ORCHARD PARK - If anything was clear Sunday afternoon, with just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Buffalo Bills down 42-21 against the New England Patriots, it was that the home team isn't ready to compete with the National Football League's top teams.
Early in the third quarter, it looked as if the Bills were ready to turn over a new leaf, as they built a 21-7 lead after Ryan Fitzpatrick found Donald Jones for a 68-yard touchdown. From then on, however, things did not get better for the Bills, they just got worse. An unfortunate feeling they have come to know too well when playing the Patriots, or anyone else in the AFC East.
"Yeah, obviously it showed us that we are not there yet," Fitzpatrick said. "I think if you look at turnovers obviously, we had the few late there that really made it lopsided. We turned the ball over a few times in the first half, our defense was able to come up with stops. They kept us in it in the first half. For us to come out and have that type of lead, we have to be able to just continue to put the pressure on them. And it was the other way around. They scored a few times and put the pressure on us. I think we were pressing a little bit. It just did not stop from there."
Buffalo Bills’ Fred Jackson (22) runs against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL game in Orchard Park, Sunday.
Fitzpatrick was right, the Bills' defense did show up in the first half, limiting the Patriots to 1-for-6 on third downs, but it faded away in the second half as the combination of Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley rushed for 145 yards on 23 carries, finishing the game with 243 yards on 38 attempts.
"I don't know what was going on," Bills' defensive end Mario Williams said. "I don't know which way (New England's running back) was hitting (the hole), I just know ... Like I said, I just felt like it was methodical. It was the same block and the same play."
It didn't seem to matter much which way the Patriots' running backs were running, as they averaged 6.2 yards every time they touched the ball, a stat that is unacceptable if the Bills plan on being as good a defensive unit as they planned on being this season.
"I don't know if it was coaching adjustments," Williams said. "We tried different things and it seemed like (New England's running backs) were still just breaking free, like there was nobody there. I have no idea."
Hopefully, someone in the Bills' locker room does have an idea of how to fix the Mack Truck-sized holes that the Patriots were able to create before the Bills get to San Francisco next week, where they will face a 49ers team that ran for 245 yards Sunday against the New York Jets.
"To be honest with you, they whipped us," Bills' head coach Chan Gailey said. "Bottom line, they whipped us. They blocked us, we did not get off blocks and get to the ball. They blocked us and they were making our corners make a bunch of tackles. We missed entirely too many tackles."
The Bills are now 0-2 inside the AFC East and have given up 50 points per game in the two losses.
"Yeah, that was really embarrassing," Fitzpatrick said. "We have got a lot of pride in this locker room and right now we have our tails between our legs in terms of we got our butts kicked. Unfortunately, we have been in this situation before. Fortunately, we have responded to this situation. We look at the film, try to get better and move on, but it is just hard with this being the second division game that we have not come out and played well to say that again."