After a terrible 12-10 loss to the Houston Texans Sunday, all those expectations have been shattered. The fans, even though things have been looking mighty bleak the past three weeks, held onto hope that maybe the Bills could right their ship and start a winning streak again. Those hopes struck a mine and sank before the fifth straight sellout of the season.
The Bills should have easily manhandled the Texans, who are in just their second season since becoming an expansion team. Not only did the Texans have several key players out on defense, but near the start of the game, Houston lost their starting quarterback when he was sacked in the endzone by Posey. David Carr was hit on the blind side by Posey and fumbled the ball. It was knocked out of the grasp of Sam Adams and out of the endzone, who was attempting to recover it for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Carr bruised his shoulder on the sack and didn't play the rest of the game.
The Bills should have then devoured the Texans, taking their frustrations of the last few games out on this hard-luck team. Instead, it was Houston that frustrated the Bills. Once again, the Bills offense shot blanks. It has now gone 12 consecutive quarters without scoring a touchdown. Drew Bledsoe, the $100 million quarterback, appears clueless in the pocket, not being able to get the Bills into the endzone. He was sacked 5 times and threw for 184 yards. But once again, the leader of the offense couldn't finish the drives off, and the Bills had plenty of drives deep into Houston territory.
The Bills offense did drive the ball down the Texans throats. Travis Henry romped for 149 yards and suffered a cracked fibula in the second quarter, only to tough it out and play for most of the second half. Right before he suffered what could be a season-ending injury, Henry had a 65-yard gallop. Too bad the rest of the Bills don't have the courage to suck it in and go all out for the team. Henry, who has had plenty of criticism directed his way early in the season, must get kudos for playing while hurt. Only one other Bills great in recent memory comes to mind who would play no matter how much pain he was in....Jim Kelly. This team could use the guts and glory of those 4 Super Bowl teams. There doesn't seem to be any backbone in this team, outside of Henry and a couple of players on defense.
"I'll tell you what," Bledsoe said after the game. "I have as much respect for Travis as anybody I have ever played with. He runs very very hard, he runs tough, he is hard to tackle. He got hurt, was forced to come out of the game but came back in and played like a warrior."
Maybe Bledsoe could learn something from Henry.
The Bills fans realize that the season is basically over with practically no chance of making the playoffs. But what they now want is to see the team finally be able to cross the goal line and get what the Bills players seemed to forgotten how to do. In fact, the word "touchdown" is no longer in the Bills offensive vocabulary.
Sunday, the Bills scored first on that safety that Posey helped produce. Then the Bills could have had two field goals, but kicker Rian Lindell picked a horrible game to have a bad day. First he missed wide left on a 44-yarder, then he did one even better, blotching a gimmie, a 29-yard field goal attempt. If it were a windy day, maybe one could possibly use that as an excuse, but it was perfectly calm and the temps were in the mid 40s. Lindell's misses makes one long for Scott Norwood.
"I certainly didn't do my job," admitted Lindell. "You add six points to that score and we win. It's frustrating. It's embarrassing. That's my job. That's all I do. I don't work at the grocery store, I kick field goals, and when that doesn't happen it's embarrassing."
Lindell did finally make a couple field goals, but the damage was done.
With the Bills driving to the Texans 40-yard-line or beyond seven times and getting into the red zone 3 times, you'd think that the Bills could have scored at least one TD. The biggest blotch had to be when the Bills mismanaged their timeouts, having to call two on a single drive in the third quarter. The Bills actually got to the Houston 2 and on third down, Henry was unable to gain any yards. That's where Bills coach Gregg Williams showed that he doesn't have a grasp on the game. Instead of having the play already set to go on fourth down (remember how the Bills used to send in around 4 plays during their no-huddle offense days?), Williams had to call a timeout again to decide what play to call. He finally sent in the field goal unit. Those two timeouts wasted could have given the Bills a chance during their last drive late in the game.
Even Bills GM Tom Donahoe is starting to be alarmed over the incompetence of his coaches.
"You have to be careful with timeouts, because in a game like this, you might need one at the end," warned Donahoe. "You can't squander them."
