Extra Point: Same story, different day in loss to Rams

Sunday’s let down was more of a re-run than a new episode in the saga of “The Ways the Bills Lose”. After holding a lead for most of the contest, a late drive and poor offensive execution in the fourth quarter sealed a victory for the visiting St. Louis Rams.Bills Rams

CJ Spiller had eight touches all game and that is really all that needs to be said on the Spiller matter. Chan Gailey has criminally misused Spiller on nearly a weekly basis and hasn’t figured out a way to solve the problem. Spending more than a sentence on Spiller’s misuse on a weekly basis is quite literally the definition of insanity. So, why not focus on the other things the Bills have failed to capitalize on?

The Buffalo defense has been downright angry in the weeks since the bye. Mario Williams is good for at least one big play per game and has become a real issue for opposing lines to handle. In addition, the interior combo of Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams has added to the headaches for opposing offensive lines. Thanks to the play of those three players, someone is typically bursting through the line each play.

Thanks to the improved play of the defensive line, the Bills run defense has been nothing short of dominant and there has been far less pressure on the defensive backs to make huge plays. Just look at Stephon Gilmore who is rounding into a very impressive talent at corner. Between Gilmore and Jarius Byrd, the Bills have the makings for a very impressive defensive backfield. Continue reading

Extra Point: Groundhog Pick

Sunday must have felt like Groundhog Day for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Just as he did against Tennessee, Fitzpatrick played a sterling game only to unravel late in the fourth when the Bills were trying to lock up a victory.

Just like against the Titans, Fitzpatrick’s late miscue will receive just as much blame as the defense should for another 35+ point performance. That makes five games in which the defense has allowed 30 or more points. Shocking stat of the week: The Bills have lost all five games in which they surrender more than 30 points.

Danny Woodhead’s touchdown scamper was another astounding lack of run support from any of the 11 players on the field. But the rest of the performance wasn’t nearly as bad as the travesty that made up back-to-back losses to the Patriots and 49ers earlier in the year.

Buffalo outgained the mighty Patriots by nearly 140 yards. Yet they lost the game due in part to ugly penalty yardage and an early fumble that gave the Patriots a short field.

Chan Gailey still underutilized his most prolific weapon, CJ Spiller. But that won’t be the case on Thursday, as Fred Jackson will not be available for the Bills. Spiller finished with an average of 10 yards per play (9 carries, 70 yards and 6 catches, 61 yards). Once again, Spiller averaged a first down every time he touched the ball. Continue reading

Extra Point: Playcalling bites Bills late

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. Continue reading

Extra Point: History is made out west

If Taylor Swift was a Bills fan, she would have a limitless collection of material. She probably could have written a few songs based on Sunday’s performance.

Buffalo shot out to the West Coast for their second-straight game against a member of the NFL elite and came up with their second-straight black eye. While the team is only 2-3, the way they have gotten to that record has been cause for concern – or outrage, depending who you are.

There is no reason to rehash the numbers from Sunday’s loss. Any and all media members will be pounding those numbers down your throat in a similar manner that the 49ers run game pounded the football on Sunday. However, the second-straight historic let down is nothing to ignore.

Entering the year, the defense was expected to be the strong point of the team. As of now, even the new-and-improved front four have been invisible. There were some who saw the linebackers as a major weakness and others who had lingering questions about the secondary. Some even had fears that both of those units would be the downfall of the defense. As of week five, everyone is right.

Continue reading

Deskchair Quarterback: Backups fall short against Steelers

The first team carried their weight, especially on defense. Looking at the first half of football last night, the Bills defense was effective, the special teams were solid and they moved the football offensively.

However, the backups were less than stellar. Luckily, the backups aren’t going to be playing all at once this season.

Mario Williams picked up his first two sacks of the preseason against Pittsburgh.

The Bills managed field position for the entire first half thanks to stout defense and a number of phenomenal punts from Brian Moorman. While Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense struggled to consistently move the ball, they did their part in controlling the clock and field. Of course, they only came up with seven points. A score matched by the Steelers’ 90-plus yard drive to close the first half.

However, Vince Young tossed a pair of interceptions, the Steelers second team offense cruised (sound familiar?) and they ran up 31 unanswered points in the second half. Young’s regression last night was unfortunate due to the previous progress that he built on over the first two weeks of the preseason.

There were standouts for good and bad over the course of the game. Terrence McGee looked like an aging veteran who just returned from knee surgery. Andy Levitre could be Buffalo’s most consistent and effective lineman and the tandem of Marcell Dareus and Kyle Willaims should wreak havoc on opponents this season. Depth still seems to be an issue for the Bills, however. With a number of rookie and first year players being counted on for primary roles on both sides of the ball, there will be plenty of growing pains this year.

