Consistency was the buzzword for the Buffalo Bills’ offense coming into the 2012 season.
A quarter of the way into it, though, the results have been anything but.
From game to game – sometimes even half to half – it’s been feast or famine. The offense’s inability to protect the ball has been the biggest reason why.
“When you talk about consistency it starts with possessing the ball and not giving it up to the other team,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “It’s something we thought we got better at in Weeks Two and Three, but we’re back to square one and have to continue to make that a main focus for us.
“Nobody is going to win games in this league turning the ball over like we did in game one and game four. Obviously those were two big-time losses and the turnovers really said it all in those two games.”
Fitzpatrick has been the definition of inconsistency.
His 12 touchdown passes lead the NFL, and his seven interceptions were tied for the most in the league until Dallas’ Tony Romo threw five Monday night to run his total to eight.
“The turnovers have been the thing that have been the most inconsistent – by far the most inconsistent,” coach Chan Gailey said. “Anything else has been kind of on par; it’s just been the inconsistency factor of turning the ball over so much, which we don’t want to do. We don’t like to do it; we talk about not doing it. But we’ve had way too many.”
Fitzpatrick hasn’t been alone in giving the ball away. The Bills have already lost four fumbles, just one off their season total of five in 2011, a figure that was tied for the fewest in the league.
Both running backs, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, lost fumbles in Sunday’s blowout loss to New England.
“We have not been a team that fumbled and we fumbled twice the other day,” Gailey said. “You can’t fumble against a good team at the 1-yard line and expect to have a good finish to a game.”
Not surprisingly, the Bills’ turnover problems have come primarily in their losses. The Bills turned the ball over just once in their two wins, when Fitzpatrick had a wet ball slip out of his hands in Cleveland.
Dating back to the 2011 season finale in New England, the Bills have 14 turnovers in their last three losses.
“I wish I could, but I can’t,” Gailey said when asked why the turnovers have piled up in bunches. “A lot of those happen late, especially the interceptions where Fitz is trying to make something happen down the field ... I don’t like ‘em, but I understand a little bit.”
That’s just partially true.
Of Fitzpatrick’s seven interceptions, four of them have come with the Bills either tied or trailing by a touchdown, and the other three have come in the second half with the team facing deficits of 20, 14 and 21 points.
Two of the Bills’ four fumbles have come with the lead, while Jackson’s on Sunday came with the team down by a touchdown.
On Monday, Gailey called into question the mental toughness of his team, saying he needed to do a better job of preparing a sense of urgency for every snap.
“It hasn’t been a concern, but you can’t be ahead 21-7 in the third quarter – if we’re mentally tough like we need to be that game doesn’t end up the way it ended up,” he said. “That’s my responsibility is to work on the mental toughness and the mindset of this football team.”
Spiller said ultimately, though, that responsibility falls on the players.
“Every man has to look in the mirror and ask themselves, are they mentally strong? Coach Gailey can get up there and try to give us scenarios, but at the end of the day it is going to come down to that individual, if you are mentally strong or not,” he said. “I think we have a lot of guys on this team that are and hopefully it will rub off onto the rest of the team. Once we become a mentally tough team, I think we will be fine. I think we do a great job knowing how to put wins and losses behind us and knowing how to move onto the next opponent. That is what I expect us to do this week.”
The Bills made two changes to their practice squad Tuesday.
They announced they have signed defensive back Mana Silva along with offensive lineman Andrew Jackson and released defensive back Isaiah Green and tight end LaMark Brown from the squad.
Silva, 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, was with the Bills on the practice squad for five weeks last season. He was released from the Dallas Cowboys’ 53-man roster last week when the team signed former Buffalo punter Brian Moorman.
The 6-5, 300-pound Jackson was a seventh-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2011. He spent that season on the Falcons’ practice squad and was released at the end of training camp this past summer.
Green was an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, while Brown joined the Bills’ practice squad after being released by Atlanta on Sept. 3.