MIAMI — The Buffalo Bills are starting to realize an offseason personnel explosion is coming.
It’s just a question of how much owner Ralph Wilson and General Manager Buddy Nix decide they need to blow things up.
“It stinks that we’re not winning, and a lot of people are gonna lose their jobs because of it,” said Bills center Eric Wood after the team’s dismal, 24-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
“That’s the reality of this league,” Wood said. “When you don’t win, you’re not gonna play with the same group year to year. We’ve got a talented team and we play hard. We just don’t always play well. It’s really frustrating.”
Wood was referring to players losing their jobs. Asked if he worried about facing another coaching overhaul with the firing of Chan Gailey, Wood replied: “Yeah.”
“I definitely feel like we’ve taken a step forward this year in our play,” Wood said. “But when you lose more games or you lose the same amount of games, then it’s tough to say that. I mean, you can turn on the film, and I think we’re better than last year or the year before. But when you don’t win games, you can’t justify it.
“I’d hate to start over, and that’s not what I want. But when you lose this many games, I understand change happens and it’s going to happen at some position. That’s just the way the league works. I hope for zero change.”
Nix does not want to fire Gailey. However, Sunday’s performance painted the general manager into an even tighter corner in his quest to maintain continuity with the coaching staff. It’s going to be hard to sell the fans on a fourth season of Gailey at the helm.
The Bills (5-10) lost for the seventh time in the last nine games. They dropped into sole possession of last place in the AFC East. Gailey’s record dropped to 15-32 overall and 3-14 against division foes.
Coming off a miserable 50-17 loss to Seattle, the Bills played another ugly game, falling behind, 24-3, in the third quarter.
The offense managed only a field goal in its first nine possessions and committed four turnovers against a Miami defense that had created just one takeaway in the previous seven games.
The Bills’ defense gave up touchdowns on three of Miami’s first seven drives and was bulldozed for 182 rushing yards.
“It’s just an ongoing recurrence of things that’s happened this year,” said linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. “Something’s obviously going to have to change, because it’s starting to get repetitive.”
The game was more of the same on both sides of the ball for the Bills.
The defense, which ranks third worst in the league against the run, was bad from the start, yielding 56 rushing yards on Miami’s first two drives and 115 rushing yards in the first half.
Miami back Reggie Bush was held to 65 yards on 19 carries but made two big plays in the passing game. He caught a 17-yard TD strike to give Miami a 7-0 lead and had a 12-yard TD catch that blew the game open, 21-3, midway through the third quarter.
On the first TD, Miami called the perfect play for the defense the Bills ran, which was vulnerable to a pass in the flat. Miami faked a run to the left, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill bootlegged to the right. He dumped a short throw to Bush, who streaked down the right sideline into the end zone. Sheppard, the Bills’ middle linebacker, was responsible for getting all the way over to the sideline to guard Bush. Sheppard actually got a good jump on the play, but he was no match for Bush’s speed.
Bush’s second TD came on a “wheel route,” in which he came out of the backfield and down the left sideline. He made an over-the-shoulder catch against Bills linebacker Nick Barnett, with cornerback Aaron Williams coming over a tad late in support.
“I was just running with him,” Barnett said. “Do I play off of him and he runs an option route in there? Or do I get up close and try to eliminate that? He kind of got me on an angle and made a great catch and a great throw. You couldn’t have made a better throw on that play. It happens. This is the NFL.”
One play that shouldn’t have happened was a 31-yard Tannehill run down the right sideline to the Buffalo 2. It set up Miami’s second TD. It came on the same read-option running play that Seattle killed the Bills with last week. Tannehill faked up the middle and ran around right end. Linebacker Bryan Scott missed a tackle near the line of scrimmage.
“We go out and had a game full of penalties, missed tackles here and there,” said defensive end Mario Williams. “They hit us one time with a read, and we had three chances to get him on that sideline. He went all the way down and pretty much scored.”
Williams said he’s at a loss to explain the defensive breakdowns.
“I can’t really understand how everything’s unfolding like this,” he said. “We definitely went out there and played our hardest. We went out there and tried to get it done. … You can play hard but at the end of the day you’ve got to finish.”
“You scratch your head till you go bald,” said defensive tackle Spencer Johnson. “I wish I had a formula or an equation to figure out what’s going on, man.”
On offense, the story was turnovers and the Bills’ lack of passing-game weapons, exacerbated by the loss of tight end Scott Chandler to a knee injury early in the game.
Stevie Johnson fumbled at Miami’s 17 to foil one scoring chance. Dorin Dickerson fumbled at Miami’s 48 early in the third quarter.
Running back C.J. Spiller rushed for 138 yards.
“That was I think as poor as we’ve played offensively since I’ve been here,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said of the first-half showing.
As Gailey pointed out, that unfortunately was an overstatement. “I don’t think I’d go that far,” the coach said.
“We’re playing for jobs, for the coaches and for the fans,” said defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.