After suffering their 5th straight loss, the Buffalo Bills memorable 2011 season now became forgettable. The feel good story of the league returned to laughingstock. Casual fans from other teams are saying, “The Bills are doing good this year, aren’t they?” — cloudy over the reality of the team’s fast start and not hearing any good news for two months.
Sunday has yet again turned to “Someday…”
And now as the injuries still mount in Kilamanjaro proportions, the team and franchise must look itself in the mirror once again.
It may as well be the rearview.
On an unseasonably warm 57 degrees in December, the Bills forgot to beat the Tennessee Titans 23-17. The Titans, also an also-ran in the playoff hunt like the Bills, also-ran all over the timid Buffalo run defense for 180 yards at 6 a pop.
With a line-up full of rookies, four started and two others played (non) quality minutes, the whole team played like collegians. They had trouble shedding blocks, keeping assignments and lanes, and making fundamental tackles.
When a team is in trouble or outmanned, the defensive brain trust must load up one area and/or try to take away one thing the offense is doing — hoping, okay gambling, that the opposition will not be able to beat them in the other fashion.
But Bills fans have no reason to trust the brains of the team’s coordinator. George Edwards must go.
It may not be Edwards’ fault. It may be that the best DC in the league could not overcome all these injuries, this youth and an overall lack of talent. But the difference is often coaching, defensive game-planning, play-calling, and just having the knack or sense for what to do under pressure. And as Edwards has failed, the team’s play has suffered and hopes have dashed. He seems overwhelmed and underwater.
The bad coaching on defense has now bled into offensive minded, Chan Gailey, who seems to have lost his offensive mind.
Remember when the puppeteer was masterfully pulling all the right strings? Gailey seems to have lost confidence in his offense, although injuries to the WR, OL and RB had a lot to do with that, too.
Earlier in the year, Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to be an extension of Gailey’s brain and they were always on the same page. The Amish Rifle was always gunning for the endzone on 3rd and goal, and now he is throwing 1 yard screen passes from the same spots.
Fitz has become The Almost Rifle, often fighting shy, and misfiring to his no name misfitz playing WR.
Against the Titans, down by 2 scores with 8 minutes to go, what should have been a hurry-up 2 minute offense became a lazy 6 minute one. The Bills scored a TD but it was 7 too little too late. It was a 15 play drive that took 6 minutes but also looked like we could have saved 5 seconds on every play. That is 1:15 off we may have had on the last drive.
The only consolation being that Steve Johnson found the endzone again and acted like he had been there before, sans celebration. He looked all pro, as in all professional, not all beef hotdog.
On the good side, Brad Smith was signed to be a jack of all trades and for a few weeks made Buddy Nix look like the jack of all asses. But Smith has rebounded nicely since being put at emergency WR, catching 7 passes for 72 yards and looking like a real threat if not the real deal.
Gailey has all but abandoned the Wildcat while Smith plays WR, and the Bills even made a play for Green Bay’s #3 QB Graham Harrell last week, but the Packers elected to sign him to their active roster.
C.J. Spiller did a decent imitation of another CJ, Chris Johnson, showing the blazing speed and ability to turn the corner that made him the #9 overall choice. He recovered his own fumble for the 1st TD, and then had another 41 yarder on the very next series called back on a totally unnecessary penalty by usually reliable Corey McIntard.
Gailey rewarded Spiller by rarely giving him the ball again, only logging 3 carries in the 2nd half.
The Titans changed their defense, brought 8 men in the box and dared the Bills to, er, beat them through the air. They, uh, took away one element like the Bills defense should have.
Unfortunately, Paul Rinehart and Erik Pears got battered and repeatedly pancaked, and the Bills were cooked. Reliable good hands Scott Chandler fought a little too hard for an extra foot and lost the football. The Bills amassed 386 yards and only 17 points. And when Mike Caussin, Lee Smith and Tashard “Bad” Choice are the ones catching your passes you have little chance.
Fitz was a gamer and got repeatedly pounded, once coughing up the ball, and likely part of a lung, on a vicious smack.
The team simply cannot put it together. When the defense holds, the offense immediately holds defenders. When the offense drives, the defense drives you insane.
The Titans scored the first 3 times they had the ball, then only managed 2 FGs the rest of the game, but it was enough. Too bad the original CJ plays for the Titans, and Chris Johnson killed the Bills, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, 153 yards and 2 TDs.
But forget the Titans. The Bills are finally coming west, and playing the equally frustrating Chargers this week in San Diego. A huge swarm of Bills fans will be making the pilgrimage to the Catamaran Hotel, and Gaslamp District, and (hopefully) to Qualcomm Stadium to see the Bills amp up on the Chargers.
If you’re not going to the game in SD, remember to come down to Busby’s back bar and forget your troubles with a tasty beverage of Holiday spirits and a Bills victory.