For one of the few times this season, Drew Bledsoe and the Buffalo Bills lived up to the preseason hype. The New York Giants' failure to do even that has put Jim Fassel's job in serious peril.
Shaking off the effects of a concussion and some internal strife, Bledsoe threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bills embarrassed New York 24-7 on Sunday in a game that ended with 78,000-seat Giants Stadium three-quarters empty.
Bledsoe hit 19 of 29 passes before another blow to the head forced him to the bench in the third quarter.
``There is an overall sense of frustration because we feel like we've underachieved this season,'' Bledsoe said after the Bills (5-7) snapped a four-game losing streak.
``We've played three good games over the course of the season, today being one of them.''
The situation for the Giants (4-8) is worse.
The Bills came into this season thinking they had a shot to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Giants were thinking Super Bowl again after a high-powered offense got them back to the playoffs last season.
Turnovers, injuries, dumb plays, penalties and bad tackling hurt them all season and they all were evident again in a game that all but ended New York's playoff hopes and Fassel's tenure as coach.
``It's hard to describe my feelings right now,'' a subdued Fassel said after enduring the first four-game losing streak of his six-plus seasons as coach. ``It's hard. It's just hard to watch them play that way.''
It was also hard for co-owner Wellington Mara, who had seen Fassel lead the Giants to three playoff berths and a Super Bowl after the 2000 season.
``I'm very disappointed,'' Mara said. ``I never go into a season or game with high expectations. But I do go into some with higher hopes than others, and this year we had high hopes.''
Mara refused to discuss Fassel's future.
The Bills still have an outside shot at the playoffs if they can win their final four games.
Buffalo took control with a 17-point second quarter. Bledsoe threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dave Moore, a 22-yarder to Bobby Shaw and set up a short field goal by Rian Lindell with a 31-yard pass.
Bledsoe also had consecutive passes of 21 and 18 yards to set up Travis Henry's 13-yard third-quarter TD run that gave the Bills a 17-point lead. It was on that drive he took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Giants lineman Keith Hamilton.
``When I got up everything was yellow,'' Bledsoe said. ``I was thinking fairly clearly.''
Bledsoe missed some practice time this week with headaches, nausea and some vision problems after being kneed in last Sunday's loss to Indianapolis.
The Bills' offense also came under fire this week when cornerback Antonio Winfield questioned why coach Gregg Williams was throwing so much without big-play receivers.
The Giants made one big play, a 77-yard scoring pass play from Kerry Collins to Amani Toomer just 17 seconds after Moore's touchdown catch tied the game at 7.
The Bills then took advantage of big holes in the Giants' defense, turnovers and a decimated offensive line to hand New York its fifth loss in six home games.
A 31-yard pass to Shaw and a 15-yard unnecessary roughing penalty set up Lindell's go-ahead 26-yard field goal.
A fumble by Collins on the ensuing series gave the Bills the ball at the New York 41. Bledsoe hit Josh Reed on passes of 15 and 20 yards before connecting with Shaw for the score on second-and-17 play.
Bledsoe had only three TD passes and eight interceptions in his last nine games.