Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick
The Buffalo Bills may have fallen short of their goal last sinday, dropping yet another game to the rival Patriots, but the silver lining is that the Bills may have finally found their "guy." Ryan Fitzpatrick is in charge of Buffalo's offense and he's doing well, so far.
Trent Edwards' three-plus year tenure in Buffalo came to a surprising end Monday morning when the team released him.
"Those kinds of decisions are never easy," coach Chan Gailey said. "He gave us everything he had. We just felt like we weren't going to go back in that direction at the next juncture."
Edwards was named the Bills' starting quarterback early in the offseason when Gailey took over as head coach, and he then held off Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm throughout training camp and preseason and started the Bills' first two games of the regular season.
However, continuing a trend that began midway through 2008, Edwards played terribly in losses to Miami and Green Bay, so Gailey benched him in favor of Fitzpatrick for the game at New England. Edwards completed only 29 of 52 passes for 241 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a rating of 58.3.
In the 38-30 loss to the Patriots, Fitzpatrick provided the spark Gailey was seeking as he completed 20 of 28 for 247 yards with one touchdown and two picks.
"After the way that Fitz played yesterday, I feel very confident about the direction we're going and I think we want to look at Brian as our next option and that was the change," said Gailey.
In the last 16 games Edwards started and finished for the Bills, he had a record of 3-13. Overall, the former 2007 third-round draft pick was 14-18 as a starter with 5,739 yards passing, 25 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.
There was a report that the Bills sought to trade Edwards last week, but if that was true, nothing came of it.
The Bills are expected to re-sign quarterback Levi Brown, their seventh-round draft pick in April who they released after the preseason.
Regardless of who is playing quarterback, the Bills are going to continue to flounder if their defense doesn't get things straightened out. While the offense produced 23 points (C.J. Spiller had a kickoff return touchdown for the other score) with Fitzpatrick at quarterback, the defense was dissected by Tom Brady for 252 yards and three touchdowns, plus allowed the running-challenged Patriots to pound out 200 yards rushing.
"There's no magical way to say it; we didn't get it done," said nose tackle Kyle Williams. "It's disappointing, big time. The offense did everything they could today, and we dropped the ball, there's no other way to look at it. We dropped the ball. We didn't do it."
"The offense gave us 30 points," said backup safety George Wilson. "Thirty points. Thirty points. There's no excuse. We have to tackle better, we have to cover better, and we have to play better. We hold ourselves to a high standard and today we didn't play to our capability."
That's two weeks in a row that the Bills have been unable to stop a quality offense. In a 34-7 loss to Green Bay, and the game against the Patriots, the Bills allowed Brady and Aaron Rodgers to complete 40 of 56 passes for 507 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
"In the passing game, we were giving (Brady) too much time," said Gailey. "A guy like that is going to have a big day if you don't get some pressure on him."
The Bills played much of the day in their nickel and dime coverage packages, hoping they could prevent Brady from picking them apart by flooding the field with defensive backs. By doing this, the Bills left themselves open to the running game, but they weren't concerned because the Patriots don't have a top-notch back, plus, Brady loves a challenge and loves to throw to his stable of receivers and tight ends.
Well, Brady outsmarted the Bills. He handed off 38 times and the Patriots churned out 200 yards, the first time they surpassed that plateau since December 2008. And when he needed to pass, Brady had little trouble against a secondary that is supposed to be the strength of the Buffalo defense, but has zero picks in three games. He completed 21 of 27.
"Brady does a good job of finding the receivers he wants to get the ball to," linebacker Keith Ellison said. "We tried to match up with them somewhat and tried to give him different looks, try to slow him down a little bit and make him think a little more. But he's a great player."
The Bills allowed 445 yards and 25 first downs, and New England had the ball 21 minutes in the second half.
Most disappointing for the Bills is that they wasted a pretty solid day by an offense which was downright putrid the first two weeks. The Bills had only 17 points in their losses to Miami and Green Bay, but they had 16 at the half in New England. This was the first since 2002 that the Bills scored 30 points and lost.
When it was over, and the Bills had lost their 14th straight game to the Patriots, there were some thoughts about how the Bills took a step forward. But that was emanating strictly from media and fans. The players wanted nothing to do with that sentiment.
"It hurts," said Fitzpatrick. "Every guy in that locker room hurts right now because we thought throughout the game we had a chance. It's about winning, and all the guys in that locker room want to do. We can't be satisfied with playing better; we have to start winning games."
"Oh man, moral victories and pulling confidence from losses, that's crap," defensive end Marcus Stroud said. "That's over with, man. We lost. We just gotta get better."
--C.J. Spiller showed why the Bills are so high on him as a return specialist. Spiller broke a 95-yard touchdown against the Patriots, and flashed his blazing speed on the play after he broke a tackle and pushed out to the right sideline. "It was huge, especially at that time of the game," said coach Chan Gailey of the return that came right after the Patriots had opened a 24-16 lead in the third quarter. "The momentum had switched to them coming out in the second half. A lot of guys did their job."
Spiller scored eight touchdowns on returns in college at Clemson. He also caught a TD pass against New England.
"It felt great," he said of the TD return. "That's why I'm back there, to get a touchdown or give us great field position and try to swing the momentum back our way. That particular play kind of lifted us up a little bit."
--The Bills are reportedly in discussions to extend the contract of LB Chris Kelsay, who is in the final year of a $5.75 million-per-year contract he signed before the 2007 season. The extension is believed to be in the range of $24 million and could be done this week. Kelsay was switched to OLB in the Bills' new 3-4, and he doesn't seem to be a good fit in that role, which makes the talk of a discussion perplexing. However, Kelsay is a team leader and a respected locker-room presence. He has been a defensive captain three of the last four years. He has just 22 sacks since coming into the league in 2003 as a second-round pick out of Nebraska.
--The Bills feel they may have found a decent offensive lineman on the waiver wire in guard Kraig Urbik. He was signed in Week 1 after being cut by the Steelers, and he was active against New England and spelled Eric Wood briefly.
"After Monday and Wednesday, I got an understanding that I was going to get in," Urbik said. "I felt pretty good the whole week of practice and felt like I was ready to go whenever they need me. I thought I played pretty well and it's something to build on the rest of the season."