The main issue that many fans had with last night was the third-straight loss and continued offensive struggles that the Bills have shown on offense. While the second-team contributions need to be ignored, the lack of a consistent attack with the starters could begin to be an issue as the season is set to begin. Continue reading

Deskchair Quarterback: Bills preseason debut

Ryan Fitzpatrick is not Jim Kelly, that much was assumed a long time ago. However, any doubters were likely converted while watching Fitzpatrick direct the Bills first-team offense last night against Washington.

Fitzpatrick trotted out with a number of open and spread looks in the brief time he and the starters saw last night. It was indicated that he was the one calling the plays while reading what the defense was giving him. The result was zero running plays and three points.

There were flashes of brilliance from the starters and there is the obvious fact that the gameplan last night doesn’t even represent a quarter of what the Bills will present in the regular season. So anyone who has proclaimed the sky is falling regarding the offense, team and season; take a step back.

To put things in perspective, Shawne Merriman looked like an All-Pro last year and the offensive line was leakier than the Titanic. As it turned out, Merriman was ineffective before missing most of the year and the offensive line proved to be rather stout for much of the 2011 season. The bottom line is that the preseason is all about evaluation and not about team performance. Or at least that is mostly what it is about. Continue reading

Bills extend Fitzpatrick with six-year $59 million contract

The Bills took care of one star’s miniscule contract. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been signed to a six-year $59 million extension by the team.

Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson have been the two driving forces in the Bills success this despite being criminally underpaid. Well, maybe not criminally, they do make millions of dollars playing a game.

Still, Fitzpatrick’s play in relief of Trent Edwards was a relief last season and he has continued to progress as an effective quarterback this year. His play has been so eye-opening that fans have gone from rallying a “Suck for Luck” campaign to talking playoff possibilities.

A six-year deal is fairly hefty for a former seventh-round pick from Harvard. He has certainly earned the money, I just wonder if the length of the contract is ideal for the development of the Bills. I was expecting a four or five-year deal that would allow the Bills to draft and cultivate a franchise QB, very much in the way Aaron Rodgers was groomed in Green Bay. Now, the Bills can always walk away from the deal or release Fitzpatrick and only be on the hook for the $24 million he is guaranteed. But for a team which thinks bottom line before finish line, that doesn’t seem like a very real option.

Assuming Fitzpatrick remains a Bill through the entire term of the contract, you can expect to see a franchise quarterback drafted two or three years down the line. There won’t be much need to bring a youngster in just yet.

While some fans who have been clamoring for a true franchise QB will complain about Fitzpatrick’s ability to throw a good deep ball, they should be happy to know that Fitzpatrick is more than capable of carrying the banner until a true franchise QB is brought in. Think of it this way; with no need to draft a QB in the first or second round for the next three years, the Bills can continue to shore up their other weaknesses.

Perhaps the opportunity to build for the future is the silver lining in this deal. There is no doubting that Fitzpatrick is the man the Bills want as their QB, however he is not the prototype many football fans would draw up to lead their team. By signing him to a significant deal, the Bills have ensured they can focus on the numerous holes on defense and other positions of need in the draft and free agency.

Fitzmagic will certainly have plenty of extra focus on him thanks to the new deal, he will have higher standard to live up to because of it. He should have little trouble doing so based on his past performances.

Ryan Fitzpatrick saved Buffalo from becoming a hockey town

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills resurgence has captivated Buffalo sports fans and kept the city from thinking hockey-first. While the Sabres will lose top billing for the time being, they will benefit from a shared spotlight.

Just six and a half short months ago Terry Pegula looked down at Gilbert Perreault and cried. That action galvanized nearly every sports fan in Buffalo. It was an act that began to turn Buffalo into a true hockey town.

Under the guidance of Terry Pegula the Sabres fan base has continued to explode.

Pegula immediately put his plan into action to create Hockey Heaven. As the season wore down his team clawed their way into the playoffs and pushed the defending Eastern Conference Champions to the brink of elimination.

Once the summer hit, Pegula kept rolling. He unleashed Darcy Regier, who quickly brought in high-priced troops to improve the Sabres roster. Pegula’s team began a massive remodeling of the locker facilities in the First Niagara Center. Renovations were made to the concession areas and every slug logo, short of the ones on the banners, were stripped from the arena. Life in Pegulaville was in full swing.

All of this action swept Sabres fans off their feet while the NFL lockout was in full effect. Now, the “lockout” was a complete sham and only a few pieces of the NFL offseason were lost. There was never a threat of games being missed. However, the exasperated Buffalo fan base was just about ready to push the Bills aside, as a roster of undrafted free agents and no-names opened training camp. Continue reading