Last week Ralph Wilson blamed the Bills' monumental losing streak on a lack of talent. After Sunday's gut-wrenching 31-27 loss to the New York Jets, he may want to refine his assessment.
The players aren't the only problem here.
One mind-twisting play call by head coach Dick Jauron should have Wilson questioning the contract extension he reportedly gave to him.
The game was over. Jets fans were booing their team. A camera panned across the New York's offensive lineman, revealing a down-and-out defeated team. Brett Favre had that '07 NFC Championship ghostly gaze on his face. The Bills had their first division win. Game over. Good night. A win to salvage a lost season.
But with 2:06 left on a 2nd-and-5 from his own 26-yard line, Jauron broke cardinal rule No. 1: he let J.P. Losman freelance. Leading the Jets 27-24, Jauron told offensive coordinator Turk Schonert to pass the ball. Rather than sticking with Marshawn Lynch (127 yards), Buffalo called a play-action rollout. Losman was tracked from behind by New York's Abram Elam, lost the ball and Shaun Ellis scooped it up for a touchdown.
On Buffalo's first offensive play after Ellis' touchdown, Losman threw an ugly pick into double coverage to Darrelle Revis.
In a season where Bills fans have learned to expect the unexpected, the coaching staff cost Buffalo the game. Handcuff Losman, feed Lynch, play spoiler. With just over 2 minutes, this one was over. And Santa Claus came to East Rutherford, N.J. early for Christmas --- to the ire of Miami and New England fans everywhere.
"It was second-and-5 and we thought they were going to stack the box," said Schonert after the game to The Buffalo News. "An incomplete pass doesn't hurt us because it still takes us to 2 minutes. So (Jauron) thought we'd catch them and throw a quick pass to the fullback in the flat. The fullback got stuffed and never made it out to the flat. And then you've got to just throw it away and protect the ball."
The cornerback Elam stormed to Losman's backside untouched on the play. With all 11 players in the box, the Bills were unable to account for all the bodies and faced the consequences. Schonert blamed Losman for not sensing the blitz coming, whereas Jauron shouldered guilt for calling a pass.
"Clearly the responsibility for the last call, the play-action pass, that was mine," Jauron said. "That goes right on me. It backfired clearly and caused us to lose the game. ... It's one of those times in a game that's pretty good for a pass, right before the 2-minute."
Sunday's game was Losman's last chance to impress other teams before hitting the free agent market. Consider his stock on par with General Motors. Despite facing the league's second-to-worst pass defense, Losman was, well, Losman. Ineffective and erratic. With Edwards (groin) sidelined, Losman started his second straight game, going 24-of-39 for 148 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. After tossing a gift to Revis, the Bills' defense got Losman the ball back and he ended the game with a Hail Mary pick to Kerry Rhodes.
The heart-breaking, self-inflicted loss spoiled a great game by Lynch. In his first game since opening taking the heat for Buffalo's rushing woes this season, "Beast Mode" was in full force Sunday --- a much different story from these two teams' last meeting. In the Jets' 26-17 win in November, Lynch was held to 16 yards on nine carries. Sunday? A complete reversal. Lynch salted away the New York defense carry after carry. On the four plays before Jauron's bonehead play call, Lynch had gained 4, 5, 3 and 5 yards --- eclipsing the 1,000-yard barrier for the season. On the Jets' timeout at the 2:06 mark, Lynch appeared hungry for more game-finishing carries. Eye black smearing all over his face, Lynch barked words of encouragement to teammates on the sideline.
He wanted the game on his shoulders.
And Jauron took it away.
If that and seven losses in eight games isn't enough grounds for buying out a contract than Ralph Wilson sure has explaining to do.
Stay tuned to the BFR all week for more coverage on this colossal collapse.