Time and again the Buffalo Bills’ fans would rise to their feet for crucial plays. This time, they’d think. This time the defense is going to come through.
Nope. Maybe next time.
The Bills’ defense experienced yet another Sunday filled with repeated failures. Chris Johnson torched them on runs. Matt Hasselbeck found passing lanes when it counted. After one of their rare third-down stops, the Bills gave up the winning touchdown on fourth down.
There was letdown after letdown during the 35-34 loss to Tennessee.
“I wish that we could play up to the expectations that everybody has for us,” defensive end Chris Kelsay said. “We just are not right now.”
The defense that was expected to be improved this season instead lived down to its 31st ranking. Johnson rushed for 195 yards on 18 carries. The Titans went 9 for 14 on third down and 1 for 2 on fourth, with the success coming on Hasselbeck’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington with 1:03 to play.
The Bills put up 34 points, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a defense that is running out of answers.
“We just have to get better,” defensive end Kyle Moore said. “Our offense was hot. It was helping us out a whole bunch. We just needed to come up at the end and make a big stop, but we just didn’t.”
It was evident from the outset the Bills’ defense was in for a long day. Tennessee enjoyed an eight-play march to the end zone on its opening possession. Johnson needed just one play on the second, sprinting 83 yards untouched for a score.
“I knew I was gone because I really didn’t see anybody,” said Johnson, who set an NFL record with his fourth career rushing TD of at least 80 yards. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad game versus them, but it seems like my offensive line, they come through when we come down here.”
The Titans reached the end zone on their third possession, too, building a 21-20 lead at halftime while rolling to 260 yards in 30 minutes.
“I’m definitely tired of not playing to our capabilities,” linebacker Nick Barnett said. “There’s nothing wrong with this defense. As far as the schematics of this defense, this is one of the best schemes you can have in the NFL, for me personally. We just didn’t execute. That’s the problem.
“As players, we have to take responsibility and go out there and execute. We didn’t, and we shouldn’t be talking about this in Week Seven.”
The defense gained some footing during the second half, getting occasional pressure on Hasselbeck and closing holes on the Titans’ running game. Everything again fell apart at the end.
Johnson broke a 27-yard run on third-and-1. Safety George Wilson dropped an interception chance near the goal line. Washington got open for the touchdown with the Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd screaming for a stop.
The score left them again screaming for a capable defense.
“You’re not very talented if you’re doing what we’ve been doing,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said.
“First half, we weren’t playing how we should play,” added Barnett. “We came out in the second half, the defense, we stepped it up, but we didn’t step it up when it counted.”