390 yards. 197 yards rushing. 64% 3rd down conversions. The awful numbers continue for the Bills defense. The defense isn't just bad right now - it's historically bad. There haven't been many, if any, Bills defenses to ever give up yards, points, and rushing yards at the pace this group is. In fact, there haven't been many in NFL history to allow these kinds of numbers seven games into an NFL season. The Bills fired last year's defensive coordinator George Edwards. They spent more money than they ever have in free agency specifically to fix the defense. Kyle Williams played a total of five games last season and has played every one of them this season. So, you can even add him to the list of players added to this year's group who were supposed to improve the defense. But it hasn't improved. In fact, it's clearly worse. A lot worse. How? Really, considering all the changes (and what we all believed to be upgrades), how did we get to this point? Here is a list of players who were on the defense in 2011 but no longer on the roster. Some were starters. Some played significant snaps in a backup role. Some weren't on the field as often, but did play and contribute, even if they missed some games being inactive or with injury:
2011 - no longer on team
Now, here are the additions to the defense. Again, you can also add Kyle Williams. An all-pro level defensive tackle to this list. But these names are the new guys. The "upgrades:"
2012 - new to the defense
Kyle Moore (actually did play the final 4 games last season)
If someone would like to make an intelligent argument that the 2011 list of players is better than the 2012 list, have at it. But I'll disagree and I think most fans would, as well. I would hope the organization would, too, because they're the ones who changed defensive coordinators. They're the ones who paid Mario Williams $96 million for six years, guaranteeing him $50 million. They're the ones who paid Mark Anderson $19.5 million for four years, guaranteeing him $8 million. They're the ones who spent the 10th overall pick in April's draft on Stephon Gilmore and fully guaranteed him $12.08 million for a four year contract. So, you bet they believe this group was a bunch of upgrades over last year's. That's why they did all of that and spent all of that money.
On top of all of this, I'd make the case the Bills faced better opposing offenses through seven games last year than they have so far this season (KC, Oakland, New England, Cincy, Philly, NYG, Washington in 2011....vs.....NYJ, KC, Cleveland, New England, San Fran, Arizona, Tennessee in 2012).
So, a better group of players. Not as tough a schedule. Yet, a worse result. There can only be one conclusion: as much as there are problems on the field, the bigger problem is obviously coming from the sidelines (or press box in Dave Wannstedt's case).
Is it a bad scheme? Is it bad game planning? Is it simply poor calls at the wrong time on game day? Is it not teaching proper technique during the week? Maybe it's all of this?! But whatever the answer to this question - the only solution is change. Change something. Either personnel, scheme, or as most are clamoring for, changing Wannstedt himself. The problem is Chan Gailey continually says he won't make a coaching staff change during the season; it's hard to just start running a new scheme from scratch; and who is really either on the roster or out on the street that could come in and help out the personnel?
That's what's making this even more frustrating to watch - that it's destined to continue for another nine games. And with teams like the Texans and Patriots coming up immediately on the schedule, with players like Brady, Schaub, Welker, Gronk, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, and Owen Daniels on the other side of the ball, it's scary to even think how bad it can get.
Good Fitz, Bad Fitz:
I feel like I write this same thing each week about Ryan Fitzpatrick, only through a different narrative. Whether it's a good half vs. a bad half, or a few really good decisions and throws vs. several horrible ones that costs points or puts the defense in a bad position, it's the same story and bottom line. And here it is again. Fitz was good for most of this game. In fact, it was his best game. For the most part, for more than three quarters, Fitz made good decisions, accurate passes, and even navigated the tough wind conditions well with tight and strong throws when needed.
But when his team needed him to make a play at the most critical of times - two drives in a row at the end - they weren't made. An interception with 3:00 left driving to essentially put the game away. Then a four-and-out after getting the ball in the final minute down by one point.
We'll all take that overall stat line from Fitz: 27-for-35; 225 yards; 3 TDs and 1 INT. He wasn't the reason the Bills lost this game. But they needed him to help put it away, and then win it, at the end. And that didn't happen.
Lost in the "fire the coach, fire the DC, get rid of the QB" talk today is the amount of penalties the Bills had in this one - and the horrible timing of several of them. They were huge. Overall, 8 flags for 65 yards, far too big a number on both counts, especially for a home game when the crowd doesn't cause false starts and delay of games.
With 7:28 left, with the Bills leading 34-28 and seemingly in control at that point, Fitzpatrick hit Scott Chandler for a 16 yard gain. It was going to be a first down at the 45-yard line. Huge play. But a holding call on Erik Pears instead made it 2nd and 20 from the 19. It may say 10-yards on the stat sheet, but that penalty cost the Bills 26 yards, a new series, and probably another 2-3 minutes off the clock, if not points at the end of the drive.
Too many penalties. Too many yards. Especially at too critical of times.
Follow me on twitter: @SalSports