Buffalo Bills Beat New York Jets 28-9; Will the Win Save Chan Gailey's Job?

Dan Van WieContributor IIIDecember 30, 2012

Buffalo Bills Beat New York Jets 28-9; Will the Win Save Chan Gailey's Job?

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    We can now officially close the books on another forgettable Buffalo Bills season. The Bills closed out the 2012 campaign with a 28-9 win over the New York Jets at home to finish the year at 6-10.

    The Bills' record in 2012 actually ties their performance from 2011. You would expect to see a bigger improvement in the third year of a coach taking over a team, but repeating another 6-10 season doesn't cut it. That doesn't really serve as an endorsement for Chan Gailey's chances of returning for a fourth year in Buffalo, no matter how often Buddy Nix swears that he likes the job Gailey is doing.

    Nix, Buffalo's GM, who has been solidly in Gailey's corner, might also be part of a package of wholesale changes made by the team. Another potential casualty in this season of inconsistent and overly conservative play-calling is starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    There is a possibility that the entire trio of Gailey, Nix and Fitzpatrick will all be gone in 2013. If that is the case, whoever the Bills hire to take over will at least have a better core of players to build with than was the case when Nix took over prior to the start of the 2010 season.

    But the NFL is all about winning, and that is something that has been in short supply under Gailey. His total after three years is 16-32, which is a win percentage of .333. In the games that mattered the most, against AFC East rivals, Gailey's teams went 4-14 in the AFC East. They have been outscored 561-346 in those 18 AFC East games, which includes today's outcome.

    If that strikes you as being overly bad, then you shouldn't be too surprised if the organization opts to make a change sometime soon. Black Monday would qualify as sometime soon.

    We will talk about today's game and share some thoughts about the 2012 season as well as looking ahead to 2013 in this presentation.

Bills Inactives and Injuries for Week 17

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    The Bills players that were declared inactive for the Jets game included: QB Tarvaris Jackson, DT Jay Ross, S Da'Norris Searcy, OL Keith Williams, WR Kevin Elliott, OL Chris Scott and DE Mark Anderson.

    Is there anything stranger than trading for a veteran quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson) and then never letting him be active for any game in the entire season? Why would Jackson ever consider coming back to Buffalo in 2013 after the way the team has basically turned their back to him during the year?

    At least the Bills opted to have Kirk Morrison active this week, which is another bizarre case as well.

    Earlier this week, the Bills declared that S Searcy and DE Anderson would not be able to play this week. Anderson never did make it back this year, so by keeping him on the 53-man active roster, they were tying up a valuable roster spot that could have gone to another player the team could have developed.

    As far as the injuries, the Bills wound up the year with a total of 15 players that went on either IR or on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list. If you want to count CB Ron Brooks, who went on IR only to return to the team because he received the designation to come back, that would have been 16 total.

    The other 15 players are: C Colin Brown, TE Mike Caussin, TE Scott Chandler, T Chris Hairston, RB Fred Jackson, DE Chris Kelsay, CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Terrence McGee, LB Arthur Moats, WR David Nelson, WR Donald Jones, T Erik Pears, G Chad Rinehart, T Zebrie Sanders and DT Torell Troup.

First Quarter Review

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    Excuse me if this is going to sound like a broken record. The Jets have a way of controlling the clock for long drives by being more physical at the line of scrimmage.

    New York opened up the game by receiving the opening kick. They drove the ball 47 yards in 12 plays before settling for a 47-yard Nick Folk field goal to go up 3-0.

    Buffalo came back and hits a pass to Steve Johnson for a first down. Eric Wood was caught for holding, which nullified a run by C.J. Spiller that would have picked up another first down. The Bills wound up punting on their first drive. It would wind up being the only drive that the Bills offense would have in the entire first quarter.

    On their next possession, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was intercepted by Bryan Scott on a third-down pass, and Scott returned it 20 yards for a touchdown to put the Bills up 7-3. Scott had also intercepted Sanchez in the season opener as well in New York. 

