Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey has tried to sell the notion his team is making progress.
A look at the thousands of tickets left for his team’s remaining home games would suggest few are buying.
“We’re doing some things better. We haven’t put it all together. We have one group do well and then two other groups, defense or special teams, can’t do good when offense does good. We’re not putting it all together,” Gailey said Sunday, following his team’s 20-13 loss in Indianapolis that effectively ended any chance of a playoff berth for a 13th consecutive season. “We’ve shown signs of everybody playing well but we’ve got to put it all together and that’s the mark of a good football team. That’s my responsibility to get a team to play in all three phases where they need to play to win football games.”
Pressed Monday as to where he’s seen those good things, Gailey offered up the following examples.
“Well, I feel like our defense is getting better and has become more consistent. Maybe our run defense in particular has gotten better and I think we’ve taken a step back in some areas,” he said. “We’ve done some good things in special teams but we give up (plays) sometimes and that’s frustrating at times.”
Viewed through the prism of the last two games, the run defense has improved, allowing an average of just 74 yards per game. But when one considers the entire body of work, both offensively and defensively, finding meaningful progress requires a high-powered magnifying glass when using rudimentary statistics.
Consider the following:
• In 2011, the Bills’ offense ranked 15th in total yardage per game, with 351.5, and 14th in scoring, at 23.3 points per game. This year, those numbers have fallen to 17th (346.6) and 17th (22.1), respectively.
• On defense, the Bills last year allowed 371.1 yards and 27.1 points per game, figures that ranked 26th and tied for 30th, respectively. This season, those numbers have dipped to 380.5 and 29.0, still 26th and 30th in the league. The team’s third-down defense gave up first downs 39.7 percent of the time in 2011, a number that tied for 21st in the league in 2011. Buffalo is giving up first downs 46.4 percent of the time on third down this year, a figure that’s last in the league.
“Until you win games ... the statistics go out the gate when you win games,” Gailey said. “Statistics don’t matter. Statistics are a way to evaluate losing in my opinion.”
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, running back C.J. Spiller was adamant Monday that the offense has not regressed.
“I think our offense [is] fine. We’re running the ball. We ran against some great defenses. It’s not easy to do that week in and week out. I think our offense, I think we moving fine,” Spiller said. “I think we can move the ball against just about anybody when we execute well. Then if we don’t, if you don’t protect the ball, we don’t move the ball well. I don’t think we took a step back. I think we’re moving forward.”
“That’s the outside perception,” Spiller said, when told the statistics make that a tough sell. “When we clicking and we executing well, we’ve got one of the best offenses in the league. When we not doing those things, we’re not executing and making those plays, then it’s going to be thrown off. We’ve got a very explosive offense. We can go and play with anybody in the NFL. ... We had the Houston Texans on the ropes and didn’t score in the red zone. We had the New England Patriots twice where we should have won, we didn’t. So it’s not like we’re not capable of doing it, we’ve just got to go do it.”
Dating back to last season, the Bills are 5-15 in their past 20 games. At 4-7, they’re a game worse than they were at this point in 2011.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve been inconsistent and unfortunately, the last month or so, we’re heading in the wrong direction in terms of our production has dropped off,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “Not where we wanted to be. For us, that’s disappointing. But we just have to continue to work and continue to try to fix the things that we’re not doing well.”
Several thousand tickets remain for the Bills’ remaining three games at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Gailey was asked Monday if he felt the fans’ frustration.
“I don’t feel it because I don’t deal with outside a lot, to be honest with you. But I know they are. These are loyal, great fans that live and die with the Bills and they’re suffering right now and I understand that, I do,” he said.
Defensive end Chris Kelsay could miss some playing time after aggravating a neck injury in Sunday’s loss.
“Not good,” Gailey said of the injury, which Kelsay revealed last week was actually a torn neck ligament.
As for the potential to end Kelsay’s season, Gailey said: “I don’t think so, but you never know about these things.”
The news was better for fullback Corey McIntyre, who left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.
“Better than we thought. Could have been a lot worse,” Gailey said. “There’s a good chance for this week that he’ll get to practice.”
Cornerback Aaron Williams and defensive end Mark Anderson remain out of the lineup because of knee injuries.