Speaking about that final futile drive the Bills had with less than a minute to go, leave it to Bledsoe to have another gaffe that cost the Bills the game. Finally it appeared as if the Bills could pull this one out. Bledsoe had passed the Bills down to the Texans 31 yard line and still had time for a couple more plays when, on first down, he was hit by linebacker Jamie Sharper while standing in the pocket and fumbles the ball. Texans recover, game over.
Replays made it appear as if Bledsoe's arm had moving forward, making it an incomplete pass. The play was reviewed, but it was still ruled a fumble.
"You know I thought it looked like it (arm going forward) on the replay," said Bledsoe. "I thought it looked like my arm was coming forward. You just never want to leave those plays in the hands of the referees because you never know which way there are going to go."
This summer, the Bills fans had gotten their hopes higher than they had been since the 4-year Super Bowl run. Season tickets had climbed to their highest mark since 1996. Then when Lawyer Milloy was snagged from the Patriots and the blowouts of the first two Bills opponents, the great expectations of the Bills fans skyrocketed. Now, with the realization that their dreams were just that, dreams, the fans have come to the bitter realization that this could be more like two years ago when they were 3-13.
The fans could almost sue for false advertising. With all the hype and the way the Bills started, it was almost like a plan to sell tickets. The fans flocked to the ticket office, gobbing up all the tickets they could and the Bills front office piled in the dough. Now the fans are so mad, they feel like demanding their money back. They were sold a false "Bill" of goods.
Donahoe was in utter shock after the game. The team he put together, the coaches he hired, just weren't getting the job done and he had no explanation for it.
"It's hard for me to believe," Donahoe said. "It shouldn't be happening. But it's where we are. We have to come up with some answers. Right now we don't seem to have any answers."
Bills owner Ralph Wilson talked about personnel changes in the offseason.
"We need to get some players who can perform on Sunday," Wilson said. "They all look good on Saturday. Maybe we can get Tagliabue to schedule us on Saturday.
"Hopefully we win a game," Wilson continued. "A game. Just win one game, so the fans won't leave six minutes early."
The third in the chain of command, Gregg Williams, used "execution" as the key factor once again.
"We're not executing," Williams uttered for the umpteenth time. "You don't like to hear it, I don't like saying it over and over. We went up and down the field. You have to come away with those points."
Meanwhile, the fans were letting their feelings known, from the onset of the game to the bitter end. The Bronx cheer was the song the chorus sung throughout the ugly affair.
"You hear the boos, you definitely hear them," voiced Sam Gash. "We're not putting a good product on the field so they're definitely deserved."
"Our morale is down, the city is down and they should be," Bills tight end Mark Campbell said. "They were so excited for us in the beginning of the year when we were on fire. Since then, we've lost six out of eight. I've never been a part of something where we've struggled like this. There's no reason why we can't put up points."
Takeo Spikes, who is the unofficial voice for the defense, had plenty to complain about after the game.
"It's frustrating when you go out there and give it your all for four quarters and do everything you can as a defense to win the game and come out of it empty handed," Spikes said. "It's like being kicked in the stomach. As a defense, you try to make plays and create situations for the offense to have a short field. We felt like we did that today. Unfortunately, we couldn't put points on the board when we had a chance to do so.
"I don't feel like the defense has to go out and pitch shutouts. This is the NFL, and you're not going to shut a team down completely. Teams are going to score sometimes. But we have to score, too, when we have those opportunities."
Bledsoe knows the Bills fans are ready to throw him into the brink.
"I know that our fans are extremely frustrated and mad and the only thing I can say is we are, too," admitted Bledsoe. "I'm so mad, I don't know what to do. We come in, we work hard and try and do everything we can during the week to get prepared to play and score points, and we haven't done it. The only promise I can make is that we're going to keep doing that, we're going to finish the race."
"We get the ball inside the red zone, we've got to put some damn points on the board," Pat Williams said. "We were in the red zone three times. C'mon now. We got to come out with some points."
"We played well in spots, but we didn't do a good enough job to win," London Fletcher declared. "We didn't do a good job of tackling in a couple of crucial situations where we could have gotten the ball back to our offense. They scored 12 points, but they shouldn't have score a point. That's the way we as a defense have to look at it. We've got to make clutch situations on third down where we have defenses called to get off the field, but we didn't execute well enough on those two field goal opportunities. We can talk about how the offense is struggling, but we just have to do our part. We could have held this team scoreless. We lost because we didn't do that. That's the bottom line."
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