ORCHARD PARK - With nothing on the line other than pride Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Buffalo Bills (6-10) ended their disappointing season with a win, beating the New York Jets (6-10), 28-9.
"It was a team win," Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey said. "There were some critical plays in the game that we made. We had not been making some of those critical plays in (previous games) and we made them this game. It was a good, overall team victory."
Despite the win, the Bills' effort was too little too late, as they missed the playoffs for the 13th straight season and now face the same questions they have faced nearly every three years since the 2000 season; namely who will be the general manager, head coach, and quarterback in 2013.
New York Jets fullback Lex Hilliard (36) holds on to the ball as he is swarmed by Buffalo Bills defenders during the first half an NFL game on Sunday, in Orchard Park.
"It is easy," Gailey said of blocking out the speculation that he could be fired as the team's head coach as early as today. "You get excited about winning a ball game. That is what you try to do. That is what you work all week for, that is what you practice for and that is what you meet for - to win the game. You accomplish the goal to this point (Sunday). You do not think about all of the other stuff."
Now that the season is over, blocking out the possibility that he - and his starting quarterback - may be looking for work elsewhere next year, will surely be at the forefront.
"I think we just viewed it as it was another game," Fitzpatrick said. "But it is the end of the year. There was so much disappointment, so to go out there and just all of the uncertainty to follow this game - you just want to put all of your focus into this game and go play."
What will become of the Bills front office, coaching staff and current roster will be determined over the next several months, so for now, the team was focused on Sunday's win over the Jets.
After amassing 1,004 yards in 2011 to become the only wide receiver in Bills' history to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Stevie Johnson needed just 65 yards to extend his streak another year. The former seventh-round pick out of Kentucky finished with 111 yards on six receptions.
"I was very conscious of that going into the game," Fitzpatrick said of Johnson needing 65 yards to break 1,000 for the year. "He has just been a guy that has been great for me just in terms of coming up to make big plays. The catch he made down the sideline I thought was pretty unbelievable. It got that drive going. He really stepped up big for us (Sunday)."
Johnson, however, seemed more worried about making sure his team finished on a high note than any personal achievements.
"When we started the season off, we wanted to get to the playoffs and have a playoff berth," Johnson said. "It didn't end up that way, so it's pretty weak as far as that goes. Winning our last game and going out with a win against the New York Jets is even better."
Johnson's job is not in jeopardy, but that doesn't mean he isn't worried about the status of his head coach and his quarterback, noting that he would like to see them come back in 2013.
"It is personal reasons and as far as the playbook goes," Johnson said. "Me being an offensive player, it is a great offense, great playbook to be playing under. Personal reason is opportunity. Coach gave me an opportunity here. I don't have to elaborate too much more because you all know. That's why I want to see the staff here and turn it around with them."
Given his desire to have the coaching staff back, Johnson also realizes that the team can't keep the status quo, that some changes do need to occur for the team to get better and hopefully end the franchise's longest playoff drought.
"There is no team that is going to stay the same in the entire (National Football League)," Johnson said. "So we know there is going to be change, but hopefully, I think we will have the same staff here. Like I said, it was a matter of getting the defense on the same level. It took time, and it was too late, so I think it was a learning season. It took a while to get comfortable with each other and we are comfortable now. Hopefully we will have the same staff."