With the glum memories of a 3-13 2001 season, the Bills set out on the toughest path of any of the AFC East teams, a climb toward respectability. The first step in the climb was the acquisition of fallen Patriot Drew Bledsoe, called on to replace the departed duo of Rob Johnson and Doug Flutie. With their offense in the hands of a former Pro Bowler, the Bills used their 1st pick, 4th overall, and 2nd pick to grab mammoth offensive tackle Mike Williams and sure handed wideout Josh Reed. With proven weapons in Eric Moulds and Peerless Price to bolster the division’s most explosive offense, the only question came down to who would carry the ball. The answer turned out to be Travis Henry.
1st and Ten: Bledsoe (4,359, 7.15, 24) re-established himself as a premier passer in Week 2 with 463 yards through the air, the first of two 400-yard and seven 300-yard efforts on the season, while Henry settled into the full-time halfback role. With a monstrous effort in Week 1, Henry (1,438, 4.4, 13) was on his way to a bustout campaign in which he finished 5th in the NFL in rushing. Perhaps no one was streakier than Henry, who topped the 120 mark 6 times while falling below 60 yards 6 times as well. He also led all players with 11 fumbles, 8 of which he lost. Nonetheless, the second-year back proved a major workhorse, accounting for all but 63 of the Bills’ 388 carries, 27 by Bledsoe. With Bledsoe throwing most of the time early on, Moulds (100, 1,287, 10) put together his best season, snaring a whopping 41 passes the first five games while Price (94, 1,252, 9), a teammate of Henry’s in college, wasn’t far behind in any category. Reed (37, 514, 2) was effective but largely in the shadows of the top two receivers.
4th and Long: Though the offense could score on practically anyone, the defense was a whole different story. Three times in the first four weeks the Bills found themselves in overtime despite scoring 120 points combined. Overall, Buffalo gave up nearly 25 points a game, good for 27th in the NFL, and finished 29th against the run, barely ahead of New England. With just 10 defensive interceptions, six by cornerback Nate Clements (64, 0.0, 6), they wound up 15th in the AFC with a -12 giveaway/takeaway. Making matters worse, kicker Mike Hollis (25/33, 115) endured his second straight disappointing season, struggling from inside the 40 as well as out while knocking down just 75% of his field goals.
Final Score: It’s difficult to assess the overall results of the Bills’ season. While it can be said that they won 8 games despite one of the league’s worst defenses it can also be said that they lost 8 games in spite of one of the league’s best offenses. Six and one half dozen the other. Either way, in a season that remained stunningly even, Buffalo was never more than 2 games over .500 or 1 game under, they finished a disappointing .500. Far better than their 3-13 record of a year earlier but far less than expected.