Throughout the week, I’ve heard all sorts of explanations for us losing this game – heard all sorts of reasons for why it’s time to panic – heard all sorts of reasons as to why we’re ‘falling off.’ Can we be honest, folks? The sky’s not falling. The end is not near. It’s football – losses happen. If you need to find a scapegoat for this loss to feed the beast for some sadistic reason, I’ll give you two – quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and his head coach, Chan Gailey.
We’ll start with the most obvious of the two in Gailey. You could just see that he was unsure of what to do all game long against Rex Ryan’s defensive schemes, and he even admitted that much to the media this week, calling it one of the most poorly coached games of his career. I’ll tip my hat to that, because it was god awful. We went to our bread-and-butter screen play ONCE all game long and it went for over twenty yards. Why not try that again if you know it works? His decision to run a draw with Jackson set back seven yards on fourth and inches had me scratching my head (it didn’t work, if you were wondering). It’s not a good look for a team that plays, essentially, the same defense in two of their next three games. You’ve got to imagine that Rex and his brother Rob compared notes in anticipation of Gailey’s unit traveling down to Dallas, exposing quirks and nuances that regular film review can’t see. Maybe, being the thinking man that he is, Chan was taking the preseason approach to this game – running vanilla, not showing much at all, simply because he faces Rob this week and Rex again in two weeks and wanted the actual offense to be effective for the Dallas game and the re-match with the Jets at the Meadowlands. Maybe, but incredibly doubtful. Chan had a bad week, plain and simple. He’s got to do whatever it is that he can to right the ship mentally moving forward, though.
The other problem child here is our beloved gunslinger having the same damned issues that I’ve been pointing out all year. Fitzpatrick spent the entire game locking on, ignoring his progressions, and forcing asinine throws. I’m all for having faith in your receivers. I encourage it, even, but you can’t expect these guys to go out and break through every coverage or beat every defender. Ryan loves to force throws to, more than anyone else, slot receiver David Nelson. On consecutive drives in the 2nd quarter, 14 had time and shot the rock at a fully covered Nelson. On the first of those plays, Nelson was double covered and the pass was intercepted by Calvin Pace. On the second? Triple coverage resulted in a David Harris interception. He did squeeze one in to 86 for a garbage time touchdown late in the game, but Fitzpatrick needs to break himself of this habit. He did it consistently throughout this one with Johnson, as well, especially after 13 beat Darelle Revis down the right sideline for a beautiful long ball, which gave Ryan the mindset that Stevie would be able to break free every time. On the Bills’ final play of the half, Fitz took no time at all to check coverage or look for other targets, just lobbed the ball to a double-covered Johnson in the endzone. Stevie had no shot at it, and that was the story with most of the receivers throughout this game. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen Donald Jones and others get laid out a few times too many trying to chase inaccurate passes this year. Hopefully these parts of his game will wane in the coming weeks because we can’t afford to not have the main cog of this machine operating properly.
Those two weren’t the only things wrong with the boys in bl…white this week, though. What was up with the pass coverage? I understand that the Jets have weapons – Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Dustin Keller – but there is no way that they should be wide open on every single play. None of our defensive backs could stick with these guys, and that right there is reason enough to be glad that Mark Sanchez isn’t half the quarterback that he’s talked up to be. Also, take some time this week – focus on number 91, Spencer Johnson. Watching Johnson play outside linebacker, where the team has him now, is scary. We’re talking Joe Namath’s thing for Suzy Kolber scary, not Fred Jackson’s running style – big difference. Spencer was a good defensive tackle – he’s been a serviceable end – he’s horrendous at linebacker. 91’s size (6’3″, 305 lbs) makes him the definition of a liability in coverage and he offers nothing in the way of a pass rush while standing up. I know that he can’t be faulted for the coaches squeezing him in there to cover for injuries, but if he’s gotta play off the line again after this span someone’s gotta be fired because your depth should never be that bad. Don’t want to harp on the special teams units as they’ve been, overall, very good this year but we wouldn’t be talking about Dave Rayner suiting up to kick for the next 4-6 games if these guys could figure out how to stay in their lanes and make a tackle. Lindell hurt his shoulder making a tackle after no less than five Bills players watched the New York return man breeze by them from fifteen yards away.
I don’t want to sound like I’m just writing this to tear these guys apart, because I’m not. There were some positives in the otherwise lackluster showing – Byrd’s pick and Wilson’s pick-ruled-incompletion were both incredible plays keeping us in the game, and Alex Carrington looked good again at linebacker, getting decent pressure and picking up a sack in the first quarter. Jackson ran like an animal against a stingy Jet defense, a recurring story this year, and Moorman’s kickoff in the third after taking over for Lindell was excellent, sailing eight yards deep into the endzone. Other than that, there wasn’t much else memorable from this one for us, however.
I don’t like to give props to these guys, I really don’t. As far as players go, I’ve got respect for one former Jet player – defensive back Steve Ebbecke (if you’ve heard of him, go ahead and pat yourself on the back) for producing a good friend of mine – and current coach Rex Ryan for being a brilliant defensive coordinator. Past those two, if it’s wearing green and white, I don’t want to talk about it. Still, you’ve gotta give credit where it’s due for Ryan outclassing his equal in Gailey this week. Hopefully, Chan has something up his sleeve for the next two meetings with the Ryans this year as our playoff hopes literally depend on it.
Here’s hoping. Until next time, Bills fans..