percent, his average passing yards slipped to 233 and heÞs thrown 10 interceptions compared to only seven touchdowns.

In fairness, there have been two mitigating factors.

One, running back Travis HenryÞs increased production in the second half of the season reduced the pressure on the passing game and, two, the last three games were played in less than ideal weather.

STILL, ITÞS clear Bledsoe is struggling.

And Sunday was almost as bad as his four interception day at Foxboro.

He threw two picks against Green Bay, one a killer in the end zone that cost Buffalo a 7-0 lead and wasted a rare BillsÞ takeaway.

Worse, on that play, Petulant Peerless, who whined earlier in the week about not making the Pro Bowl, was badgering an official for an interference call as safety Darren Sharper was motoring out of the end zone.

In addition, Bledsoe, who was sacked six times, lost two fumbles.

And while he admitted a couple sacks were caused by coverage, several were on him due to indecisiveness.

As for the interceptions, he allowed, ßIt was a tough day for me and Brett to throw the ball because of the windy conditions.à

And FavreÞs numbers were admittedly poor.

The difference was, he didnÞt make the mistakes to cause his team to lose.

Even Bledsoe, who saw one if his fumbles converted into the dayÞs only touchdown, admitted, ßThe defense played well enough to win the game.à

But, for the fourth time in six games, BuffaloÞs previously potent offense didnÞt.

(Chuck Pollock is sports editor of The Times Herald.)

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