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BLEDSOE: SECOND HALF? SECOND THOUGHTS Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Sun, Dec 4, 2005, 10:02 PM

At this moment, the good and hearty football people of Buffalo, N.Y., are:

1) Chomping wings.

2) Guzzling Molson.

3) Saying "I told you so'' regarding Drew Bledsoe's second-half struggles.

In 2002, Bledsoe moved to the Bills, and was stellar for the first half of the season. In the blue-chip quarterback's first eight games with Buffalo in '02, he was 5-3 and the team was thinking playoffs. How first-half lights-out was Drew in '02? he threw for 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions and averaged 313 yards passing.

Then came the second half. How faded-out was Drew in the last eight games of '02? He threw for eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions and averaged 232 yards passing. The team won just three of its final eight.

See any parallels between Bledsoe's first season in Buffalo and his first season in Dallas?

Dallas began this year with that same 5-3 mark, with Bledsoe playing at a Pro Bowl level. But now the second half is here. The temperature is down. The breathing room is down. And with Sunday's 17-10 loss at New York, Bledsoe's numbers are plunging.

Consider: Dallas beat Philly 21-20 in Game 9, but not because of Bledsoe's dazzling numbers: He was 17-of-24 for 196 yards, with one zany interception and one clutch late-game TD toss.

In Game 10, Dallas beat Detroit 20-7, but Bledsoe was a lousy 12-of-23 for 110 yards.

In Game 11, Dallas played well but lost to Denver, 24-21 in OT. Bledsoe had his ups and downs, completing 29 of 44 passes for 232 yards. He passed for two TDs and ran for another, but also threw a pair of interceptions, including one that was returned for a Broncos TD.

And then yesterday at Giants Stadium in Game 12, Bledoe had no ups. He finished the critical 17-10 loss with crummy numbers (15 of 39 for 146 yards and two interceptions), but they didn't tell the whole story. In the first half, Drew was 4 of 13 for 17 yards. The Cowboys had four turnovers, and Bledsoe had a hand in all of them. Dallas' defense allowed almost nothing. ... and Dallas' offense simply didn't pitch in.

"There are a couple of throws I'll look at on film and want back,'' said Bledsoe, classily addressing the media after a second straight loss. "There are some plays I'd like to do over again.''

This is a quarterback's game. If the QB doesn't play well, the team doesn't do well. Consider again: Bledsoe's four-game numbers to start the second half of the season include 73-of-130 passing for a not-good-enough 56 percent, a paltry 153 yards per game, and a 4-to-5 interceptions-to-TDs ratio.

In the first four games of the second half of the season, Dallas has yet to play well and win.

"If we don't play better offensively," coach Bill Parcells said, "we're not going to do anything."

"Anything'' translates as "qualifying for the playoffs.''

All of this sounds familiar to the Bills fan, who spent the '90's getting slapped around by the Cowboys in Super Bowls and now want Dallas to share in some woe. Get a load of this: During his three years in Buffalo, Bledsoe started 14 road games against teams that finished with winning records. His record was 2-12. He was 99-15 on the road against all opponents, and 23-25 overall.

With the second halves of seasons serving as Drew Bledsoe's albatross.

Bills fans are wrong to put all that on one guy. And I'm not putting a prospective collapse all on Bledsoe; the Cowboys are 7-5, and Drew is a positive reason for a positive record. It's also notable that teammates don't put it on him, either. From the moment he walked into Valley Ranch, he was viewed by other Cowboys as a quality guy and a leader, and he's done nothing to take away from that.

But. ...

When Parcells, talking of the NFC East race, says the Giants now "have a good advantage, but I told the team before the game, the first team to 11 will win it"? Well, with this offense right now, I'm not sure if he means 11 wins or 11 points.

And another but. ...

If you want to worry about the Cowboys and their quarterback, you've picked the right day. The right week. The right month. And the right half of a season.

And the miserable football fans of Buffalo, N.Y., bellies full of wings and Molson and bitterness, love your company.

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