Bills Come Up Short Against Titans

The Bills' slim playoff hopes were crushed with a 30-29 loss to the Titans on Sunday. Despite gaining some momentum in the second half of the season, they'll finish up their 2006 slate with a home game against the Ravens, striving to even their record at a respectable 8-8.

The Bills were hoping to make Sunday's game at Baltimore their most significant regular-season finale since a loss to Pittsburgh in 2004 left them one game shy of qualifying for the playoffs.

Instead, it will be an anti-climatic cap to a season that started slow, caught fire, but went up in flames with a wild 30-29 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The loss dropped the Bills, who had evened their record to 7-7 after starting the year 2-5, to 7-8 with one game to play with no chance of earning one of the AFC's wild-card spots. Buffalo has missed the playoffs seven consecutive seasons.

Tennessee (8-7) won its six consecutive game to stay alive in the race.

"It's hard to put into words," wide receiver Lee Evans said. "It was a dogfight, all the way around. Both teams were making plays. In the end, they made more than we did."

"It's frustrating to get this late in the season and still have a chance at the playoffs and now it's something we're not going to see this year," defensive end Chris Kelsay said. "We'll have to break down the film when we come in Tuesday and see where things could've gone different. There's nothing we can do about it now. We have to focus on Baltimore and try to win that and finish 8-8."

Titans QB Vince Young (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
In a game that featured seven lead changes, the Bills took a 29-20 lead into the fourth quarter. But they couldn't hold off rookie sensation Vince Young and ex-running back Travis Henry, who finished with 135 yards rushing and was the workhorse on a 14-play drive that ate up 7:00 minutes of clock and led to Rob Bironas' third field goal of the game, this from 30 yards with 2:10 to play to give Tennessee a one-point lead.

The Bills had no timeouts left but plenty of time on the clock and drove to the Titans' 28-yard line with 1:02 to play. Facing a stiff wind that gusted to 25 mph, Buffalo was still shy of kicker Rian Lindell's pre-game range for a legitimate shot at a field goal in that direction, which was the 25-yard line.

On third down, instead of running the ball to get closer, the Bills chose to pass. When the pass from J.P. Losman to Peerless Price fell incomplete with Losman throwing under pressure, coach Dick Jauron and his staff were left in a bad predicament. Go for it on fourth down or have Lindell attempt the kick even though it was out of his comfort zone? The Bills chose the first option and after Losman was flushed from the pocket and forced to scramble, he heaved a desperation pass down field that was intercepted by Reynaldo Hill at the 2-yard line with 41 seconds to play.

Tennessee then ran out the clock.

Jauron spent time discussing the field goal option with Lindell and by the time the offense lined up, things got hairy.

"I wanted to ask Rian exactly and look in his eyes, because it was outside his range," Jauron said. "There was no confusion. It was just making a decision and then getting it to everybody. There was a lot of noise. We had time. We got the play called that we wanted and got the ball snapped."

In the second-quarter, Bironas -- who made a 60-yarder earlier this season -- did make a 42-yard attempt in the same direction that just got over the cross bar. That was Lindell's maximum, he said. He said Jauron made the right call, it just didn't work out.

"We established it at the 25 (before the game), so it would've been really difficult," said Lindell, who tied a personal high with five field goals for the day, but only one against the wind from 21 yards. "He (Bironas) made a 42-yarder and he's got a big leg and he just squeaked it over. I didn't really say anything, but you don't want to say, 'No you can't'. But I was truthful. It was a long shot."

So were Buffalo's playoff chances. But its second-half turnaround was encouraging.

"We're professionals and we need to learn how to handle ourselves in these situations and pull these games out," said quarterback J.P. Losman, who threw one touchdown pass but was intercepted twice.

PLAYER NOTES
--QB J.P. Losman threw his 12th TD pass in his last eight games, but he was also intercepted twice in Sunday's loss to Tennessee.
--WR Peerless Price caught a team-high seven passes for 73 yards in one of his best performances of the season.
--WR Lee Evans' 37-yard TD catch was his seventh of the year and eighth of more than 30 yards the past two seasons with QB J.P. Losman.
--SS Donte Whitner had a team-leading 14 tackles but Tennessee rushed for 215 yards.
--FB Daimon Shelton did not dress due to the aftereffects of last week's concussion suffered against Miami. He was replaced by TE Brad Cieslak.


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