PITTSBURGH - What did you expect?
The Buffalo Bills were reeling from a crushing, one-point, last-play defeat by Denver a week earlier, plus the loss of four players - tight end Kevin Everett, who ducked potential paralysis - including three defensive starters, and ripe to be plucked.
But there was a frustrating aspect to Sunday's 26-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon at soldout Heinz Field.
"It would be easy to try to make that an excuse," said Bills wide receiver Lee Evans, " but we just came out here and didn't play very well and we got beat … that's the bottom line."
Yeah, the Steelers (2-0) became one of the National Football League's 10 remaining unbeaten teams, but it was the way Buffalo (0-2) remained winless that was distressing.
Despite the injuries and four new defensive starters, the Bills did their best on that side of the ball.
Pittsburgh had five first-half possessions and finished with four field goals and a pass interception, by elevated-to-starter free safety Jim Leonhard.
And while that's not glittering, given the fact Pittsburgh was within two touchdowns despite a 21 1/2 - 8 1/2 -minute edge in time of possession at intermission, it wasn't bad.
As Bills' coach Dick Jauron noted, "Our defense fought … it was 12-0 at halftime. We felt coming in, it wasn't very good, (but) here we are two scores out of this thing."
Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed hit field goals of 34, 28, 39 and 31 yards as the Bills never got closer than the Steelers' 37 in the opening 30 minutes.
After the break, Buffalo drove to Pittsburgh's 5-yard-line where Rian Lindell hit a 24-yard field goal and the Steelers answered with the second touchdown reception of the season by rookie tight end Matt Spaeth, his second in as many weeks from Ben Roethlisberger (21-of-34, 242 yards, one TD, one interception) and an 11-yard sprint by Willie Parker (23 carries for 126 yards).
"We didn't perform at the level we needed to on the offensive side," said Jauron of his team's modest 223-yard effort, 138 of those after the Bills fell behind by 16-or-more. "It was a very disappointing day for us to not perform at a very high level on the offensive side."
Particularly frustrating was the performance of quarterback J.P. Losman, who has yet to throw a touchdown in two games.
"THEY TRY to confuse you, but I didn't feel confused the whole game," he maintained, without much conviction. "I felt I was knowing pretty much where to throw the ball all (game).
"When you play Pittsburgh, they run the ball extremely well (184 yards on the ground) and they control that clock … that's what they do best. They were good at keeping us off the field."
Among the frustrated was Evans, a Pro Bowl-level talent, who has exactly four catches for 22 yards in two games.
"We know that offensively we're not really giving ourselves a chance," he said. "And it comes down to taking some chances. We've had opportunities … it's not so much about the play-calling, it's about the execution."
But he stopped short of blaming Losman.
"The quarterback is a reflection of the whole offense." Evans said. "We weren't doing a number of things very well. It's not so much J.P., it's us as an offense."
AND THE reason was Pittsburgh's defense.
As Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin noted, "(The defense) defines us. The only way we're going to be great is if we play great third-down defense (Buffalo was 5-of-13) … play great short-yardage defense … play great red-zone and goalline defense.
"The game is made up of situational elements that are outside of 1st-and-10 and second and medium. You have to be able to stand up in those elements and I thought we did that."
But Tomlin wasn't about to have the first two games define Pittsburgh's season.
"We're not trying to tell a story with our play." he said. "We go out and play on Sunday … we play to win.
"Style points are things we analyze on Monday when we're trying to see perfection."
It will be awhile before the Bills do that.
As Jauron concluded, "It certainly wasn't our best day … we'd like to go back and start (it) over. They're awfully good … they played well … they deserved to beat us.
"All in all, it was a very disappointing day for us … to suffer our second loss and not to perform at a very high level on the offensive side.
"We have a lot of work to do," he said, and when asked in what areas, Jauron quickly concluded, "The way it looked … just about everything."
And, to a man, the Bills dismissed the lingering emotional fallout from the potential paralysis suffered by tight end Kevin Everett or the three lost defensive starters.
"There's no denying it was a difficult week," Jauron said.
But Losman, speaking for his teammates, added, "I don't think (that) took a toll, there's no excuses from that standpoint."