Injuries, Mistakes Waste Owens’ Big Day in 18-15 Loss

Posted on November 22, 2009 by Patrick Moran

Let’s give some credit where its due.  The Buffalo Bills were facing an uphill battle coming into their Sunday contest at Jacksonville with an already insurmountable amount of injuries, and the bug relentlessly took chomps out of three more starters by days end.

They also had less than a full week to prepare following off-field turmoil after the Dick Jauron firing on Tuesday.  Perry Fewell was only named interim coach on Tuesday, so you’ll have to forgive him if every minor detail wasn’t thoroughly covered in less than five days.

But it is what is.  Bad teams find a way to lose games and that’s exactly what the Bills did.  They had two touchdowns called back on penalties.  Fewell and starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick demonstrated deplorable late first half clock management skills, which may or may not have cost them four points.  And they botched a designed two point conversion fake.

All these factors, coupled with a failure to execute yet again in the fourth quarter doomed the Bills.  They lost late to the Jaguars, 18-15.

If it wasn’t already planted weeks ago, at 3-7 you can formally put a fork in any remote playoff hopes.

The bright spot was certainly Terrell Owens, who squashed any notion that he’s old and finished.  Fewell said he would find a way to get his playmaker the ball more, and make plays is exactly what he did.

Owens had season-highs of 9 receptions of 197 yards, including a franchise record 98-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick in the third quarter for the Bills lone touchdown that actually stood.

Better late than never?

“We showed what we could’ve been doing all year long,” Owens said.  “But you can’t go backward you got to obviously move ahead.”

It took all of three plays for the Bills’ offense to once again rear his ugly head.  On a 3rd and 8 play on their opening drive,  Josh Reed was wide open in the middle of the field for an easy first down,  but Fitzpatrick horribly overthrew him right into the arms of Jags defender Sean Considine, who returned to the Buffalo 28.  The Jags had to settle for a 29 yard field goal by Josh Scobee to take the 3-0 lead.

The Bills immediately responded with an 11 play, 72 yard drive to tie the game. On a 3rd and 15, Fitzpatrick hit Owens for 28 yards down the Jaguars 15, but the Bills couldn’t punch it in and Rian Lindell hit a chip shot 26 yard field goal.

The Bills defense then stepped up and it eventually gave the Bills a lead. On first down, Kyle Williams nearly decapitated Jaguars quarterback David Garrad.  The next play saw Garrad throw a pass that Bryan Scott got a hand on, deflecting right to George Wilson, who returned it inside the Jaguars 10.

But then the first of two touchdowns were called back. On the very next play following the pick, Fred Jackson took a pitch and went nine yards right for an easy touchdown, but it was negated after a crack block penalty by rookie Shawn Nelson. It brought the ball all the way back to the 24 and Buffalo eventually had to again settle for the short field goal, a 27-yarder by Lindell.

Jacksonville scored on their next possession to go up 10-6 with 9:30 left in the second, a 13-play, 78 yard drive culminated in a three yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones Drew, his 13th of the season.

From there, Buffalo reverted to something straight out of the Jauron playbook. The Bills got the ball with 1:58 left in the first half and drove deep into Jacksonville before making an inexcusable mistake.  Nelson made a terrific 25-yard  catch to get the ball down to the Jags 18 with 26 seconds and then Owens caught an slant down to the 8 yard line with 21 seconds remaining.  Rather than immediately spiking the ball or use their final timeout, the Bills patiently ran another play, a run to Fred Jackson that went nowhere.  The Bills finally got a timeout with one second left and Lindell kicked a 22-yard field goal and a 10-9 halftime deficit despite out gaining Jacksonville, 185-105.

The ultra conservatism may have eventually cost them the game.  Astoundingly, Fewell defended the decision after reflecting during his post game presser.

“We had talked about taking the shot (to the end zone), but we wanted to make sure we got the points so we elected to go for the run in that situation,” Fewell said.  “I alerted the official we were going to call time out.  Looking back I wanted to get the points. I thought I made a solid decision with just taking the points.”

Somewhere, Jauron approvingly grinned ear to ear.

But not as much as Owens.  On the Bills first play of the third quarter after Roscoe Parrish inexplicably handled a punt inside his own five yard line, Fitzpatrick went deep for Owens, who beat Jags defender Tyrone Brackenridge and cruised 98 yards for a touchdown.  The Bills misfired on a faked extra point when Brian Moorman couldn’t hit an open Ryan Denney in the end zone.  Buffalo led, 15-10

The play was initially a run call, but Fitzpatrick audibled out when Jacksonville showed too many men up front. It was the longest touchdown in Bills history, surpassing a 96 yard pass from Todd Collins to Quinn Early in 1995.

