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Buffalo Tries New Direction, Points Toward a Better Finish

Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page H14

It all started so well for the Buffalo Bills. Their 31-0 victory over the New England Patriots opened the season, and a 38-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars followed. All their offseason moves appeared to be working out just fine.

But by the time their season ended with a 31-0 loss to the Patriots, it was clear the team needed new direction. Buffalo fired Gregg Williams and hired former Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey as head coach. It drafted wide receiver Lee Evans with the intention of providing a big-play threat opposite Eric Moulds. It drafted quarterback J.P. Losman to be Drew Bledsoe's understudy.


And all the while Willis McGahee -- remember him? -- was busy rehabilitating his left knee after surgery to repair torn ligaments. In his first preseason game, the 23rd pick of the 2003 draft ran for 58 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Injuries have taken their toll on Bills quarterbacks. First-round pick Losman is out for the season with a broken leg, and Travis Brown is out four to six weeks with an medial collateral ligament sprain. That led the Bills to sign Shane Matthews to back up Bledsoe.

The defense, which was ranked second in the league last season, was tweaked slightly, with Troy Vincent replacing Antoine Winfield at cornerback. Strong safety Lawyer Milloy is recovering from forearm surgery and said he will be ready for the opener.

"I think we're deep," Mularkey said of the defense. "When you see teams that have success, typically as a group they've been playing together. They know each other. They have a feel for each other. Sometimes they don't even have to make a call, and they know where their buddy is going to be before he does it. That's what I saw when I first came here to interview, was how disciplined they are. They know where everybody is supposed to be, and when you face teams like that, that's a concern. There are no flaws if everybody is on the same page."


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