    The Jets were driving again down the field when the first quarter expired. The Bills offense only touched the ball for six plays in the first quarter, but they were winning 7-3 at the end of the quarter. Football can be a strange game to figure out sometimes.

Second Quarter Review

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    The Jets continued their drive, getting a 1st-and-goal at the Bills 9-yard line. The defense stiffened, and the Jets settled for another Nick Folk field goal to make it Bills 7-6.

    Buffalo went three-and-out and has to punt the ball away. The defense was probably wondering when they'd catch a break.

    The Jets hit Jeremy Kerley on a screen play for 40 yards down to the Bills 31-yard line. They wound up with a fourth down and two yards to go at the Bills 10-yard line and decided to take the lead with a 28-yard field goal to go up 9-7.

    The Bills offense went another three and out, but with a much different outcome. On the third play of the drive, C.J. Spiller caught a short screen pass over the middle and went untouched for a 66-yard touchdown pass. The Bills took the lead, but the drive is so short (28 seconds total) that there was no time for the Bills defense to catch their breath. Bills now up 14-9 with 3:32 left in the half.

    The Jets fumbled the kickoff, but luckily they recover the muffed kick. The Jets drive stalled, and they punted the ball away. Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Steve Johnson for a 29-yard pass to the Jets 44-yard line, but three incomplete passes after that kills the drive.

    The half ended with the Bills up 14-9. One of the most bizarre stats I have seen anywhere in a NFL game shows that the Bills defense was credited with 57 tackles while the Jets only had 10. The Bills made two big plays, which gave them 14 points and the lead.

Halftime Stats and Second Half Adjustments

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    The stats from the first half showed that the Bills only had the ball for 6:46 in the entire first half, while the Jets dominated the clock with 23:04 time of possession.

    The Jets ran off 43 plays, while the Bills had the ball for 16 plays. New York managed 204 yards of offense, while the Bills had 132. Two big plays for the Bills were good enough to take the lead, but the defense must have been absolutely exhausted coming into the locker room.

    Buffalo only ran the ball five times in the first half for 26 yards. The Bills would be getting the ball to open up the second half, and they need to establish a long drive to keep the defense rested as long as possible. A three-and-out drive or committing a turnover to open up the second half would be the worst thing that the Bills offense could possibly do.

    Shonn Greene had picked up 79 yards on 17 rushes in the first half, while C.J. Spiller was limited to four rushes for just 15 yards.

    Steve Johnson was well on his way to another 1,000-yard season, by catching two passes for 40 yards. He only needed 65 yards in the game to reach 1,000 yards for the third-straight season, which would be a first in Bills franchise history.

    The Bills defenders were piling up lots of tackles. First half leaders were Nigel Bradham with nine, Nick Barnett and Kelvim Sheppard with eight, Shawne Merriman with six and George Wilson with five.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick was only 3-for-11 on his passes. Since eight of them were incomplete, that is why the Jets only needed to make 10 tackles for the entire first half. Fitz had a rating of 97.5 in the first half, while Sanchez was at 42.4 thanks to going eight for 15 with the one pick-six.

    Interestingly enough, the Jets had given up 11 sacks in Week 16 to San Diego when Greg McElroy was the starter. The Bills pass rush didn't come up with a single sack against the same offensive line.

Third Quarter Review

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    Trying to protect their five-point lead and rest a tired defense, the Bills opened up the second half looking to establish their running game. On first down, the Bills gave the ball to C.J. Spiller, who promptly fumbled the ball, handing it over to the Jets at the Bills' 15. But the Bills defense rose to the occasion, and Marcel Dareus blocked a 30-yard field goal try by Nick Folk. Dareus must be paying attention to Alex Carrington.

    The Bills hit Ruvell Martin for a first down, and then had to punt. So much for resting the defense or establishing the running game.

    Mark Sanchez hit Jeremy Kerley for 40 yards on a pass down to the Bills 29-yard line. But the Jets were pushed back 15 yards when Braylon Edwards removed his helmet and they eventually had to punt the ball.

