I’m not about to throw a pity party for the rounded-up to $10 million man, but count me among those who feel for Ryan Fitzpatrick in games like Sunday’s loss to the Titans. The minute he got his new deal, the fans and media adjusted their expectations for the guy as if the money was invested in nuclear shoulder tendons or Henry Rowengartner.
So you have games like today in the swirling winds of Ralph Wilson Stadium. I have to admit I wasn’t there but when Steve Beuerlein says it… Steve Beuerlein says it. Fitz threw for 288 yards and a score with a 63 percent completion percentage. That’s actually decent, even better when you consider that his top two wide-outs were his No. 2 and 5 options at the start of training camp. So with Lee Evans traded and the triumverate of Roscoe Parrish, Donald Jones and Marcus Easley out; with two three-and-outs to go with Scott Chandler fumbling and Naaman Roosevelt dropping the ball; with the Marshall’s Lee Smith and James Madison’s Mike Caussin combining for 5 catches and 27 yards, the Bills lost.
And it’s Fitz’s fault? Pleeeeeease.
— So where do we go from 5-7? Clearly the Buffalo Bills in their present state are not a playoff team, but I can’t say that’s what I’m looking for the rest of the way. I know it’s not fun to be “injury guy’, but the Bills are missing far-too-many valuable players to win games at this stage in their development. After another cycle of free agency and the 2012 draft, that excuse ceases to exist for Buddy Nix. The team needs a bonafide threat across from Stevie Johnson, the restricted free agent who would be wise not to hold out. Moreover, they need a quarterback to be groomed behind Fitz for a couple years if one is available, a No. 1 corner, a No. 1 tackle and approximately 4,000 outside linebackers.
— We knew Kyle Williams was a presence for this defense early, but who knew how crucial Shawne Merriman was to the team’s success? The Bills outside pressure and contain has been all-but-absent with the exception of a few Chris Kelsay (?!?) plays. However, Kelsay’s limited as contain against athletic attackers and let’s face it: they’re all pretty athletic at this level. Spencer Johnson did an admirable job of filling in considering his limitations, but he’s at his best as a depth lineman. This is a one thin thick-waisted group.
— Da’Norris Searcy picked up nine tackles thanks to a significant number of long runs from the Titans in the first half, but he’s showing good progress as a long-term safety. Searcy and Byrd are a nice idea. It’ll be interesting to see whether George Wilson and Bryan Scott can be accustomed to being veteran depth.
— Sheppard and Barnett… nice! See more later under “Game balls.”
— If you’ve hung at this page before, you know I love QB sneaks on 4th-and-1. Today we found out why — even though in this case it was 3rd-and-1 — it’s not a sure thing. Kraig Urbik got too high after his snap and was moved out of any viable position to plow forward and give room for Fitzpatrick to fall forward. They miss Eric Wood.
— I’ve typed a lot about injuries and that doesn’t mean I condone it as an excuse for a good team. The Nix/Gailey-era Bills are contending with either a significant lack of depth in talent due to poor drafting or poor cutting (The Hangartner cut has to be either player’s request or Jeff Littman’s fiscal calculator).
— The Titans are an underdog worth monitoring should they make the playoffs, as I’m not sure the Steelers or Patriots have enough to contend with their team speed. However, I can’t imagine this Tennessee team can come from behind if they are continually put in clear passing situations. It’s odd how organizations work, because Mike Munchak is in a good spot thanks to Jeff Fisher’s system. Once the Titans take lessons from what Denver’s done with Tim Tebow and apply it to Jake Locker… oooo-weeee!
Stat line I liked…
Aaron Williams, four tackles, one pass defended
– Hopefully his injury isn’t too serious, because he made a number of strong plays despite missing a very possible interception in the red zone.
Stat line I didn’t like…
Tennessee rushers, 31 carries, 187 yards, two TDs
— Felt like 2010 all over again. I miss you Kyle Williams and, gulp, Shawne Merriman.
Nick Barnett and Kelvin Sheppard
– Second week in-a-row for Barnett. It’s not a surprise that most of Chris Johnson’s big runs involved the outside of the field. I’m happy with this grouping in the middle for next season.
Can the Bills go 2-2 and make my 7-9 preseason prediction correct? Dare-to-dream, Nick, dare to-dream.
A five-game losing streak heading into San Diego for a late game. The Chargers are 4-7 and this may be the last chance for a win on their schedule. Since there’s a chance the Bills and Chargers could be near each other on the draft board this April, let’s just go ahead and pencil in your Buffalo Bills — with Fitz in nice weather — for a 34-21 win.