Poking the bear one too many times led to the Bills getting bit. The bear in this case was questionable play calling.
For the second-straight week, Chan Gailey was rolling the dice late in a game the Bills held a lead in. Unlike last week against Arizona, the opponent came away with a victory after the Bills failed to milk the clock and secure their lead.
This week wasn’t nearly as blasphemous as last week in Arizona, but it showed the same stubborn attitude that almost cost the game out west. Credit Gailey for this much, he didn’t try to have Brad Smith throw deep this time around. However, he still abandoned a running game that had dictated Buffalo’s success for the entire afternoon.
Gailey likes to throw the ball, this much is obvious. He was also getting the type of performance needed from his quarterback to make such an offense run efficiently for most of Sunday. Outside of his interception and the underthrown pass on fourth down, Fitzpatrick played an effective, efficient game against Tennessee. Of course, it was his final three series that stood out in stark contrast to the three solid quarters player prior to that.
However, this loss should once against rest squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff. The defense wasn’t able to stop a runny nose, let alone Chris Johnson and they paid for it early on. Some credit should be given to the defensive staff for the second half. While the run defense still struggled to stop the bleeding, they were able to force the Titans into a number of long third down situations and force punts. Regardless of the stat line, they had done their job. Protecting a lead, the defense had managed to put the game in the hands of their offense. It was the offensive play calling that fell short.
Three quarters of dominant running with limited touches just simply wasn’t enough evidence to convince Chan Gailey to continue pounding the ball at Tenessee’s porous defense to ensure victory. With solid field position in the fourth quarter and the clock under the nine minute mark the Bills came out throwing. The results of those drives were an interception and a shanked punt that, when all was said and done served up a loss for the Bills.
Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller aren’t only the two most effective players on the Bills offense, they drive offensive success. Jackson, in particular, was rolling well on Sunday. However the pair only accounted for 20 carries on the day. They did manage 140 yards with those 20 carries and the pair actually outgained Chris Johnson in total yardage when receiving yardage was considered. Yet Gailey has abandoned the running game late for two-straight weeks. With a tenuous lead or the game on the line, he has put the ball in the hands of his erratic, noodle-armed quarterback.
Entering the bye week, the Bills have little to change simply because the same problems have plagued them all season. The quarterback play has been inconsistent, the defense doesn’t play very well and now a pair of coaching choices (DeHaven’s vendetta against Moorman and Gailey’s playcalling) are seriously hurting the slim chances the Bills have to win these games.
Not so Super
It is no secret that Mario Williams hasn’t lived up to what most expected of him after signing his new contract. There is also very little compassion for the wrist injury that few seem to have much information on. From personal observations, he has had the wrist in some sort of cast since the week prior to the opener against the Jets and is still sporting a fairly significant cast halfway up his forearm to this point in the season. He doesn’t use his left hand much in pass rush situations and it would seem the injury is affecting his play in one way or the other. Does it justify his play? No. But it certainly paints a picture to why he doesn’t get a sack every play as many fans expect.
The draft is a long way off. However, with most assuming the Bills will be 3-6 after their contests in Houston and New England, draft chatter will certainly outweigh playoff chatter very soon. The Bills obviously need a quarterback, but they also desperately need a difference maker at linebacker. Watching Nick Barnett play sound but underwhelming football and seeing Kelvin Sheppard continue to be all kinds of average is disappointing. Nigel Bradham has brought some needed speed to the unit, but he is often watching Byron Scott perpetuate one of the franchise’s dumbest experiments. While a quarterback is probably on top of the shopping list, a true game breaking linebacker has to be up there as well come April.
Here is a recap of the special teams entering the season. John Potter was kept on the 53-man roster as a kickoff specialist, Rian Lindell was here to kick field goals and Brian Moorman was back after a very impressive preseason. Seven weeks later, Moorman is on the street, his replacement has averaged a shank a week and John Potter was inactive against the Titans.
Now Potter’s struggles may be related to Bruce DeHaven demanding directional kicks. However, that vendetta he had against Moorman is really becoming an issue. The decision to scratch Potter could lead to his release, which would mean his roster spot was of very little use and kept another player from having the chance to impact the team. Of course, player number 53 may not ever see the field either. Perhaps the Bills need to re-evaluate some of the choices they’ve made with their kick teams.
It was over when: Nate Washington caught the winning TD over Justin Rodgers. Rodgers had decent coverage but was unable to make a play on the ball. The Bills turned the ball over on downs on their final possession.
MVP: The Spiller/Jackson duo. They have a thunder and lightning type of synergy that gives the Bills an offensive wrinkle that is difficult to defend.
LVP: Gailey. Two weeks in a row he hasn’t ground out a victory with the running game, opting to try and gun sling his team to a win. This time it came back to bite him.
Their defense, while not good, is not New England level bad, and they do generate turnovers (2 in this game, 34 this year, second in the NFL). It’s their offense I’m more concerned about. Obviously it’s still excellent (five passing TDs) but it hasn’t looked quite as invincible the last few weeks. The 14 points against Kansas City, for much of the first half here they were mortal, the first half against Detroit, the Tampa game. Green Bay need to be almost perfect on offense to be the presumptive favourite that they have been all year, and I am not sure their offense is playing perfectly. They are still clearly #1, but they are closer to the field than they were after Week Ten.
For the record, Fitzpatrick’s team, by my assessment, is better than only five NFL foes, the Bills’ recent run of four victories in six games notwithstanding. On Sunday they’ll try to make it five for seven as Fitzpatrick leads Buffalo into a divisional battle against Brady and the Pats. If you’re wondering where Suggs’ rooting interests lie, I have a pretty good idea of the answer.