Buffalo again had six points erased from the board when a 56 yard bomb to Lee Evans was called back on a block to the face penalty by Jonathan Scott early in the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville was looking like they were going in for the go ahead score but with 8:24 remaining play Paul Posluszny stripped Garrad and Spencer Johnson recovered at the Bills 20.  But the Bills couldn’t gain a first down and were forced to punt.

Jacksonville took over with a little over six minutes remaining and by the two minute warning faced a third and one from the Bills four.  Jones-Drew converted on a run that was reviewed but stood up.   Three plays later Michael-Sims burned Reggie Corner to get wide open in the left corner of the end zone, and Garrad lobbed a pass he easily caught with 56 seconds remaining.  Garrad ran in the two point conversion and Jacksonville led 18-15.

Buffalo got the ball one final time with good field position at their own39 with 50 seconds left.  A 15 yard pass to Owens got the ball in Jacksonville territory with 35 ticks remaining. But after a first down spike, a bad throw to an open Owen on second and a batted down third down pass, Fitzpatrick faced fourth and 10 from the Jacksonville 46.  Under pressure he rushed a throw too high that Owens leaped for but couldn’t come down with. It deflected over his outstretched hands and bounced into the arms of safety Anthony Smith  to seal the Jaguars win.

Fitzpatrick finished 18-of-31 for 297 yards, a touchdown and the two picks.

The Bills not only lost another battle but suffered further demoralizing casualties by the time it was over.  Perhaps its time to wave the white flag.  The Bills were already missing a slew of starters including Terrence McGee, Marcus Stroud, Keith Ellison and Demetrius Bell.  By the end of this game it got worse, far worst.

Running back Marshawn Lynch left for good in the second quarter with a shoulder injury following a fumble.  Seth McKinney was injured twice, with the second time being a knee that finished him.  Sadly, Eric Wood’s season is definitely over after suffering a nasty fractured left leg in the second half.  For good measure, John McCargo reinsured a sore calf muscle.

By the end of the game the Bills were literally scrambling to put enough bodies on the field.  Ryan Denney moved from defensive end to tackle.  Andy Levitre went from left tackle, to guard and back to tackle.  Kirk Chambers moved from right tackle to guard and Jamon Meredith, already nursing a bad knee of his own was forced into the lineup.  Scott missed more than a week away from the team after the passing of his father.  He was forced into the lineup early, going to left tackle instead of his customary right side.

If you want to know how bad it got, this was the Bills offensive line on their final dive: Scott, Levitre, Hangartner, Chambers and Meredith.  Labeling it a M.A.S.H. unit would be severely understated.

The Bills will be in the market for at least one offensive linemen tomorrow and possibly two.  You can count on Christian Gaddis being promoted from the practice squad tomorrow.  If Lynch is out even for a week they’ll need another running back.   After Fred Jackson, Corey McIntyre is the only other running back on the active roster.

Given the plethora of injuries, Fewell is proud of how his team battled.

“Its been an emotional week for all of us and this was an emotional loss for all of us,” Fewell said after the game.  “I thought we fought our hind end off.  They battled down to the wire.  We just didn’t get it done. We got to circle the wagons and come back next week and we got one more opportunity next week.  Our guys fought their hind end off.”

The Bills lost despite keeping Jones-Drew in check.  He did score a touchdown, but gained just 66 yards on 25 carries. Buffalo gained more yards overall than Jacksonville, 343-310 despite running just 18 offensive plays in the second half.

Buffalo is now home for two straight weeks; divisional match ups against Miami next Sunday and the Jets in Toronto the following Thursday.  There’s a good chance they’ll fall to 3-9, which puts them very much in play for a top five draft pick in 2010.

They’ll need it.  Fewell is a stand up guy and the team clearly played with more fire under him.  But make no mistake, this is an organization in dire need of a massive overhaul, and keeping Fewell as head coach beyond January 3rd would merely serve as a band-aid.   Tim Graham from ESPN.com reported today that Wilson is willing to spend up to $10-million on a new head coach.

One of those candidates is Mike Shanahan, of whom Shannon Sharpe spoke candidly about today on the CBS pre-game show.

The future has many possibilities.  But for the time being let’s just hope for some competitive football.  They’ll surely play hard under Fewell, but with the injuries and inability to execute when it matters most, they’ll be lucky to win again this year.

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2 Comments on Injuries, Mistakes Waste Owens’ Big Day in 18-15 Loss

  1. Rick Rooney

    Please….someone in sports media write a story on WHY Aaron Maybin can’t get time on the field doing something!!

  2. Web Rumblings: Buffalo Bills Links, 11/22 | Buffalo Bills Blog

    [...] Injuries, Mistakes Waste Owens’ Big Day in 18-15 Loss : Buffalo Sports DailyPat Moran sounds sad as he writes his postgame recap. [...]

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