ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Walking into the Buffalo Bills’ locker room after their 35-34 loss to the Titans was like walking into a morgue.
All across the room players sat slumped on their stools in stunned disbelief. It was like what just took place was some kind of bad dream. Only it wasn’t a dream and what happened in the end can only be categorized as a nightmare.
For over three quarters Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was having a pretty good game and put his team in a position to win. Then came his disastrous interception late in the fourth quarter. The stunning way the team lost the game hit everyone hard.
“This one stings, especially right before the bye week,” said Fitzpatrick. “It hurts more because we felt like we were in a position to win. They made the plays down the stretch and we didn’t,” said tight end Scott Chandler.
“Oh yeah, it is frustrating,” said Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay. “I wish I could tell you (why it keeps happening), I really do. It is embarrassing.”
“We gave the game away,” said Bills linebacker Nick Barnett. “We gave it away. We made too many mistakes. The mistakes we made they capitalized on and scored touchdowns.”
While Barnett tried to give credit to the Titans he said the bottom line is the Bills blew it.
“They didn’t beat us. I think we are a better team. I mean I give them credit for doing what they’re supposed to do but we gave the game away. That’s what it comes down to.”
Asked to give his assessment as to why the Bills lost the game, head coach Chan Gailey described it as a total team effort.
“Lack of execution on our part all the way around in the fourth quarter.”
The life was sucked out of the Bills after the Titans took the lead with 1:03 left in the game. When they took over on offence they completed two short passes before misfiring on third and fourth down.
“We were both fighting and they ended up making the plays at the end and we didn’t so that was the cause of our loss,” said receiver Stevie Johnson.
If the Bills’ locker room was dead silent the Titans’ room was anything but. After back-to-back wins over the Steelers and the Bills the Titans are now 3-4. The hero of the game for the Titans was their 37-year-old back-up quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck threw for 205 yards and only one touchdown but that throw turned out to be a game-winner to Nate Washington.
“The coaches I think designed the play to go to Nate (Washington). I was looking at Jared (Cook) first, and I think I held the safety just a little bit. The wind kind of took the ball and put it in their nice; Nate made a great catch,” said Hasselbeck.
Titans guard Steve Hutchinson is now in his 12th year in the NFL and feels Hasselbeck’s experience and sense of calm in the huddle really paid off on that game winning touchdown drive.
“Matt has had to go through a lot of adversity in his career early on. When we were together in Seattle he was seemingly always fighting for his position the first couple of years,” he said. “He just doesn’t get flustered and I think that’s a quality that a lot of very good quarterbacks have. He’s just been around so long and done it; I think he feels comfortable under pressure.”
Notes: Former general manager Bill Polian had his name added to the Bills Wall of Fame at half time … A lot of the 68,836 fans in attendance who booed the team off the field at the end of the game were likely wondering if the glory days during the Polian era will ever come back.
Forget about Fitzpatrick’s three touchdown passes and his 109.8 quarterback rating, his interception with 3:03 to go in the fourth quarter killed any chance of the Bills winning the game. Fitzpatrick absolutely can not throw an interception at that point in the game. It was a poor decision on his part and an even worse throw.
“I just got greedy in a situation that I did not have any business being greedy on. It was a dumb throw, dumb decision by me,” he said.
It might sound harsh but good quarterbacks don’t throw an interception at that point in the game.
Running Backs: A
You can’t hang this loss on Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Buffalo’s backfield duo combined for 222 yards of total offence and one touchdown. Not only did Jackson and Spiller do a solid job running the football but they led the team in total receptions with eight and six respectively. Spiller was in no mood to talk about his good performance after the game.
“We had an opportunity to win the game and we didn’t.”
Through no fault of their own the Bills’ receivers and tight ends caught less than half of the team’s receptions in this game. They were not as much of a factor in this game as Spiller and Jackson.
Offensive Line: C
For the most part the Bills’ offensive line did a good job opening holes for Jackson and Spiller as the running game had a productive day. However, the offensive line also allowed Kamerion Wimbley to come in untouched and nail Fitzpatrick with a blind-side sack. Wimbley hit Fitzpatrick so hard that it forced a fumble and eventually a Titans touchdown.
Defensive line and linebackers: F
When you allow the other team’s running back to run for almost 200 yards there’s no other grade to give them. Chris Johnson ended up running for 195 yards and two touchdowns as he had his most productive game since Nov. 1, 2009 when he ran for 228 yards in a win over the Jaguars. On Johnson’s 83-yard romp in the first quarter he exploded through the line of scrimmage untouched and raced to the end zone.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a game versus them (the Bills),” said Johnson.
High priced free agent defensive end Mario Williams was a no show once again as he failed to register a sack or even a hit on the quarterback.
“I’m hesitant. I got a lot of hesitation and I don’t know if it’s just me in general, but that’s on me and that’s fine. I know I have to change that, believe me,” said Williams.
On the game-winning touchdown throw to Washington, Hasselbeck had all the time in the world to sit in the pocket and make his read.
“For him (Hasselbeck) to just two-step, throw it up there and for him (Washington) to come down with it, it was tough,” said Williams.
Secondary: Grade C
Hasselbeck and the Titans’ offence were nine of 14 on third down conversions. Part of the blame goes to the Bills’ weak pass rush but the secondary deserves a share of the blame as well. The real back-breaker came when Washington was allowed to get open in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. They might have been tired from chasing down Johnson all day after the front seven kept allowing him to breeze through the line of scrimmage.
Special Teams: A+
Buffalo’s special teams certainly gave them a chance to win. Rian Lindell nailed both of his field goal attempts and Brad Smith returned a kick-off for an 89-yard touchdown. Smith and Leodis McKelvin combined to average 46 yards on kick-off returns.
In a loss like this it has hard to find any good in the coaching. Johnson shredded the Bills for 195 yards and Hasselbeck had a field day converting on third down. The real head scratcher for Gailey and his coaching staff took place when the Bills were second and four on their own 40 yard line on that fateful fourth quarter drive that ended in the Fitzpatrick interception. The Bills were averaging 6.9 yards per carry so it was confusing as to why they wouldn’t run the ball when they had the lead and the Titans were desperate to get the ball back. Any time you score 34 points at home you should win.
Unless Dave Wannstedt and his staff can get the defence straightened out the Bills are doomed to have another year out of the post-season.
“I did not think we would give up many yards as we have given up. No, I did not foresee that,” said Gailey. “We just have to find out exactly what the problems are and we are not solving them right now. If we do not, we are in for a long year.”
Up Next: The Bills will now enter their bye week before they take off for two brutal road games against the Texans and Patriots.