Week 17: Bills Blown Away In The Wind 13-0
The wind was a huge factor in the Bills shutout loss.
by Steve Saslow
The Bills were looking to play hard and give Ralph Wilson a reason to keep Dick Jauron. The wind was a huge factor in the game making evaluating the play on the field very tough to do. The clock management issues and lack of discipline may give Wilson reason enough to fire Jauron as the Bills finished their season with a 13-0 loss to the Patriots. The 40mph winds that caused damage to the field house forced adjustments in how the game was played. LaMont Jordan scored the only touchdown of the game and both kickers missed field goals in the shutout loss.
This game was all about the wind. You could not move the ball going into the scoreboard end zone until the wind subsided a bit in the fourth quarter. It was so bad the Patriots took the third option when they won the coin toss. They elected to take the wind and kickoff instead of deferring to the 2nd half. The Bills did get a first down into the wind on three straight runs by Fred Jackson who had a busy day with the passing game non existent and Marshawn Lynch on the sidelines.
The Bills were forced to punt and a 13 yard kick into the wind gave the Patriots great field position but a third and 1 stop and a false start on 4th down forced a punt. Leodis McKelvin couldn't gather in the ball and it could have been a touchdown for the Patriots but they couldn't come up with the ball. Jackson picked it up in the end zone for a touchback.
The Bills went three and out after three straight Jackson runs gained eight yards. The Patriots then used a timeout to conserve time with the wind. That was an excellent display of coaching. Do you think Dick Jauron would do the same thing? He did in the second quarter but you have to wonder if he would have thought to do that himself. Moorman's second punt was a bit better but died in midair after it went 35 yards. The Patriots moved down the field thanks to two play action passes to Heath Evans and some nice running by Sammy Morris. The defense stiffened and gave up only a 33 yard field goal to Buffalo native Steve Gostkowksi that gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead.
The Bills continued to keep it on the ground hoping to run out the first quarter as quickly as possible. After two runs for no gains, Jackson took a draw on third and 10 and ran through a hole on the left side for 13 yards. That first down would allow them to run out the first quarter clock and give them the ball and the wind near midfield to start the 2nd quarter. It was definitely a moral victory to come out of the first quarter only down by a field goal. They had 13 offensive plays and they were all runs, Jackson had 12 of them for 40 yards.
Edwards wasted no time throwing with the wind at his back hitting Lee Evans for 13 yards on the first play of the 2nd quarter. Jackson followed it up with a hard fought seven yard run to give them a first down. For the second set of downs in a row they would then be backed up by a false start penalty. The drive stalled there and when Jackson got banged up, they stunningly gave the ball to Xavier Omon on third and 9 instead of putting it in the air. He got two yards and then Rian Lindell's 46 yard field goal attempt took a hard right and was no good to the right even though Lindell aimed to the left with the kick. Why not throw it when you have nothing to lose? Was Omon going to get a first down there? Was Lindell going to hit a 46 yarder with swirling winds like it was an extra point? Another questionable play call by Dick Jauron.
The missed field goal kept it a three point game and now the Patriots would have to move it into the wind for the first time and they would look to run off time on the clock with the running game. They turned to LaMont Jordan and he broke off 23 quick yards on four straight run plays to move into Buffalo territory and burn clock into the wind. Then on a fourth and five play, Matt Cassell scrambled and broke a tackle by Reggie Corner to spin away for the first down. The Bills were deflated at that time, Corner has to bring the quarterback down short of the first down. Cassell looked bigger then the diminutive Corner. Jordan would get 15 yards on his next two carries to set the Patriots up in the red zone. The effective drive bogged down in the wind and they had to settle for a 26 yard field goal attempt. The Bills were able to ice the kicker thanks to the stoppage in play to re-level the goal post. Gutkowski was wide right into the wind to keep the score 3-0. Both kickers were wide right in opposite ends of the field in the second quarter as the wind was definitely going in a diagonal direction.
The Bills seemed more comfortable with running out the clock instead of trying to score with the wind late in the 2nd quarter. That is everyone was comfortable except Jackson who bounced off of two players and ran in the cutback lane for 32 yards. He then took a third and three play 13 yards and a two yard run on the next play gave him 100 yards rushing in the first half. That was all well and good but could they score.
