By Ed Kilgore
The Bills 2012 season isn't over. After the bye week, they have 9 more games and technically they're still only a game behind first place New England in the AFC East. But the reality is, blowing a game they should have won against a so-so Tennessee Titans team exposes why this team will once again miss the playoffs.
Bet you thought I'd say it's because of Ryan Fitzpatrick, right? Well, you might be partially right about that, but the under appreciated Fitz is not why this team isn't capable of beating any NFL team with an actual pulse.
The Bills not only can't play defense, they're on their way to setting franchise records for futility when it comes to trying to stop the other team. In the off season Chan Gailey didn't hesitate when he said the TOP priority for the 2012 Bills was to be better at stopping the run. Good thing that was their focus, because they could have been even worse than 32nd in a 32 team league against the run. That's sarcasm. The Bills d is allowing over 32 points per game, and there isn't an offense or quarterback in the league that can overcome something like that.
I said after the Arizona game you didn't need to convince me any more that quarterback should be the Bills #1 priority from this day forward. But the Bills can win with Fitz with any semblance of defense, and they don't even have that. Fitzpatrick, believe it or not, had a 109,8 qb rating against the Titans with 3 td passes and one interception.
Still, that one interception was THE reason I've said Fitz just isn't the guy for the future. Bills have the lead with 3 minutes left, third and seven at their own 39, and Fitz tries to force a throw and it's picked. There's no doubt in my mind that somewhere in that Harvard brain Fitz knows the defense probably won't stop the Titans if they get the ball back, so he has to win it with a first down. Terrible decision and like a man Fitz owned it after the game and called it a "stupid play" and totally his fault. He was right.
But he shouldn't have been in that position.
Fitz is also paying for the injury to talented rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn, who missed another game with an ankle injury. Chris Hairston doesn't have Glenn's quickness, and he isn't protecting Fitz' blind side nearly as well as Glenn was. It was a blind side sack that forced a Fitzpatrick fumble on the first play of the third quarter, and once again, the d just didn't help the offense out. Two turnovers in this game, and the Titans turn both into touchdowns. The Bills d didn't force a single turnover.
Why do nearly all coaches stress the importance of stopping the run? It's because so many unwanted side effects come with allowing the other team to impose its will on your defense. While they run the ball and keep the chains moving, your offense is sitting on the sidelines getting cold, and not only that, anxious. It's just human nature.
It doesn't matter how mentally tough you are, and you simply can't take that away from Fitzpatrick, knowing you can't afford to make a mistake is not the mind set you want your qb to have.
But 7 games in and now 3-4 with road games at Houston and New England after the bye week, what we see is what we get. Fire defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt? Tempting, but not practical right now. His switch to the 4-3 clearly isn't working, and not only because high priced Mario Williams has been mostly a non factor. And is it me, or does Marcell Dareus look a lot wider and slower this season? True, losing his brother might be a factor but he is becoming just as invisible as Mario. Having two young cornerbacks also isn't helping, and the linebacking corps needs significant upgrading.
Oh, and did I mention the Bills need a franchise qb?