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Sunday's loss shows Bills have concerns

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Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 6:41 am

Yeah, I know, it’s only one game.

But those of us who have watched the Bills’ struggles over the past dozen seasons are understandably wary after Sunday’s 48-28 thrashing by the Jets at  the Meadowlands.

A loss by Buffalo wasn’t shocking on its own ... after all New York was favored in the betting line.

It was the way the Bills lost that was the concern.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions in his first 13 passes, the first two of which the Jets’ offense converted into touchdowns and the third which New York cornerback Antonio Cromartie returned 40 yards for a TD that made it 34-7 less than 90 seconds into the third period.

Fitz later threw three meaningless touchdown passes, that did little but massage his passer rating.

Buffalo’s defense, meanwhile, was horrible — the 48 points were the most ever scored by the Jets in a season opener — particularly the touted line, though the secondary was also lousy in coverage.

And finally, even the special teams, normally the Bills’ most proficient unit, top-to-bottom, gave up a way-too-easy 68-yard punt return for a touchdown to New York wideout Jeremy Kerley.

WHEN IT was over Buffalo coach Chan Gailey was realistic.

“I can’t control everybody else,” he said. “I can control what I think our football team thinks or believes and the way they go about their business. That’s my responsibility.

“I don’t think the sky is falling ... everybody’s going to say that. You (media) are going to say that, the fans are going to say that. That’s your job to say something like that, but I don’t believe it in a million years,”

And there is a danger in overreacting to one disastrous game.

That said, Sunday’s loss gave plenty of reasons for concern.

START WITH Fitzpatrick.

Last season, as the Bills got off to a 5-2 start, he threw 14 touchdowns with only seven interceptions, completing 68 percent of his passes with a passer rating near 90.

But then, after Fitzpatrick cracked several ribs in a win over Washington at Toronto, Buffalo went 1-8. He threw for 10 TDs and 16 picks with 58 percent completions and a less-than-pedestrian 66 passer rating.

Following Sunday’s loss, Buffalo has now lost nine of its last 10 games and Fitz has 13 TD passes and 19 interceptions over that span.

It’s also worth noting that the rib injury was incurred over 10 months ago and Fitzpatrick maintains he’s healthy.

If so, then what’s wrong?

BUT THE most concerning aspect of Sunday’s loss was the defense.

How’s this statistic for the so-called “best defensive line in the NFL?”

The foursome of Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mark Anderson combined for five tackles (three by Kyle, one each by Mario and Dareus and none by Anderson) with no sacks and no quarterbacks hits.

The lone pressure all afternoon was provided by backup defensive end Chris Kelsay.

And with Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez throwing with impunity, Buffalo’s secondary was abused, particularly rookie first-round draft choice Stephon Gilmore, who will be fine eventually, and struggling veteran Leodis McKelvin.

Yet the most disturbing defensive outcome followed the game.

Mario, the Bills’ $100 million man, spent his interview complaining about the officials and Jets’ third-year tackle Austin Howard.

Williams maintained that Howard, a journeyman,  was hitting him in the face and complained that the officials ignored his calling attention to it.

On Monday, Jets’ coach Rex Ryan said films showed no illegal hands to the face by Howard and he pointed out his young right tackle had Mario, one-on-one, virtually the whole game, which Gailey elliptically verified a day earlier.

What was disappointing about Williams’ whining — and maybe this is a guy thing — was his refusal merely to take care of himself.

A player earning an average of over $16 million a season might be expected to take such a perceived transgression into his own hands.

Complaining about the officials after the game isn’t exactly the toughness Bills’ fans expected from the supposed defensive jewel of last spring’s free agent class.

Yeah, it’s just one game ... but we have plenty to wonder about, and a long time to do it.

(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

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