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Bills’ Emotional Week Ends in Familiar Heartbreak

The best possible way to describe this season for the Buffalo Bills is that it just wasn’t meant to be.

It wasn’t meant to be when Terrell Owens arrived in Orchard Park. Dick Jauron wasn’t meant to last the entire season. It wasn’t meant to be in New England, or at home against the woeful Cleveland Browns. On Sunday in Jacksonville, it wasn’t meant to be again.

The Bills put together an inspirational, valiant effort for interim coach Perry Fewell, but at the end of the day it simply wasn’t good enough. Again, the Bills were the better football team through three quarters and they were the better team for the first 59 minutes on Sunday. The Jaguars, on the other hand, were the better team in the last minute, snatching away a gutsy, 18-15 win over the Bills, dropping Buffalo to 3-7 on the season.

Jaguars quarterback David Garrard connected on a three-yard pass to receiver Mike Sims-Walker with :56 seconds left in the game to give the Jacksonville the go-ahead score. Buffalo’s last ditch effort in the waning seconds of the game felt short. The Bills made it to the Jacksonville 45, but would get no further. For the second straight week, an AFC South opponent collected its third straight win at the Bills’ expense.

In the days leading up to this game, I, along with the rest of you, wondered how the Bills would respond following the dismissal of Dick Jauron. You figured it would go one of two ways: either the Bills would come out and play as if their helmets were on fire and hit anything in black and turquoise that moved, or they would lie down, play dead and allow Jacksonville to steamroll to victory. I’m proud that the Bills chose the first option.

Again when it mattered, a la the fourth quarter, the Bills were left still searching for answers on how to finish the game. This season, Buffalo has been outscored by an astounding 101-40 in the fourth quarter, and while Sunday’s final frame wasn’t nearly as treacherous for the Bills as it had been against Houston and Tennessee when the Bills were outscored by a combined 46-0 total, Buffalo still came up empty. The Jaguars scored eight points while the Bills put up a number they’re familiar with, zero. Expectedly, the defense slowly wore down in the second half. Jacksonville had the ball for more than 20 of the game’s remaining 30 minutes..

There’s no profit for almost-victors, but to take some solace in these reeling Bills, had Buffalo found a way to steal a victory, it would’ve been difficult giving out just one game ball.

My suspicions were finally verified: Terrell Owens can still be a threat if you do like Keyshawn Johnson once said and get him the damn ball. Invisible for much of this season, Owens had spectacular afternoon, hauling in nine catches for 197 yards, including a 98-yard touchdown which is the longest touchdown reception in Bills history.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny turned in one heckuva performance, one of his finest as a Bill. He led the team with 11 tackles and a forced fumble. Held together by tape, glue and guts, defensive tackle Kyle Williams couldn’t be kept from the field and along with Spencer Johnson, who was filling in for injured Marcus Stroud, didn’t give Jaguars all-world running back Maurice Jones-Drew much daylight to work with. Jones-Drew was held to 66 yards on almost 30 carries and a 2.6 yard average. Without Stroud, Kawika Mitchell, Leodis McKelvin, or Terrence McGee, the Bills defense held in check the NFL’s sixth ranked rushing defense. For the first time since Week 2 against Tampa Bay, the Bills held an opponent under 100 yards rushing.

And then there was Ryan Fitzpatrick. Given the starting job after the Bills benched Trent Edwards, Fitzpatrick passed for 297 yards, the most by a Bills quarterback not just this season, but in the last three years. His 98-yard bomb to Owens was a thing of beauty, possibly even the best throw the Bills have had from a quarterback in the past few seasons.

We’ve been here before and just because we’ve seen the ending doesn’t mean it’s not painful to watch. Certainly it was a disheartening loss. The Bills came out fighting and determined. They were determined to prove to themselves, their fans and their owner that they’re better than the 3-6 group who had a hand in Jauron’s firing. With a clean slate, Buffalo had a chance to start to write the rest of the story positively and start out 1-0. It would’ve been nice. But it wasn’t meant to be.

The wounds from Sunday’s loss were both inflicted and crushing. Buffalo had two touchdowns negated due to offensive penalties. In the first quarter, Bills safety George Wilson took an interception down to the Jacksonville 9-yard line. On the very next play, Fred Jackson scampered into the end zone, but the play was called back because rookie tight end Shawn Nelson was flagged for a 15-yard illegal chop block. Instead of six, the Bills had to settle for three. Then in the fourth quarter with Buffalo leading 15-10, from their own 47, Fitzpatrick unloaded another bomb, this time to Lee Evans for a 54-yard touchdown. The six points, however, were again taken off the board as left tackle Jonathan Scott was whistled for an illegal use of the hands penalty.

Sadly it wouldn’t be a Sunday if the Bills didn’t suffer a debilitating injury or two. Rookie guard Eric Wood suffered a broken leg in the fourth quarter, effectively ending his rookie campaign. Guard Seth McKinney tore his meniscus in his left knee and he will join Wood on the injured reserve list.

Perry Fewell’s head coaching debut began similar to how Dick Jauron’s ended. There were penalties, injuries and missed opportunities. There was the defense keeping the Bills in position to win, but couldn’t make one final stop. There was the offense that didn’t do enough to help the defense. There was close, but no cigar. There was heartbreak.

These are the problems that plagued Jauron and now they’re Fewell’s. They just didn’t happen last week or last month and they’re not going to go away in week or a month. The passion, the fight and the heart were all there. The execution and the play making are still missing.

Buffalo returns home next week to face AFC East rival Miami.

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