Winning has not cured everything for the Buffalo Bills.
Despite Sunday’s 19-16 overtime win against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, coach Chan Gailey’s performance in the game has been thoroughly dissected, both on talk radio and on Internet message boards.
Three particular situations have been called into question. Here they are, with Gailey’s explanation:
• The decision to have Brad Smith throw a pass out of the Wildcat formation with the Bills leading, 16-13, and facing a second-and-9 situation from the Arizona 36-yard line with four minutes left in regulation. Smith’s throw was too long for Donald Jones and intercepted by the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson. Prior to that play, the Bills had run for 77 yards in the second half, including 11 on the previous three plays by Fred Jackson.
“We thought we had a chance to hit the home run and kind of ice the thing right there. We thought they’d be playing run the whole way and we had seen the middle of the field open. We didn’t get it down the middle of the field, which is where it was planned to go. But we didn’t get it there. In hindsight, bad call,” Gailey said.
• The conservative play-calling at the end of regulation. After the Cardinals tied the game, 16-16, on Jay Feely’s 61-yard field goal, the Bills took over at their 20.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked for a 6-yard loss on first down, after which the Cardinals used their first timeout with 1:05 left on the clock. The Bills ran Jackson up the middle for 2 yards on second down, then 7 yards on third down, with the Cardinals using their second and third timeouts after each play.
The Bills punted on fourth-and-7 from their own 23 with 57 seconds left. Rookie Shawn Powell’s punt, however, went just 30 yards out of bounds – the Bills were determined to keep the ball away from Peterson all game – and gave the Cardinals a first down at their own 47-yard line. Knowing that Feely had just showed his range extended to 60-plus yards, Arizona needed to gain just 10 yards in 50 seconds, well within reason even without timeouts. They got a lot more than that, getting down to the Bills’ 20-yard line. Feely’s 38-yard attempt was partially blocked by Alex Carrington and missed after hitting the left upright.
“After the sack, yeah I would do the same thing. If we could have got a completion [on first down] and got something going we would have tried to get down and scored, but then and there to me, you try to make them use their timeouts instead of stopping the clock for them if we threw an incomplete pass and let them keep their timeouts. So we were going to try and run it and make them use their timeouts, gain some yardage back from the lost sack and punt it down there and see if we could play defense one more time,” Gailey said.
• Passing up a 53-yard field goal try with Rian Lindell in overtime. After driving to the Arizona 35-yard line on the first possession of the extra session, the Bills ran three straight pass plays (which has also been questioned), all of which fell incomplete. Rather than try a 53-yarder, the Bills sent Powell out. The new overtime rules – which dictate that the Cardinals would have gotten a possession even if Lindell’s kick was good – factored into Gailey’s decision to punt.
“It was ‘what if we don’t make it?’ Plus, they get it again anyway, because that was our first possession. I thought it was smarter with the backup quarterback [John Skelton] to punt it. Maybe we get them down inside the 10, which I thought we had a chance to do. See if he could take them all the way down the field, which I felt good about the way our defense was playing,” Gailey said.
Even though Powell’s punt resulted in a touchback – Ruvell Martin almost downed it at the 1 but his foot touched the goal line – the decision worked. Jairus Byrd intercepted Skelton on third down and returned it to the Arizona 6, setting up Lindell’s game-winning field goal.
Not surprisingly, the Bills have their coach’s back, “110 percent, all the way,” as linebacker Bryan Scott says.
“I respect coach Gailey so much, first as a man, even before a football coach. His outlook on life, how dedicated he is, he did a great job,” Scott said. “Everyone has counted us out, and he’s the one who put things back in perspective. He’s like, ‘Look, this is where we stand. The season is far from over for us. There’s so much football left to be played. Don’t let the naysayers get in our heads.’ Seeing a leader like that, how can you not stand behind that?”
The Bills re-signed center David Snow and defensive tackle Jay Ross to the practice squad Tuesday. They had earned one-game promotions to the active roster for Sunday’s game, but were released Monday when the team re-signed defensive end Shawne Merriman and Delano Howell.
Snow and Ross were added to the practice squad after being released during final cuts this summer.
Ross, 6-foot-3 and 319 pounds, spent 10 weeks on Buffalo’s practice squad in 2011. He originally joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent with New Orleans in 2010. He was a three-year starter at East Carolina. Snow, 6-4 and 303 pounds, joined the Bills as an undrafted free agent in April out of Texas, where he started 30 of 52 career games.