The Buffalo Bills got nearly all the help they could hope for Sunday with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and San Diego Chargers all losing elsewhere with the Indianapolis Colts standing right in front of their faces.
Problem is– they couldn’t help themselves.
With any realistic playoff hopes on the line, the Bills traveled to Indianapolis and the head coach/quarterback tandem of Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick saved their worst performances for when it mattered most.
One stunk on the field while the other was equally abysmal from the sideline and when it was over, Buffalo fell to the Colts, 20-13 to essentially extend their playoff drought to 13 years—and running.
You can break down all the plays and key moments of this game from now until February but if you do, you’re pulling a Gailey and outthinking yourself. The Bills are 4-7 and on postseason life support for one huge reason and one only— Andrew Luck made plays and Fitzpatrick far too often didn’t.
In a seven point loss Fitzpatrick was 100% responsible for leaving 10 off the board. He missed a wide open C.J. Spiller down the sideline for what would’ve been an easy touchdown in the first quarter (Bills would later settle for a field goal) and an equally open Donald Jones down the same sideline again in the second, leading to a punt.
Yes, the defense often couldn’t get off the field and blown coverage assignments led to a returned punt for a touchdown, ultimately providing the winning margin, but that’s not why the Bills lost this game.
It’s because of Fitzpatrick.
I’m not sure what Gailey’s approval rating is today among fans, but this morning’s record- low mortgage rates are likely higher. This guy is toast and I find it impossible to fathom Buddy Nix not seeing what everyone else does. Nix doesn’t have to be a lifelong “football guy” to conclude Gailey’s in way over his head as this team’s primary decision maker.
His mistakes are Sunday are too many to mention, but some stick out more than others. At one point Gailey declined to attempt a 51-52 yard field goal by Rian Lindell, instead electing to punt and play field position. It was pretty obvious throughout this would be a tight affair and if you employ a kicker who can’t be trusted to attempt a long field goal indoors, he shouldn’t be on your roster.
That’s nothing compared to his mangled clock management in the final minute of the first half. After a punt the Bills had the ball on their eight yard line with just 58 seconds left and Indy having two timeouts. Rather than running the clock out with two running backs on your team, who by the way are pretty bad good, Gailey inexplicably called pass plays on first and second down, both of which were incomplete. So after giving the Colts basically two free time outs, Gailey decides to run on third and 10 and is stuffed.
The Colts ended up with the ball on Buffalo’s 28 (after a penalty on the punt) and came within about of yard of scoring a touchdown before setting for a field goal to end the half.
A free three points for Indianapolis—thanks, Chan.
Gailey’s inability to consistently get the ball in the hands of Spiller, who everyone acknowledges as their best player, is utterly maddening. Spiller ran for 107 yards on just 14 carries, which considering the way Fitzpatrick was slinging the ball most the day was 14 carries too few. In fact, Spiller went the final 13:33 of the game without a single carry.
Incredibly, that’s not a misprint. One of the most explosive runners in the NFL didn’t get a single carry for nearly the entire final quarter of a winnable game. Even more incredibly, Gailey went with Fred Jackson on the majority of Buffalo’s final offensive drive over Spiller and said postgame that it was “Fred’s turn.”
Wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who finally had a 100-yard receiving game was extremely critical of Gailey in the locker room, telling reporters he thinks the team would be better off if Fitzpatrick started calling more plays. Trust me, he’s just saying what a lot of his teammates feel.
Not only is Gailey a mediocre manager of talent, he’s also downright delusional. Gailey continues to tell the media the New York Giants were merely 7-7 last season before ultimately winning the Super Bowl.
Last I checked Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning aren’t in the Bills locker room. It’s closer to “Barf for Barkley” time for most than spending another mindless second thinking about the postseason.
Truth is the Bills are right about where they should be, considering their inferior head coach and quarterback. As Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan astutely pointed out Buffalo is either 5-6 or 4-7 at this point of the season for the 10th time in 11 years.
That’s not bad luck—that’s a losing culture.
Nix needs to get pink slips ready at season’s end if he wants to maintain an ounce of credibility in this part of the country. There’s no way this team goes further with Fitzpatrick and Gailey than it is right now. They are good people in the locker room and community, but perfectly symbolic of this franchise’s mediocrity on the field.
I wouldn’t hold my breath. Nix probably won’t do anything other than fire Dave Wannstedt, who’s become the 2012 excuse machine for everyone. Forget the fact that the Bills defense has been notably better in recent weeks. I’m not saying Wannstedt shouldn’t be replaced, in fact I’m confident he’ll be gone in about six weeks, but he’ll be the likely scapegoat for everything when the season is over.
Why would Nix be forced to pull the trigger on franchise-altering moves? It’s not like he works for an owner demanding excellence.
Nix preaches continuity. That’s a load of crap. The only thing continuous about the Bills is their underachieving ways. Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and Minnesota had three of the first five draft picks this past April and are all legitimately in playoff contention less than a year later.
Two of the three have first year head coaches. All possess quality young quarterbacks.
Get it together, Buddy…. You have neither.
For what it’s worth I think Nix deserves an involuntary early retirement as well. Anyone see Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton perform yesterday?
Probably not, but I bet you saw Aaron Williams tweeting during the game.