Fourth Quarter Flubs

Five of Buffalo's losses a result of fourth-quarter implosions. No doubt, late-game meltdowns had to play into Ralph Wilson's decision to fire head coach Dick Jauron. Here's a rundown of all of Buffalo's failures in the fourth quarter...

The fourth quarter has been the theater for many great moments in NFL history: "The Catch," "The Drive," even the "Music City Miracle." It's too bad the Buffalo Bills aren't a fourth quarter team to make some history of their own.

Instead, their playoff aspirations are the things that are history.

For the second week in a row, the Bills have let up 20 plus points in the fourth quarter. Tied 17-17 headed into the fourth quarter, the Tennessee Titans, spearheaded by Chris Johnson, scored 24 points to deflate any hopes of a fourth victory for the Bills.

The Bills' fourth quarter misfortunes against the Titans weren't exactly unprecedented; the Bills have continually found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

There's of course the oh-too-common installment of "Monday Night Meltdown," which occurred on the season opener against the rivaled New England Patriots. Up 24-13 with three minutes left in the fourth, the Buffalo Bills initiated the trend of terror as Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kickoff, giving way to Tom Brady to throw two touchdown passes in the final 126 seconds to seal Buffalo's fate.

Against the heavily favored, high-octane New Orleans Saints, Buffalo took a manageable 10-7 deficit into the fourth quarter. The final three possessions spelled doom for the Bills, as they were blown out of Lake Erie by a pair of Pierre Thomas touchdown runs.

The week five matchup against the Cleveland Browns proved to be as futile a fourth quarter loss as ever. Tied 3-3 deep into the fourth, the now-seemingly defunct wideout Roscoe Parrish muffed a Dave Zastudil punt to set up the game-winning 18-yard field goal, sending the Bills to 1-4.

In the week eight matchup against the Houston Texans, up 10-9 at the end of the third quarter, Dick Jauron's crew was outscored 22-0 in the fourth to lose the game. Ryan Moats flooded Buffalo's defense with three touchdowns, all of them in the fourth quarter, to sink the Bills. The loss left the Bills at a putrid 3-5 record going into the bye week (or, as it is known in Buffalo, the "bye-bye playoff" week).

So, by my count, five of Buffalo's six losses were each winnable through three quarters of play. That is an unbelievable statistic. At the end of the day, a team with playoff aspirations cannot lose games in the fourth quarter, let alone five of them through nine weeks. Bills fans are left struggling with "What if?" counterfactuals that happen way too often (i.e. "Music City Miracle," any one of the "Monday Night Meltdowns," etc.).

The reason for these fourth quarter expirations? Well, for one thing, the coaching is certainly at fault. One instance is unfortunate. Five is inexcusable.

Aside from the coaches obviously at fault, let's face it: Buffalo does not much veteran leadership, especially on an offensive line that starts two rookies and a sophomore. With youthfulness comes inexperience, and the wear and tear of Buffalo's young talent has led to these fourth quarter meltdowns.

Looking down the road into next year, with the development of the youthful core and the luxury of having a new head coach (which will definitely be the case…sorry Jauron), the Buffalo Bills have room to evolve into a competitive team in the NFL. If the Bills practice only one thing for the rest of the 2009 campaign, hopefully it is execution and stamina in the fourth quarter of games.




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