Last week’s loss to the Patriots was a perfect microcosm of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the 2012 Buffalo Bills; good enough to compete, bad enough to lose.
In two of the Bills last three losses Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown costly interceptions late in the fourth quarter that either allowed the other team a chance to score the winning points (see Titans game) or killed a chance of the Bills pulling off an upset (see Patriots game).
One of the main reasons behind the Bills 3-6 record has been Fitzpatrick’s penchant for a late, back breaking interception. While that sounds harsh, the Bills are not good enough of a team to overcome untimely turnovers and still find ways to win. Going into week 11 the Bills have turned the ball over 21 times, only the Chiefs are worse in the AFC. The combination of untimely turnovers and needless penalties has just added to Chan Gailey’s mess as the Bills slog through another disappointing season.
There is a silver lining to the Bills season; their second half schedule. Beginning with Thursday night’s game versus the Dolphins, Buffalo could go on a nice run over its final seven games. The operative word there being “could”. The only way that happens is if they stop turning the ball over, stop taking so many penalties and start playing tougher defence.
If the Bills are going to snap their three game losing streak and turn their season back around they will need to find a way to deal with Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake. According to footballoutsiders.com Wake caused opposing team’s to take 13 holding penalties in an effort to stop him in 2011. This year is no different as Wake comes into the game with 8.5 sacks and the respect of any offensive lineman that has the unenviable task of trying to block him. When speaking with reporters this week Fitzpatrick said “Cameron Wake is a guy you have to know where he is. He is just able to change the game with as quick as he is and being able to rush the passer.”
Chan Gailey began the week by declaring that running back Fred Jackson would miss the game with “concussion like symptoms”. That means C.J. Spiller will take on a greater role in the offence; not that it’s a bad thing. Spiller is averaging 7.3 yards a carry and has more runs 20 yards or longer (seven) than Arian Foster (five) despite 134 fewer carries. If the Bills can establish Spiller against the Dolphins solid run defence it will take a lot of pressure off Fitzpatrick from feeling he has to throw the ball 40 times in order to win.
After winning four straight games the Dolphins come into this game having lost two in-a-row by a combined score of 60-23. At the same time Reggie Bush is coming off a game where he was benched by head coach Joe Philbin after a fumble. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offence should be able to have some success against a Bills defence that is allowing an average of 31.7 points per game. When Tannehill does drop back to pass, his number one target has been Brian Hartline, who is putting together a fabulous season.
The Bills are hoping that Mario Williams can be the same kind of disruptive force that Wake is for Miami. If Williams and the Bills’ front seven can contain Bush and get some pressure on Tannehill, they have a good chance of snapping their three game losing skid.