The Bills playoff hopes are dead in the water after a messy 10-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Red zone woes killed the Bills as they got inside the 10 three times and came away with just three points. Rian Lindell missed two field goals and the Bills bogged down in the red zone, often giving up on a running game that was working very well behind Marshawn Lynch. He ran for 134 yards in the loss.
The 49ers scored the only points they would need on the opening drive. The Bills deferred the ball to the second half and for the second straight game they would watch their opponent march right down the field. San Francisco converted four third down plays including three completions of 16, 15, and 18 yards as the Bills were getting no pressure and their were many open spaces in the secondary. Shawn Hill hit Issac Bruce for the final 12 yards of the drive and a touchdown to give the 49ers the early 7-0 lead.
The first half started settling into a close knit battle as the two teams traded punts and then the Bills took off on an 18 play, 85 yard drive that ended when Rian Lindell missed his first field goal from inside the 40 in 54 tries as his chip shot field goal bounced off the goal post. It was a shock that he missed the kick but what was even more baffling was the play calling leading up to the miss. They were running the ball very well as Fred Jackson barreled his way to the two yard line as he gained five hard fought yards on 1st and goal from the 7. So instead of just manning up and running it twice in a row if they needed to, they passed both times to no avail setting up the ill fated kick.
At that point it seemed it wasn't going to be the Bills day, and the defense needed to get a big stop but allowed another big play on third down as Hill hit Jason Hill for a 20 yard gain to get the next drive going. Fortunately a Ryan Denney sack stopped that drive.
The Bills have done a good job all year winning the field position battle but were fighting it the entire first half. Roscoe Parrish ill advised fielding of the ensuing punt at his one gave the Bills their second drive start inside the 20, this one at the 7 yard line. After an 11 yard run by Marshawn Lynch gave them breathing room, they had three poor plays in a row to force a punt.
The field position advantage continued for the 49ers as a second poor punt in a row from Brian Moorman set them up in Bills territory late in the first half as they looked to extend their lead but a dropped pass to another wide open receiver on third down gave the Bills a break and forced a punt.
At that point I would have been happy with the Bills going into the locker room only down by seven. In such a sloppy half of football, you figured the Bills would make a blunder. Lynch fumbled the ball away as he was fighting for more yards. That was weird since the Bills were really trying to run the first half out and gave the 49ers some points instead. Terrence McGee had a pass breakup on a deep pass, although he should have picked it off, and that allowed a Joe Nedney 51 yard field goal just before halftime. That gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead at the half that proved to be insurmountable the way the Bills were playing. They showed no emotion and played very lackluster in the opening thirty minutes and were lucky they weren't down by more. They would have been if they weren't playing a team with just three wins all season going in to the game.
Trent Edwards did not play in the 2nd half and many thought he was benched for ineffectiveness but instead it was a groin injury. I was interested in seeing if they would have had a spark under J.P. Losman. It started well with a 37 yard kickoff return by Leodis McKelvin and a 19 yard Lynch run. They would then go three and out from there as Losman overthrew a receiver and bobbled a shotgun snap.
The Bills decided to play to gain the field position edge in the second half as they punted on 4th and 10 just outside of field goal range. The defense finally got a three and out to give the Bills the ball back at their own 41. Lynch promptly broke off a 50 yard run to the nine yard line but the Bills failed to punch it in again after Roscoe Parrish dropped a catcheable ball in the end zone on third and goal from the 4. Lindell hit the chip shot field goal this time to get the Bills on the board but being down 10-3 seemed much worse because of the offense's inabililty to put the ball in the end zone.
Hill promptly moved the 49ers down the field thanks to another big pass play over the middle as Bruce caught a 19 yarder to get them to midfield. Then the first of a few questionable calls on this series went against the Bills. Leodis McKelvin was called for his second pass interference penalty of the game that gave the 49ers another third down conversion and cost the Bills a timeout when they challenged that the pass was tipped.
Frank Gore ran for a first down and then fumbled as he hit the ground and they called him down by contact. The Bills never touched him and challenged for the second time in three plays. This time they won the challenge and got the ball back. They then ventured on their second very long drive of the game as they went 75 yards in 15 plays but it ended when a 4th and 2 pass from the 7 was knocked down. It was a gamble to go for it and not take the three points and it didn't pay off.
The defense came up with a big stop and the Bills took over at the 49ers 25 yard line and after Parrish returned the punt to the 40 yard line and a personal foul penalty was tacked on the end of the run. Once again they came up with no points as Lindell missed his second kick of the game a 40 yarder and for the second time today he hit the left upright.
The defense never let down in this game as they forced the 49ers to punt on the next possession after allowing one first down. That gave Losman one more longshot chance. They had no timeouts left when they got the ball at their own 18 with 1:47 left, thanks to two wasted timeouts. The Bills went four and out as Losman just looked lost, and disinterested like a player that has already left town. If Edwards can't go next week because of his injury than maybe the team should take a look at Gibran Hamdan since he may be here next year and Losman won't be.
The four play debacle to end the game was a perfect ending to a game in which the Bills just plain stunk. Everyone was wondering about how the 49ers would deal with Buffalo weather. We sometimes forget that Trent Edwards has yet to play well in poor conditions and didn't do anything to dispel that belief in his one half of work. No West coast team had won on the East coast this year until today. The Bills had beaten three west coast teams at the Ralph earlier this year but those games were from a happier time, before the mid season collapse. Now the team can't even beat a three win team from the West at home.
The one good thing about this loss is that we no longer have false hope that the Bills just may crawl back into the playoff race. There is no more wondering and we can now go on with our holiday season plans knowing they don't need to include the very disappointing Bills who will be out of the post season party for a record ninth straight year.
Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats from the Bills game against the 49ers: