NFL

Bills' offence second-guessed for abandoning the run in loss

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Associated Press
11/5/2012 6:26:47 PM
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller isn't about to second-guess the offensive game plan or start lobbying for more carries.

"That's not my job description," Spiller said on Monday. "I don't have to sit around and mope and be mad and try to go upstairs and talk to the coaches."

Turns out, the NFL's leader in yards per carry doesn't need to stir the pot because others were doing that for him a day after the Bills inconsistent offence lacked finish -- and much of a ground game -- in a 21-9 loss to Houston.

Coach Chan Gailey, an offensive-minded specialist, found himself on the defensive answering questions of whether he abandoned the run too early against the Texans.

"I wish we could've run it more the other day, but it was one of those situations where we thought it best to throw the football," Gailey said. "And it didn't work."

He's right about that.

The Bills attempted just 16 rushes -- and only five in the second half -- while Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 25 of 38 for 239 yards, while being held without a touchdown for the third time in four games. Buffalo settled for attempting four fields goals (one missed, and three made) on four trips inside the Texans 22.

Having lost four of five, the Bills (3-5) hit their mid-season mark suddenly in jeopardy of falling completely out of the playoff picture, and face a daunting task of travelling to play at AFC East rival New England (5-3) this weekend. The Patriots have already beaten Buffalo 52-28 this season, and the Bills have lost 11 straight games at New England.

Gailey explained that the Bills stuck with the pass because of how the Texans lined up on defence in a bid to stop the run.

And yet, Spiller and co-starter Fred Jackson still combined for 60 yards rushing on 12 carries. Spiller also added five catches for 63 yards despite being on the field for only 26 of Buffalo's 57 plays on offence.

The 16 rushing attempts (including three by Fitzpatrick and one by Brad Smith) matched the fewest during Gailey's two-plus season term in Buffalo. And they were made by an offence that's statistically been among the NFL's best at getting its running backs involved this season.

Spiller leads the NFL in averaging 7.2 yards a carry and, with 24 catches for 236 yards, he leads running backs in averaging 7.8 yards each time he touches the ball.

"You always like running the ball, but I'm not going to complain about it," guard Andy Levitre said. "It was just part of the plan, I guess. I thought we'd run the ball more but it just wasn't in the cards we were dealt."

It wasn't lost on Fitzpatrick immediately following the game and also on Monday that the Bills need to lean on both Spiller and Jackson a little more often.

"That's no secret. ... We know we've got to give him the ball, and we've just got to find ways to do it," Fitzpatrick said. "But if we execute in the red zone and we score four touchdowns rather than attempt four field goals, then all of a sudden everybody's not talking about all that. They're talking about how great we did."

Trouble was, Fitzpatrick and his receivers failed to deliver in what amounted to a dink-and-dunk passing approach that averaged a mere 9.6 yards a completion, and was even worse in the red zone. On nine snaps inside the Texans' 20, the Bills combined for 8 yards, giving up two sacks and losing another 5 yards on a false-start penalty.

That extended a string of red-zone sputters. After opening the season scoring seven touchdowns on 10 drives inside an opponent's 20, Buffalo's managed just four TDs on its last 11 trips.

Fitzpatrick's role in leading the offence is already being questioned. On Friday, general manager Buddy Nix suggested he intends to draft a quarterback to potentially compete for the starting job as early as next season.

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NOTES: Since the start of last season, Buffalo is 8-4 when combining for 125 or more yards rushing and 1-11 when totalling fewer. ... Conversely, the Bills are 5-1 when Fitzpatrick has 29 or fewer pass attempts, and 4-14 when attempting 30-plus. ... Gailey acknowledged his weekly chats with team owner Ralph Wilson haven't been upbeat of late. "He's upset we're losing. Would you expect anything less?" Gailey said. "I am, too. So we've got to win, and our weekly conversations will go better."

Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller (Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
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