One of the greatest defensive players in the history of the Buffalo Bills franchise and one of the best ever when you combine heart, leadership and on field performances were both on hand for Sunday’s game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Bruce Smith and Darryl Talley had to be physically ill watching the 2012 version of the Bills defense once again get gashed by its opponent. But this wasn’t the New England Patriots or San Francisco 49ers, it was the Tennessee Titans who nearly doubled their season scoring average and nearly tripled their season rushing average.
The Titans scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the game. The Bills defense then rallied in the second half and came up with some key stops while the offense put the team back in front 34-28 entering the fourth quarter.
But the defense folded in the end, giving up a game winning, 52 yard touchdown drive. It was capped off by a fourth and nine Matt Hasselback 15 yard TD pass to Nate Washington who beat Justin Rogers. George Wilson could have played the role of hero just two plays prior but couldn’t hold on to an interception.
The Bills run defense came into the game ranked last in the NFL and they certainly solidified their grasp on that dubious distinction. The Titans, who averaged just 70 yards rushing a game in their first six contests, rolled up 197 against the porous Bills defense.
Chris Johnson, as he did last year against the Bills, came back to life as he ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns(his first scores of the season). In three career games against Buffalo, Johnson has now totaled 480 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
Over the last four games against New England, San Francisco, Arizona and Tennessee, the Bills have given up an average of 228 yards rushing a game. But don’t waste time sending your resume to Chan Gailey. When asked if he was considering any changes to the coaching staff during the bye week, Gailey replied with a one word answer, “no”.
Tennessee had a total of one rushing touchdown all season. They had four against the Bills. This marked the fifth time in seven games the Bills opponent topped its season rushing yards per game average.
The Bills offense put the team in position to enter the bye week at 4-3 and tied for first in the AFC East. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for 141 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had his best game of the season up until he threw a critical fourth quarter interception. Fitzpatrick ended up 27-35 for 225 yards and three TD’s. He hadn’t thrown any in the last two games.
Special teams even did their part as Brad Smith returned a kick 89 yards for a score, his first return TD since joining the Bills last season.
When the defense gave up a touchdown, the Bills answered back, until their final possession. After Tennessee’s five TD’s, Buffalo came back with a TD drive by the offense twice, the Brad Smith return and a Rian Lindell field goal.
The only time they came up empty after the Titans put points up on the board was the final possession which ended on a Fitzpatrick incomplete pass on 4th down.
Not to single out one guy because there were many culprits in this game but Mario Williams was invisible…again.
Chan Gailey left himself open for second guessing for a second consecutive game.
There are some who believe he should have gone for a two point conversion after the Bills scored a touchdown to pull within 28-26 with 7:52 left in the 3rd quarter.
I didn’t have a problem going for the extra point because a failed two point conversion meant the next Tennessee touchdown(that’s when and not if) would have given them a nine point lead.
I think Gailey should have gone for two when the Bills took the lead at 34-28 with five seconds left in the 3rd quarter but Gailey said he doesn’t like to try two point conversions until about 10 or 11 minutes are left in the fourth quarter.
This loss hurts a lot. If you were still holding out hope for a playoff run, at the very least because the AFC is awful, this was a game the Bills really had to have.
The loss drops them to 3-4 going into the bye week with likely losses at Houston and New England to come in the first two games out of the bye.
Playoff teams usually win their home games but the Bills are now 1-2 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. This was an AFC loss which could hurt when it comes to tie breakers, should the Bills even be in that position.
It hurts from a mental standpoint as well. The Bills could have built off the victory in Arizona and taken some momentum down to Texas in two weeks.
Instead the Bills seem like they’re headed for a 13th straight non-playoff season. Gailey drops to 13-26 as Bills Head Coach, a record that is seven games worse than Dick Jauron’s at the same point.
And after a number of off season moves aimed at improving the defense, that unit remains the Bills achilles heel and is still multiple players and a coordinator away from resembling a competent group.