HOUSTON — While going through security, prior to boarding my flight to Houston on Saturday, a TSA agent spotted my computer bag adorned with tags from various NFL stadiums and asked what I did.
After confessing my occupation, he quickly surmised, “I feel sorry for you ... I lost interest in the Bills two weeks ago.”
He wasn’t bitter ... just resigned.
And after what happened on Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium, it’s easy to understand why.
After reaching midseason at 3-5, there’s absolutely no reason to think Buffalo won’t extend its streak of missing the playoffs to 13 straight seasons.
The Bills weren’t awful in their 21-9 loss to the Texans ... they just weren’t good enough ... offense, defense, special teams or coaching.
Buffalo’s only turnover, a fumble by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, came with barely three minutes to play and the team in full desperation mode.
Coach Chan Gailey’s offense lost the yardage battle by a modest 374-308 — particularly impressive since the Bills were a pathetic 2-of-11 on third down — though it was beaten by over eight minutes in time of possession.
IT WASN’T a bad effort, on the road, against the AFC’s best team ... record-wise (7-1), but you also never got the idea — other than the 7-6 halftime deficit — that Buffalo might win the game.
Still, the rightfully maligned defense, surrendering an NFL-worst 177 rushing yards per game, held the Texans to 118 on the ground and even Arian Foster, the conference’s second-leading rusher, finished only 17 yards above his season’s average of 94.
But if you look at the quotes in the Bills’ game story on this page, you get the idea Houston’s coaching staff dominated Buffalo’s.
Gailey and Fitzpatrick both attributed the team’s failure to successfully run the football to the scheme of Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips who challenged Buffalo to beat it through the air.
Even Gailey admitted, “I’ve got to do a better job of adjusting.”
But isn’t that what a head coach is supposed to do ... have counter moves to the chess game that’s offense vs. defense in the NFL?
HOUSTON coach Gary Kubiak declined to try a field goal with the ball at the Bills’ 30-yard line on 4th-and-6 with just over 4 1/2 minutes to play and the Texans up by 12 points.
He pointed out that even a successful three-pointer would have still left it a two possession game and kicker Shayne Graham had already had a field goal blocked from nearly the same distance. Plus, Kubiak expressed concern, in the event of a successful kick, over having to kick off to Buffalo’s returners — Leodis McKelvin and Brad Smith — who led the NFL coming in with a nearly 31-yard average.
Instead, QB Matt Schaub threw incomplete in the end zone and Houston turned the ball over on downs.
But Kubiak had an interesting observation: “We just felt like they could not go the distance on our defense.”
That’s an indictment.
And though Buffalo’s defense, last in the league in points and yards surrendered per game, played better (21 points surrendered rather than the average of 32, 374 yards as opposed to 424), end Mario Williams said it wasn’t enough.
“We (as a defense) need to get something started,” he maintained. “We need to get some turnovers or something to put points on the board.”
But it seemed the only adjustments made were by the Texans’ defense.
“We were able to hone in on what they were trying to do,” Houston free safety Glover Quin said. “Coming in off a bye week, we knew they were going to do some different things ... so we had to change things up and get on them quicker.
“We just tried to see what they were trying to do to attack us (and) the second half we came out and made some plays on them.”
Would that the Bills could say the same thing.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)