The Buffalo Bills officially assured themselves of another in a long string of losing seasons with a dreadful performance in Tampa on Sunday, losing to the Buccaneers, 27-6. Once again, this time against what is one of the NFL’s bottom-feeders, the Bills showed they can’t compete against anybody away from the friendly confines of Ralph Wilson Stadium. There was very little that was positive to take from the game, but there were a couple of things that went well in the defensive secondary. Jairus Byrd came up with another interception, and at this point, on a team that has so few playmakers, it’s mind-boggling that the front office doesn’t seem to want to lock the guy up for the long term. Stephon Gilmore, a total disappointment as a supposed “lock down” cornerback all year, made a couple of big plays, including his first pick of the year.
Then there are the negatives. The Bills were terrible in every phase. The secondary only gave up 90 passing yards, but on the Bucs’ second touchdown, rookie corner Nickell Robey did what the Bills’ defenders have done all season. He had perfect position on receiver Vincent Jackson in the end zone, then looked totally clueless when the ball arrived. The defense went into the game determined to improve their run defense, then gave up an 80 yard touchdown run to Bobby Rainey, a back who was cut by a few different teams before landing in Tampa, on the game’s first offensive play. Rainey wound up with 122 yards rushing on 27 carries, and added his name to the long list of journeyman runners who have career days against Buffalo. The Bills got nothing positive from their return game on punts or kickoffs, but did have a turnover from Leodis McKelvin on a punt return. Offensively, well, it was the worst game of the year for that unit. EJ Manuel, who had four interceptions for the entire season going into the game, threw four in this game alone. The running game had another dismal outing, picking up a total of 67 yards. Manuel was the leading rusher with 29 yards on five scrambles, which was more a product of him running for his life all day rather than any planned runs by him. Every member of the offensive line except Doug Legursky, the unit’s supposed weak link, had a penalty called on them, and the line surrendered 7 sacks. There were a total of 11 penalties totaling 114 yards in losses. One call negated a beautiful 83 yard touchdown play by C.J. Spiller. The offense converted 1 of 11 third downs, a paltry 9% conversion rate.
After the game, coach Doug Marrone said the same thing he’s been repeating all year after similar performances – talking about accountability within the whole organization, about being mad and disappointed, and about having to “work harder” to turn the thing around. Bills’ fans know this drill, they’ve seen this movie before. “We have to work harder” has been a loser’s lament for every head coach that’s been here since Wade Phillips left. Every one of those coaches turned out to be in over his head. It’s still too early to lump him in with all the other coaching failures here in the 2000s, but Marrone needs to read the banner he had hung in the team’s practice facility before this season. I believe it says something like “Don’t confuse hard work with results.”