There was total chaos after that, Edwards ran back to the sidelines before running on the field and racing to the line to get the ball off before the play clock expired. A run by Jackson brought more chaos as whistles blew when there was a raucous down on the field started by Duke Preston away from the ball. The Bills tried to get lined up for a field goal but appeared confused as the last guy on the field was the long snapper Ryan Neill. Jackson also ran off with the ball after his run. The whistles definitely confused the issue but the Bills were in total disarray which doesn't look good when you are trying to save the coach's job. You can't allow yourself to get into a fight when you need the points. They didn't use their timeouts right in that final drive and they came away with no points despite being down by the goal line. Jackson ran his heart out finishing the half with 103 yards. They were still scoreless trailing 3-0 at halftime and with the players irate, the boneheaded play by Preston, and the fans booing it might as well have been 30-0 instead of 3-0.
The Bills made an interesting call to take the wind in the third quarter instead of the fourth quarter. The defense seemed fired up but Bill Belichick out schooled Jauron again forcing the Bills to call a timeout when he brought his offense on the field on 4th and 12. He would then punt but it did force the Bills to do one of the things they do best, waste a timeout as the punt return team was on the field against the Patriots offense.
Chris Hanson then had a 46 yard punt into the wind, something Moorman couldn't do, and the Bills started out at their own 36 yard line. After Jackson got them a first down Edwards did his J.P. Losman impression. He got hit from his blind side on a rare pass attempt and fumbled the ball away. The Patriots would be able to run out most of the rest of the third quarter and put points on the board into the wind. They converted two fourth downs including the first pass attempt in the wind in the entire game for either team. That setup the two yard touchdown run by Jordan to give the Patriots an insurmountable 10-0 lead with just 4:39 to go in the third quarter and the Patriots getting the wind at their back in the fourth quarter.
There should have been a sense of urgency at that point but everyone knew it except for the Bills. They didn't go no huddle knowing they didn't have the wind in the fourth quarter. They ran it once and threw it twice before punting away. The Patriots would gain a first down after the Bills wasted another timeout trying to get the ball back before the quarter expired. At that point the rest of the air went out of the balloon and then Donte Whitner's sails.
On the last play of the third quarter Whitner was knocked out cold by Morris on a run that went into Bills territory. The quarter ended with Whitner flat on his back. He would get up and go to the locker room but it wasn't the way this season was suppose to end for Whitner He guaranteed a playoff berth but none was coming for a ninth straight season and now the Bills were about to lose their eighth in their last 10 games of the season.
It was now just a long, drawn out, final quarter left for another miserable season to come to a merciful end. You knew since they were playing the Patriots it would be torture watching the way this season would end. A season with so much promise was coming down to watching the Patriots put the Bills away for the 11th straight time and 16th in the last 17th meeting of the two teams. They would finish their long scoring drive with the wind at their back and another Gutkowski field goal from 23 yards out to give them a 13-0 lead.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse it looked like Jauron was trying to get himself fired. The Bills have been running well all game long and 4th and short on the Bills next possession he somehow throws the football??? Of course it was incomplete and the Bills turned the ball over on downs. Didn't they learn anything from the Jets loss??? They didn't even fake the run, they got in a pass formation so the element of surprise wasn't even an option. How could you throw it into the wind at that spot unless you want to get fired.
Belichick showed what a good coach could do when they quick kicked on third down with Cassell sending a punt rolling down to the one yard line. The Bills probably should have countered by taking a knee in the end zone for a safety. Instead they moved the ball fairly well into the wind that was subsiding on their next two possessions but never got close to scoring in the loss.
This season is now over and Dick Jauron has led the team to three straight 7-9 seasons. If the fact that he got a contract extension back in October keeps him in Buffalo, then it shows that Ralph Wilson doesn't care about winning. So why should the fans care so much? At least they can be happy that they won't see another Bills loss until September. They've seen enough of them the past 10 weeks of the season.
Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats from the Bills game against the Patriots:Gameballs