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Howard Simon's Blog

Rock Bottom for Bills....Again

I was struggling while trying to figure out how to start this column and I thought taking the dog out for a walk and getting some fresh air might help get the writing juices flowing.
As I passed my wife on the way out of the house, she looked at me and said “This team will be the death of you. You look old.”  It was that kind of day.
We’ve seen way too many of these days over the last decade plus. It’s hard to say whether this one was worse or about the same but it felt worse to me.
This despite the fact that I fully anticipated a blow out loss in San Francisco(34-10 and not 45-3) and one of those games where I’d be staring at the screen in the second half, wondering when it would be over so I can go on with my life.
At one point in the fourth quarter, I was wondering if this is rock bottom? Then I realized we’ve asked that same question so many times over the years and we thought each time it was rock bottom, only to be proven wrong.
The crazy thing is that amidst the carnage that is the last two games(97 points and 1201 yards given up), the Bills still have a chance to be 4-3 going into the bye. Yes, you can now email me suggesting I seek professional help.
Believe it or not, the next two games(at Arizona and home for Tennessee) are games the Bills can win.  Its still possible the Bills will be 4-5 heading into the final seven games of the season and the “soft” part of schedule. That would be exactly where many fans thought they’d be after nine games.
But its how they’ve looked in their three defeats that has Bills fans sick to their stomach.  Buffalo has been outscored 145-59 in those losses to the Jets, Patriots and 49ers. 
They looked outclassed by what now appears to be a bad Jets team in the opener. They suffered a colossal collapse at the hands of Tom Brady and company last week and just when you thought that was rock bottom, they made  Alex Smith look like Brady.
The 2012 Bills defense now has a place in the Bills record book. The 621 yards given up on Sunday is the single largest single game total in franchise history.  It sure felt like the defense folded up its tent in the second half.
 At the very least, the group exhibited an alarming trait that first reared its ugly head in the pre-season game with Pittsburgh. When the going gets tough, the defense gets flustered and comes apart at the seams.
Think about the Steelers TD drive right before halftime. Even Chan Gailey admitted that night his team was flustered.  They looked that way in the first half at Met Life Stadium as Mark Sanchez produced a Brady-like performance. The wheels came off in the second half last week when the Pats scored touchdowns on six straight drives and Sunday’s game speaks for itself.
For the first time since 1961, the 49ers had a 300 yard passer, a 100 yard rusher and two 100 yard receivers in the same game.
Its hard to believe but the defense appears to be worse than last year’s group which was one of the worst in the history of the franchise. 
I thought fans were jumping the gun when they were calling for the firing of Dave Wannstedt after just four games as Defensive Coordinator but his group sure looks lost and totally demoralized.
I would point out that Mario Williams was a non factor, again(which he was) but Williams had plenty of company on Sunday.  There was little if any pass rush from the front four, the linebackers don’t make enough plays and the secondary is getting beaten more than the Washington Generals in their all time series with the Harlem Globetrotters.
The lack of pass rush is making the struggles of the secondary even more noticeable. The Bills can’t cover anybody.  Niners receivers and tight end Vernon Davis were wide open numerous times in the game. Even Randy Moss caught a ball.  Buffalo gave up five pass plays of 20 yards or longer. Alex Smith threw for 303 yards which is well above his season average of 197.
The run defense looked like swiss cheese for the second straight week.  San Francisco had 11 big play runs which are runs that gain ten or more yards. The Bills have given up 558 yards rushing in the last two games.
The pathetic play of the defense against the three toughest opponents to this point of the schedule far outweighs the issues on offense.  Actually its just one issue. The quarterback is bad.
But I knew I was hoping more than believing in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I think there’s talent on defense but Fitzpatrick is who he is, an inconsistent quarterback who isn’t good enough to win games on his own.
The Bills would have probably lost any way and perhaps in a rout but as was the case with the New England game, Fitzpatrick missed on plays when the game wasn’t a lost cause.
In the first quarter, on the Bills first possession, he sailed a ball over Stevie Johnson’s head on third and seven. I will point out that Erik Pears was being shoved back into him so perhaps he altered the throw to get it over the pass rush.
On the Bills next possession with SF up 3-0, Fitzpatrick overthrew Johnson who had a step on his man inside the 49ers five yard line. If the throw is on target it would have been a touchdown.
In the second quarter, he threw slightly behind Donald Jones on a slant route inside the SF five yard line.  Jones did get his hands on it and I won’t fight you if you tell me a receiver should make that play but it shouldn’t be too much to ask the QB to put it in the right spot either. If he does it is first and goal inside the five at the very least, if not a touchdown to put the Bills up 7-3. They ended up getting a field goal to tie the game at 3.  In retrospect, that was your high point of the day Bills fans.
Still in the second quarter with SF up 10-3, he missed CJ Spiller deep down the left sideline. Spiller cleanly beat 49ers LB Novorro Bowman but Fitzpatrick overthrew the speedy running back and the ball landed out of bounds. It would have been a big gain into SF territory.
In the third quarter with the Bills trailing 24-3 and at the SF 20 yard line, Fitzpatrick threw an awful ball that almost made me throw up my halftime dinner of pizza and wings. He wanted Donald Jones in the end zone but winged the ball with his weight on his back foot. He never stepped into the throw and it was a duck, falling into the waiting hands of Niners DB Chris Culliver.
Quick question. Why did the Bills cut Vince Young to keep Tyler Thigpen who they won’t even consider bringing in when the offense can’t get out of its own way?
 And why would they trade for Tarvaris Jackson and then proceed to continually make him inactive on game day?
After the implosion against the Patriots, I was wondering if it might have a lingering effect on the team.  Now I’m wondering if they’re completely shell shocked and whether or not we’re about to witness an avalanche of losses and in season coaching changes.
Maybe it’s a good thing the Bills opted to stay on the west coast this week and practice in Arizona.  That way they won’t have to hear what’s being said about them back home.

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Locations : ArizonaBuffaloNew EnglandPittsburghSan FranciscoTennesseeWest Coast
People : Alex SmithChan GaileyChris CulliverDave WannstedtDonald JonesErik PearsMario WilliamsMark SanchezRandy MossStevie JohnsonTarvaris JacksonTom BradyTyler ThigpenVernon DavisVince Young

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