    The Bills drove the ball down to the Jets 32, and then Rian Lindell was allowed to try a 50-yard field goal. Lindell's kick was wide left, which was only his second missed field goal on the season.

    Spencer Johnson sacked Sanchez and stripped the ball away, which was recovered by Nigel Bradham. The Bills weren't able to capitalize on the turnover, as Lindell again missed another field goal, this time from 46 yards out. Perhaps the back-to-back misses was some vindication for Gailey's decisions earlier this year to not let him try the longer field goals.

    The third quarter amounted to no change in the score thanks to three missed field goals. The Bills were still up 14-9 with one final quarter of football left in the 2012 season.

Fourth Quarter Review

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    Would this be known as the last quarter of football that the Bills played under Chan Gailey? If so, then they were playing like they wanted him to keep his job. The Bills wound up outscoring the Jets 14-0 in the quarter, to cap the 28-9 victory.

    In the quarter, Steve Johnson was able to notch his third-straight 1,000-yard season with a catch that went for 37 yards. That was the Bills opening drive of the fourth quarter, which was capped off when Brad Smith ran it in for a four-yard touchdown off of a direct snap.

    On the next possession, George Wilson lost an interception due to the play being overturned by the replay assistant. No matter, the Jets were forced to punt the ball away. The Bills punted as well, and then the Jets drove the ball down to the their own 48-yard line. On a fourth down and one yard to go, Alex Carrington and Jairus Byrd stuffed Bilal Powell, so the Jets turned the ball over on downs.

    That was a sign that the days of the Jets being more physical on the line of scrimmage than the Bills was a thing of the past. Starting at the Jets 47-yard line the Bills drove the ball down into the red zone. On a 4th-and-four at the Jets 13-yard line, Tashard Choice ran it in for a touchdown to cap off the scoring for the day.

    Buffalo wound up with a 28-9 victory, and the Bills ended the 2012 season on a positive note.

Black Monday Around the NFL

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    Tomorrow is known as Black Monday around the NFL, as a number of NFL teams are expected to fire a number of head coaches around the league. We can't tell you for certain that Chan Gailey will be part of the turnover, but often when there is smoke there is also fire.

    However, if you check out this article by Don Banks of Sports Illustrated.com, he goes around the NFL to detail which situations bear watching for Black Monday activity.

    Here is what Banks wrote about the Bills, Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey:

    The Bills are expected to end the three-year Chan Gailey coaching era following this season's major disappointment, but the mystery in Buffalo is whether general manager Buddy Nix is also on his way out. Team CEO Russ Brandon is thought to be in favor of a full house-cleaning, but no one I talked to within the league had a great handle on whether Bills owner Ralph Wilson agrees.

    Former Bills running back Thurman Thomas dropped a cryptic hint of changes to come within the organization via Twitter the other day, but no one seems quite sure what form a potential GM move would take. One option would be elevating assistant GM/director of player personnel Doug Whaley to the top job and commencing a coaching search after that change was made.

    Another potential GM candidate would be Caldwell, Atlanta's well-regarded director of player personnel. He's from the Buffalo area, and would welcome the chance to help the Bills end their NFL-worst playoff drought, which stands at 13 seasons and counting.

    As one NFL club executive explained, replacing Nix now is probably the smart move, because he has made it known the Bills will be aggressive in the search for the club's next starting quarterback, with Ryan Fitzpatrick not expected to return. "If you've got a GM who's hell-bent on getting a quarterback, you've got a guy who's at least in danger of giving up the farm to do so,'' the NFL club executive said. "A desperate general manager is the worst kind of general manager to have.''

