PHOENIX – The Buffalo Bills went to work Monday on keeping their collective morale from falling apart.
The Bills are reeling after two straight historic blowout losses, and the players acknowledged it as they convened in Phoenix for a week of practices in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
“We have to find a way to get a renewed sense of energy and optimism, and just make sure our confidence level remains high,” said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. “I think that’s the most important thing for us as we move forward here.”
Asked if he was worried about the team’s morale, coach Chan Gailey said:
“Sure you are. You got your head in the sand if you don’t worry about confidence, morale, all of those terms we all use. I addressed it with the team. What I reminded them is they’ve done it before, and to not lose confidence in themselves. We’ve all seen them do it before, so I know it can be done.”
Center Eric Wood acknowledged he’s concerned about how the team will respond to Sunday’s 45-3 loss at San Francisco, the third-largest margin of defeat in team history.
“Yeah, I read that Chan was worried about it, too,” Wood said. “It’s a big week for us. We’re gonna put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get a win this week and try and get back to .500.
“But at the same time we can’t be tight. And I feel like we’ve come out a little tight. Last week, I felt like we were kinda waiting to see what San Francisco might do to us differently to stop our inside zone [runs], instead of just dictating to them and making them stop it. It’s gonna be natural for people to be tight this week because there’s gonna be a lot of pressure on us to get a victory. But you still have to play loose and enjoy being out there on the field again.”
Can Gailey and his staff inspire confidence in the locker room? Players said the coach reminded them in the team meeting Monday that they have the talent to rebound.
“His biggest thing was he let us know the things he knew about us as a team and the things that were still up in the air, in terms of maybe our confidence level and how we’re gonna respond and the things he wasn’t quite so sure of,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think it was a good message today. … He’s not a huge rah-rah guy, but I think everybody took to it and took it to heart today, and I thought it was a necessary speech and a good one.”
“We have to be mentally tough and we have to show up,” Wood said, paraphrasing some of Gailey’s message. “You can’t just keep doing the same things and expecting different results. So we may switch up some stuff in practice this week. We may do different stuff in preparation. But you can’t do the same things and expect different results.”
“You gotta regroup. We all gotta look ourselves in the mirror we gotta get better. We got too much talent to be setting record like we’re setting, to be not putting up any points, not sustaining any drives.”
The 1,201 yards Buffalo’s defense has allowed the last two weeks is the most in back-to-back games by any team since 1950. In losing to the Niners, the Bills became the first team ever to allow 300 yards rushing and a 300-yard passer.
“The mood is terrible,” said defensive tackle Kyle Williams of the locker room after the game Sunday. “There is no other way for it to be. If we had guys in there laughing, having a good time, then I definitely would not want them on our football team. The mood is bad, there is a bad taste in your mouth. … There is a lot of things that have to be corrected. If we want to win football games, we have to get a lot better fast. Hopefully that is what we are going to do this week.”
Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said he’s not worried about the team’s morale.
“Not at all, and I can confidently say that right now, especially being that we’re here together as a team all week,” he said. “Guys aren’t going home with their families doing this or that. I think that’s gonna jell the team together in this adverse situation.”
Fitzpatrick said he knows teammates will look to him to set a positive tone.
“I’m kind of a guy that people are going to be looking at, especially offensively,” he said. “I’ve got to make sure I’m out there 100 percent in it, making sure they know I have confidence in them just like I have confidence in myself. … So it’s an important thing for us as we get into this week here.
“That’s something for me I feel is a strength. And it’s going to be paramount for me this week to make sure I have a pulse on not just the team, not just the offense, but individual guys and making sure we keep the confidence high as we go on.”