Down by six points with under one minute to play, the Bills had the opportunity to finally capture a road victory in New England. A road victory that has evaded this franchise for the past 12 seasons.
Despite the defense giving up points, yards and first downs aplenty, Buffalo had the game -- and their season -- on the line at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
In a very fitting fashion, the Bills likely kissed any remaining hope of the postseason goodbye thanks to an interception spurred on by a miscommunication between veteran quarterback and rookie receiver.
It surely is a tough pill to swallow, but one the Bills will have to get over quickly. But before we do that, let's rehash the positives and negatives of their latest 37-31 loss to the Patriots.
- Heading in to that final play, one of the last players I thought I'd be leading off with would be rookie wideout T.J. Graham. With the game on the line, he ran the route that he thought was correct in to the end zone. His route was open, in fact. The only problem? He ran the wrong route. With Ryan Fitzpatrick on point for most of the game, the spot he threw the ball to likely would have resulted in an incomplete pass at the very worst. Instead, Graham has that all to contemplate as he has to go back to work to face the Dolphins on a short week.
- C.J. Spiller was nothing short of extraordinary against the New England Patriots. Once again, he averaged over seven yards per carry, keeping plays alive when they ought to have been dead. With 131 all-purpose yards on just 13 touches, Spiller once again looked like one of the top running backs in the NFL. When he broke a screen that looked dead up the left sideline, a Bills player looked over at me and said "How did he do that?!" I think similar sentiments were heard in front of televisions everywhere for Bills fans. He was once again the top player on the field for Buffalo, a role he's assumed for many contests this season.
- With the game and the season on the line, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't able to lead his team to the victory. However, at some point you have to have full trust in your receivers. The trust that Fitzpatrick exuded by throwing that pass to T.J. Graham. The rookie let him down, and the rest is history. The unfortunate thing for him is that no one will remember that once the season is done. All they'll do is point to his record as a starter and against the AFC East. Fitzpatrick was solid for much of the game, hitting Donald Jones, Scott Chandler and Stevie Johnson in stride so they could make plays after the catch. He had a good awareness of the pocket and escaped it when he needed to. But what it boils down to for quarterbacks is wins and losses, and Fitzpatrick just can't escape the wrong side of that line.
- It wasn't pretty for the defense in the first half. Tom Brady and the Patriots marched down the field whenever they felt like it, converting on third downs, putting a majority of their scoring opportunities for touchdowns and throwing it to just whoever they felt like. The defense did make some strides as the game wore on, however. A forced three-and-out following Fred Jackson's untimely fumble on the goal line and utilizing the bend-but-don't-break philosophy for the Patriots' final scoring drive showed the Bills could get stops when they needed them. However, the fact that it was nowhere to be found for much of the game cannot, and should not be ignored. It was too easy for New England early on, and it cost the Bills a chance to win.
- 14 penalties for 148 yards. Even with all those penalties, the Bills still almost won. If they had only been flagged half of the time, we could be talking about a different outcome. But they were, and they lost. Just a terrible job of execution by this team in all three phases when it comes to staying in the parameters of the rules of the game.
- The Bills lost this game for a number of reasons, there's no doubt about that. However, turnovers combined with a lack of taking advantage of opportunities on defense can be pointed to as one of the keys of the game. Fred Jackson's first umble was certainly a deterrent for the time being. Of course, they forced a three-and-out and marched right down for a touchdown. However, if he hung on to that ball and the Bills draw closer with that much time left in the game, the possibilities were endless. We all know by now about the Fitzpatrick-Graham mixup. But how about Bryan Scott blowing an opportunity on New England's first possession on a can of corn interception that he tried to high point and ultimately dropped. If the Bills make that play, they are in business deep in New England territory. They didn't, and the Patriots came away with three points. The Bills only lost by six.
- The play of two players that was impressive throughout the game happened to come from the passing game. Yes, Stevie Johnson was good. But I thought the play of Donald Jones and Scott Chandler deserve some praise. Jones had been having a very good past two games heading in to the Patriots contest. He had a combined 10 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee and Houston, and added another six receptions, 74 yards and a touchdown against New England. He's had his struggles in the past, but Donald Jones is developing in to a pretty solid player for the Bills. Chandler also got back to his old ways. The last time he had caught a touchdown pass was at home against New England, so it had to feel good for him to get right back in to the swing of things. He has struggled over the past couple of weeks to make an impact on offense, but came to play against New England.
- The more I watch of him, the more I believe Justin Rogers just isn't cut out to be on the field for the Buffalo Bills at nickel. Once again when matched up against Wes Welker, Rogers struggled to maintain any semblance of coverage, allowing Welker to get open when he pleased. If Ron Brooks can be of service in that role, I would urge the Bills to try something new. What they have going right now in the slot just isn't cutting it.
Bills' MVP: HB C.J. Spiller - Is there any doubt? 131 all-purpose yards on just 13 touches.
Bills' LVP: WR T.J. Graham - Know the playbook, rook.
Up Next: Thursday, November 15 vs. Miami at Ralph Wilson Stadium
- The Buffalo Bills went in to their game against New England as heavy underdogs, and a team that not many gave a chance to win. They left with a moral victory of a close loss. However, those count for about as much a lunchbox full of pogs would at the stock market. The matter of fact is the Bills are now 3-6, and will likely have to win out for a chance at the playoffs. With it being their fifth loss through the last six games, the chances of that happening are rather unlikely. With one interception at the end of the game, the Bills' playoff chances -- and perhaps their quarterbacks' chances of getting one more season after this one -- are cooked. Burnt to a crisp, even. Thirteen years without the playoffs seems inevitable at this point.