Blessing in Disguise?

Fred Jackson (Getty Images)

Sunday's loss stung. The same old problems spelled disaster --- penalties, mental errors and ignoring Fred Jackson (left). But by Buffalo losing, owner Ralph Wilson doesn't have an excuse to retain Perry Fewell at a reduced contract...

It was sickening, the kind of game that'll give you the flu heading into Christmas.

Those pass interference penalties. That brutal Josh Reed drop. The coaches' maddening mission to ignore its best player. And, of course, Aaron Maybin's fatal offsides penalty.

Pass the Advil. Stay strong. Sulk for a day, maybe two. And just remember — Sunday's 17-10 loss to New England was for the better. Losing helps in the long haul. It all but ensures — or at least should — that Perry Fewell will not return as head coach next season. A late surge would have given Buffalo false hope, would have given Ralph Wilson an excuse to live on the cheap again.

More losses, as painful as they may be, assure that this Jauron-inflicted mess will be trashed. It forces Wilson's hand. No way can he tout "continuity" again. Sunday's game featured all of Buffalo's problems in a blender — a fitting end to a decade of futility against New England. Sure, the Patriots have blown out the Bills plenty of times over their 18-2 run. But many games were carbon copies of Sunday.

Buffalo had the game won and gave it away. That's coaching. Fewell may be the East Coast hybrid of Mike Singletary. His defense played valiantly. But without a string of wins, Wilson must fire and hire without second-guessing.

The defense did more than enough to win Sunday. Tom Brady, the Bills' Darth Vader all decade, threw for 115 yards. His worst total of the season. Yet bad coaching doomed Buffalo again. The Bills totaled 104 yards of penalties in one half, ignored Fred Jackson (again) and let a winnable game slip away.

New England didn't beat Buffalo. Buffalo beat Buffalo.

"It's tough to beat a good football team like New England," Fewell said. "But when you kill yourselves with those kind of mistakes, then you lessen the chance of your probability to win."

To Fewell's credit, the Bills have shown life since Dick Jauron was canned. To a small extent, Fewell has refueled a dead-to-rights team. All while doing two jobs at once as head coach and defensive coordinator. Unfortunately, there is no fixing the brittle foundation Jauron left. All of his coaches are still here. All of Jauron's slow-motion, head-scratching habits have endured. Losing teams have losing habits. Sunday was simply the latest chapter.

Case in point, Fewell resumed Jauron's knack for ignoring his best weapons. Buffalo — a team built with solid, not spectacular players — needs gamebreakers. Always has. Along comes Fred Jackson and coaches shelter him. Whenever Jackson gains a head of steam, play-callers slam the brakes.

Sunday was the same story. Jackson chipped away at New England's defense like a lumberjack, whacking away four yards at a time. The Patriots were worn down, begging for a knockout punch. And Jackson was never given a chance to finish the job. After rushing for 69 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Jackson was fed only four more carries the rest of the game. Yes, slowly eliminated from the gameplan.

Fewell blamed it on down-and-distance. Circumstances forced him to pass the ball against his will. Not buying it. That's how Bills coaches have been trained to think all decade. Fewell should be the one imposing his will on the opposition, running the ball without apologies. Not the other way around.

Which is why Buffalo's offense has ranked 30th, 25th, 30th, 30th, 28th, 25th and 30th the last seven seasons. Lingering passiveness. With a chance to ram the ball down New England's throat, the Bills toyed with Ryan Fitzpatrick — and yes — Trent Edwards. Passed the ball when they should have ran. Went to the dance with Rosie O'Donnell, when they could have gone with Taylor Swift.

Another painful loss to the Patriots was the result.

"Very sick of losing to the Patriots," safety Donte Whitner said. "They have a little swagger about themselves because they know they've beaten us so many times."

Developing a "swagger" starts with the head coach. For a decade, New England has had it. For a decade, Buffalo has not. To have any shot at catching the Pats long term, Buffalo must start anew. A new coach with a new direction is the prerequisite.

Thus, Sunday's game was a blessing in disguise. Maybe now the Bills hire a hardnosed, Son-of-Buffalo-type that will ruthlessly pound Jackson 30 times a game. Jim Harbaugh, anyone? Thanks to Sunday's punch-in-the-gut loss, Wilson has no choice but to abolish the Fewell Backup Plan.

Even if Fewell won these games, it'd be hazardous to name him the head coach. It's not worth risking two or three years on two or three games.

The last thing fans want are more years wasted. It stings. But losing….again…helps.

thdunne@gmail.com

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