Local business owner Russ Salvatore charitably agreed to purchase several thousand Buffalo Bills tickets earlier this week to avoid a blackout so everyone could watch them take on the St. Louis Rams at Ralph Wilson Stadium; an early Christmas gift for rabid Bills fans.
My sense is with the home finale against the New York Jets lurking in three weeks, a Salvatore sequel will have fans pleading thanks, but no thanks.
Already long established innovators of finding ways to snatch victory away, the Bills snubbed a Rams team seemingly petitioning to get blown out and by the time it was over, Buffalo sauntered off the field doleful losers, 15-12 and assured of avoiding their first winning campaign since 2004.
As is often the case Chan Gailey was at his unadulterated worst in a close contest. He managed his team like a coward at the end of the first half in playing for a field goal, punted on a fourth and seven from the Rams 34 in the fourth quarter and again put the game in the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of sticking with a formidable run attack, led by a back every other coach in the league apparently other than Gailey would die for.
Someone again neglected to tell Gailey that C.J. Spiller is one of the game’s best running backs. How else can you possibly rationalize Spiller having exactly eight touches for the entire game?
In fact, Spiller had consecutive runs of 13 yards in the third quarter, and then had one more touch over the final 21:47 of the game and none over the final 9:05 after he was stuffed for a one yard gain.
Conversely, Fred Jackson ran nine times for 14 yards with 13 coming on one carry; a scamper through a gaping hole Spiller might’ve taken 51 yards and a score with his speed.
Jackson also lost a fumble on the final play of the first quarter on a first down in the red zone from the St. Louis 14.
It’s not that Jackson isn’t an appreciated asset—he is. If nothing else he’s certainly a lot better than Tashard Choice. The issue is Gailey refuses to not see Jackson and Spiller as equals.
Unfortunately for all and especially Gailey, he has no choice but to turn to Spiller because Jackson re-injured his knee in the fourth quarter and could be done for the year.
Overall the Bills threw 38 times and ran just 20 despite possessing a December lead at home for most of the game.
Not only is Gailey in over his head as coach of this team, he’s growing more delusional with each postgame press conference. Two weeks ago he embarrassingly compared his team to last year’s New York Giants, and Sunday he told reporters Spiller comes out because he gets winded after a long run.
Fitzpatrick went 25-of-33 for 247 yards, a touchdown and probably performed well enough to win, although his desperation interception by Jo-Lonn Dunbar with 21 seconds left clinched the Bills fate.
Ever the diplomat, Fitzpatrick said postgame that in his opinion the Bills weren’t running because the Rams were doing a good job of stopping it. Really? Someone should’ve told him Buffalo only attempted seven runs in the second half and three went for 13 yards.
For the love of God, even when the Bills scored their lone touchdown, a short pass to a wide-open Lee Smith, his failed leap into the stands is being mocked nationwide.
What else? How about an offensive line that was abused all day, allowing the Rams five sacks and hitting Fitzpatrick enough that he may not emerge from his hot tub until Thursday. Clearly the team felt the sting of not having Pro Bowl center Eric Wood’s services. Out with a knee injury, his replacement David Snow looked woefully overmatched in his first start. Sam Young wasn’t much better at right tackle in place of Chris Hairston.
The Bills also hurt themselves with penalties. Stephon Gilmore picked up his first interception of his career and returned it 62 yards for what would’ve been a touchdown, but Kyle Moore was penalized for a block in the back. To be fair the call on Moore was preposterous as the Rams lineman took a dive, but there was no need to have his hands in the vicinity of his back.
The Bills ended up with a field goal after the penalty—a net loss of four points. They would lose the game by three… you do the math.
Despite all the appalling miscues that happened, the Bills held the lead most of the way and had safety George Wilson caught just one of the two passes that generously found his mitts over the final two minutes, Buffalo would’ve been victorious.
Sadly it’s the second time this season Wilson dropped a would be, game-winning interception. His drop on a Matt Hasselbeck pass against Tennessee also led to a last minute loss.
Just think, if Wilson didn’t have rock hands the Bills would be 7-6 right now and tied with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh for the final AFC Wild Card spot. As crazy as that sounds, it’s 100% true. The Buffalo Bills are two George Wilson “don’t drop gift interceptions” away from a game over .500 and having a genuine shot at the postseason.
Of course Wilson doesn’t make that play. He doesn’t make that play because that’s the way things go in Buffalo. These folks are high character chaps who play as hard as they can every Sunday. Regrettably that isn’t good enough to be winners in the National Football League. This is a losing team with a loser mentality mired in a losing culture.
It’s hard to not to feel sorry for the fans. No one circles prospects for next year’s NFL draft in early December like fans of the Buffalo Bills.
Worst part? The winds of change aren’t blowing at One Bills Drive anytime soon. Short of the team laying down over the last three weeks, Buddy Nix won’t be firing Gailey. They’ll also probably stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least one more season while they (finally) attempt to develop a young quarterback.
Ralph Wilson, Nix and anyone with authority to make decisions persist to advocate continuity. In other words, this team will continue to never reach its full potentially with this slothful regime in charge.
We’ll have much more on this catastrophe over the next 48 hours.