Great start dissolves into bad finish
The Bills won two more games than they did in
2010, which is numerical progress, but the way they got there would not
qualify as genuine feel-good process. After a four-win season in coach
Chan Gailey's first year, the Bills won six times in 2011.
However, after a 5-2 start that had Bills fans
dreaming of a playoff berth for the first time since 1999, they lost
seven in a row and eight of their last nine, the final indignity a
blown 21-0 lead during their humbling 49-21 loss at New England.
"It was a big learning experience, and next year
it can't be a learning experience for us," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"It's got to be a year we come out and play well all year.
We're going to have another offseason in the same system, with the same
coaches, with the same guys around. We've got to be able to now take
the next step. Starting 5-2 is great, but winning one out of our last
nine is not good football."
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The running
game, with Fred Jackson
and C.J. Spiller,
showed some real flashes of
excellence. Jackson was on a Pro-Bowl pace before breaking his fibula,
and Spiller, who was looking like a draft bust, came in and played well
when he had a chance to be the go-to back. Also, the offensive line
came together nicely and was at the top of the league in fewest sacks
allowed all season, one of the real surprises of the season.
On defense, the Bills didn't do much, but they did
intercept 22 passes. In the end that wasn't nearly enough to mask all
WHAT WENT WRONG: The defense
was once again horrific as it allowed the most yards (5,938) in team
history including a franchise-record five straight games where it
allowed at least 400 yards. Amazingly, those games all came in the
Bills' 5-2 start. In terms of points, the 434 that were yielded ranked
No. 2 in team history.
Buffalo's biggest problem on defense was its
woeful pass rush that produced only 28 sacks, 10 of which came in one
game against Washington. Rookie first-round pick Marcell Dareus had
decent year, but he didn't make the impact the team was hoping for.
On offense, Fitzpatrick was given a new six-year,
$59 million contract after the hot start and then went into the tank,
playing terribly during the Bills' 1-8 finish. He was not helped by
another spate of roster-depleting injuries, most notably the loss of
star running back Fred Jackson and center Eric Wood. He did
finish with 3,832 yards, the third-best season in club history.
As the Bills move forward, they have gargantuan
holes to fill on their roster because not only is their starting talent
not sufficient enough to compete with New England in the AFC East, the
depth is woeful and they are a team that has been unable to avoid major
Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills feels the pressure New
England Patriots defense in the first half at Gillette Stadium on
January 1, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty
--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick closed his season with a
two-touchdown, four-interception, 307-yard game that gave him 3,832
yards for the season, third-best in Bills history.
--WR Stevie Johnson finished the year with 76
catches for 1,004 yards, making him the first Bills player to have
back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Barnett finished his first season with
the Bills with 11 tackles and an interception.
--RB C.J. Spiller gained 60 yards on 13 carries
and had four catches for 40 yards against the Patriots.
Heard recorded the first two sacks of
his NFL career.
Hagan stepped in for the benched Steve
Johnson and caught seven passes for 89 yards.
- Bills Game Chatter
For more Patriots news follow us via Twitter:
Or find us on Facebook : Facebook.com/PatriotsInsider