    Doug Whaley has been paying his dues to the organization and is thought to have a very bright future.
    Although Nix has done a better job of raising the talent level since he arrived in 2010, there are still some things that he has dropped the ball on. His loyalty to Gailey, his belief that Fitzpatrick could take the team to the Super Bowl and his inability to draft a future QB to develop are the biggest blunders of his time on the job.
    There are a number of directions that the Bills could go in for a new head coach, and we will be exploring that at length in the near term as we see how many coaches are let go next week. Who knows, maybe there are no key changes forthcoming with Nix and Gailey. Anything is possible, but all that we truly want is a winning team. Period, end of story.

Zero Bills Were Voted to the 2012 AFC Pro Bowl Team

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    The Bills had five players with a strong case for why they should have been a member of the 2012 AFC Pro Bowl team. The five players in question are G Andy Levitre, S Jairus Byrd, DT Kyle Williams, RB C.J. Spiller and return man Leodis McKelvin.

    None of the five were voted on to the Pro Bowl team, and that is a sign of lack of respect for the Bills team. It also is a reflection on the losing record, as some of the Pro Bowl guys are named more on reputation than they are for their performance in 2012.

    Here is the roster of the Pro Bowl teams, courtesy of NFL.com.

    It is conceivable one of them could still make the team when specific players bow out due to injuries or need a break after they are done with the postseason. Bills players only wish they had the chance to be worn out by participating in a postseason game.

Bills Confidence Has Been Shaken over Possible Changes

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    There has to be quite a bit of anxiety going around in the Bills locker room over the past few weeks. The team was part of a 3-3 logjam atop the AFC East after Week 6. The one-point loss to Tennessee hurt as badly as any loss this year. The bye came up and two losses to New England and Houston followed to sink the team to 3-6.

    Then the Bills were due to start the easier half of their schedule, as they potentially could come away with five or six wins out of their final seven games. However, the Bills went 2-4 during that stretch to eliminate any possibility to contend for the postseason.

    With every successive loss, whatever message Chan Gailey was trying to get across to his players, it appeared that it wasn't being received very well. The team continued to look lost at times on offense, and red-zone issues plagued the team for long stretches of the season.

    The defense had flashes of good play here and there but failed to come up with big plays when needed. The inability to create turnovers was a big part of the slide in the second half of the season. The turnovers were there in Week 17, but after all this was against Mark Sanchez, who has been lost at quarterback for most of the second half of the 2012 season.

    In this article on NFL.com, Ryan Fitzpatrick talked about the amount of uncertainty going on with the team, and how the potential changes at the top had an impact on the team.

Gailey Is Stubborn and Probably Is Stubborn to a Fault

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    One of the things that Bills players have enjoyed about playing for Coach Gailey is that he is very loyal to his players. For Gailey supporters, it is great when the coach is behind you and is in your corner. You can turn in a bad quarter or two, or even have a bad game here and there, and know that you won't be benched because of it.

    But then there is the other end of the spectrum, and that is sticking with a player even though he is hurting the team. That was the case in the 2011 season, when Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing hurt after being leveled by ex-Bills LB London Fletcher.

    Despite one bad performance after another as the Bills blew a 5-2 start en route to a 6-10 finish, Gailey refused to play another QB in 2011. He was going to go with Fitzpatrick no matter what, and it is that kind of stick-your-head-in-the-sand mentality that was driving Bills fans crazy.

    Jets fans can relate with what is going on with Mark Sanchez, and how he has been jerked around in the past month. Sanchez's play was so bad that he deserved to be benched. That was how it was for Fitzpatrick during the seven-game losing streak in 2011.

Will Bills Bring Back Ryan Fitzpatrick for 2013?

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    There is plenty of speculation going on about the future fate of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills starting quarterback is still under contract with the team, but there is a specific window of time where the Bills can release Fitzpatrick

    According to a story in the Buffalo News by Mark Gaughan, the Bills could save some money against the salary cap if they release Fitzpatrick before the 2013 season. Gaughan wrote:

    It will not cost the Bills any more to cut him than to keep him on the team. Actually, they will save almost $500,000, according to figures obtained by The News. If Fitzpatrick gets cut before his March bonus is paid, then he will count $10 million against the Bills’ salary cap in 2013. That’s a lot, but not so much that he will have to be retained. If Fitzpatrick is on the roster, his cap number for 2013 will be $10.45 million.

