“Oh, So Close” Bills Still Searching For First Win

Three straight losses by Three points

When the Buffalo Bills cross back over the border and return to the states, they’ll have left their first victory of the season at customs.

They nearly did everything possibly right that’s needed to win a football game.  Buffalo outgained the Bears 340-283, produced more first downs than Chicago, 22 to 19 and dominated one of the league’s best third down defenses, converting 10 of 16 opportunities.

But once again, the Bills’ number in the turnover column was significantly larger than the number in their opponents turnover column.  Buffalo turned the football over three times and again, in another close game seperated by a score, it came down to the little, yet seemingly gigantic things, that were the determining factors between winning and losing.

For the third consecutive game the Bills lost by three points, this time courtesy of the Chicago Bears, 22-19.  They became the fifth team since the AFL-NFL merger to lose three straight games by three points, joining Green Bay, San Diego and Detroit;  the Lions achieved this dubious feat twice.

  • 2005 –  Green Bay Packers.  Started out the season 0-4, ended up finishing the year 4-12
  • 2001 Detroit Lions. Began ‘01 losing 12 straight games; finished 2-14.
  • 2000 San Diego Chargers. Bolts went 0-9 to start the new millenium and finished with a 1-15 record.
  • 1974 Detroit Lions.  Started 0-4, but finished the season 7-7.

So now thus far through eight games, the Bills have been incapable of winning on American soil and now they’re 0-for-3 in Canada.  And it’s clear as crystal, despite their penchant for giveaways, Buffalo is in no way, shape or form a team that can overcome turnovers.  Not when you’re 0-8.

The most costly and painful turnover of all came in crunch time, in winning time.  It seems like with this team and this franchise, the painful plays always kick you in the teeth with the game on the line.

With just over nine minutes away from victory, the Bills were leading the Bears 19-14.  Kudos to head coach Chan Gailey.  They didn’t attempt to just squat on the lead and pray to the time gods that suddenly nine minutes would just up and vanish off the clock.  They wanted to go for the kill.  The idea was good.  Ryan Fitzpatrick’s execution was not.

Someone must of decided to play a joke on Bills receiver Steve Johnson. as if he were told before the game that this was going to be the last football game he’d ever play in.  In a pile full of crap that’s been the 2010 season, Buffalo found themselves a diamond in Johnson.  On Sunday, Johnson had the game of his life with 11 catches for 145 yards.  He should’ve had a touchdown to go along with those eye-popping stats.  Johnson was streaking down the sidelines.  He had Bears cornerback Tim Jennings beat by at least two strides.  Fitzpatrick’s throw, however, was a stride short.

Despite numerous bobbles and attempts to drop the intended pass, Jennings was able to haul in the interception and thwart the Bills’ attempt to add on to their lead.  Jennings returned the interception to the Buffalo 23.  Six plays later, Jay Cutler hooked up with his old Vanderbuilt pal Earl Bennett for a 2-yard go ahead touchdown.  A Cutler-to-Forte shovel pass completed the two-point conversion and the Bears went ahead for good.

A stronger throw with more air and more touch, and the outcome would be a much different story.  Instead it’s the same story for the Bills.  A play here, a play there.  A turnover here and a missed opportunity there, and the Bills remain winless.

It’s hard to dump it all in Fitzpatrick’s lap.  He threw 51 times, completing 31 of those attempts, the most by a Bills quarterback in either category in eight seasons.   If you’re wondering why in the world the Bills would elect to throw 51 times, just quickly glance at the rushing yards.  Apparently the Bills left the running game at One Bills Drive.  They finished with 46 yards on 18 attempts.  But in consecutive weeks, Fitzpatrick has had two glorious chances to lament wins and he’s come up short.  Unfortunately it’s the difference between contenders and the playoffs, and cellar dwellers and a top five draft pick in April.  For bad teams, close and almost always end up in losses.

Buffalo endured another special teams bugaboo on Sunday.  Following last week’s missed game-winning field goal attempt on his second try, Rian Lindell had the first extra point of his career blocked by defensive end Israel Idonije.  Fred Jackson’s fumble in the third quarter resulted in a 1-yard run by Cheser Taylor to put Chicago on top 14-7.  Jackson would atone for his mistake a little more than three minutes later, capping off the game-tying drive with a four-yard touchdown run.  Idonije blocked the ensuing extra point.

Chan Gailey elected to try for the two-point conversion following full back Corey McIntrye’s first career touchdown from a yard out.  The two-point attempt failed the Bills led 19-14.   With less than a minute remaining in the game, and trailing by three points, a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass attempt was tipped and interception by Bears safety Chris Harris to seal the Bills’ fate.

Mistakes.  Short comings.  Not enough offensive juice.  Once again these were some of the familiar reasons why the Bills fell to 0-8.

Next Sunday, the Bills return to their actual home, Ralph Wilson Stadium, for the first time since Oct.10th when they host the Detroit Lions

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