    In another story, James Walker of ESPN.com wrote further details about what the Bills could save by letting Fitzpatrick go:

    ESPN.com's AFC East blog has learned Buffalo will save $4.45 million in cap space and $7.45 million in actual cash by cutting Fitzpatrick this offseason. Fitzpatrick is due a base salary of $4.25 million and an easy-to-obtain workout bonus of $200,000 in 2013.

    However, the biggest litmus test will be a $3 million roster bonus Fitzpatrick is owed in March on the second day of the league year. If the Bills pay the bonus, Fitzpatrick's cap number jumps to $10.45 million next season, which would be suitable for a franchise quarterback.

    Since Fitzpartrick has been 18-31 as a starting quarterback coming into the Jets game, it is difficult to continue to pay him the kind of money that goes to somebody who should have a record of 31-18. It just doesn't make economical sense to throw that much money away, chasing wins that don't appear to have chance of materializing.

    Bills fans have enjoyed Fitzpatrick's work ethic, his toughness and the way that he carried himself in the locker room and on the field. But he has been given plenty of opportunities to take the Bills team to the next level, and he has repeatedly failed to deliver on a consistent basis.

A Look at 2013 Draft

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    Coming into the Week 17 tilt against the Jets, Buffalo was in line to have another top-10 draft pick. By defeating the Jets, the Bills finish with a 6-10 record.

    The final draft order can't be set until every game from Week 17 is concluded. As things stand now, the first two picks belong to Kansas City and Jacksonville. After that, Oakland, Philadelphia and Detroit will occupy the overall third, fourth and fifth picks. Cleveland and Arizona are the only teams that finished with five wins, so they will be drafting with the picks at No. 6 and No. 7.

    Then the Bills are in with a group of teams with six wins, which includes San Diego (still playing later today), Tennessee and the New York Jets. That means the Bills could draft anywhere from No. 8 up to No. 11 depending on the tie-breaker scenarios and strength of schedule breakdowns.

    In the latest mock draft by Drafttek.com, they have the Bills projected to draft Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o in the first round. There are quite a few positions that the Bills could use some help with, ranging from quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker as obvious needs.

    Other team needs depend on who the Bills are able to retain, as there are a number of key pending free agents that the team should bring back in 2013, such as G Andy Levitre and S Jairus Byrd.

    Key injuries to players like TE Scott Chandler may force the Bills to draft a tight end if they don't believe he will be ready for the start of the 2013 season. A number of teams make use of two strong tight ends, but that hasn't been the case in Buffalo under Gailey.

    If your focus has been more on the NFL and less on the potential college players that will be part of the 2013 NFL draft class, here are a couple links to get you started on players to watch for: an updated list of 200 draft prospects from the National Football Post, and an article covering the best pro prospects by position, written by Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller.

    Many bowl games are going to be played over the next week, so this is a great time to get some scouting in. Then of course, we have the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combines to look forward to as well.

Final Thoughts

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    This has been another long and trying season of frustration for the Bills organization. From Ralph Wilson, to the players and Bills fans around the world, the team was viewed with potentially having enough talent to compete for the postseason in 2012.

    The lack of a killer instinct or the inability to put teams away is a reflection of the head coach and his staff. It will be interesting to see what the team opts to do about Gailey, Nix and Fitzpatrick.

    If sweeping changes are being made to the team, we can only hope that the team will act swiftly enough to bring in a coach that has strong conviction, can motivate his players, and won't be so afraid of losing that he will actually try to win games with his decisions. We have had it with overly conservative head coaches.

    Going forward, we will continue to address the team needs and look at free agency and the draft, as well as what potential coaching changes could do for the franchise. If the Bills remain pat, hopefully Gailey has learned some valuable lessons this year and does some soul searching about how he can do a better job.

    Thanks for checking out the presentation.