Chris Kelsay is in no mood to enjoy Buffalo’s bye week after the latest meltdown from the Bills’ high-priced defense.
And the veteran defensive end delivered a tough-worded critique Monday that should make the upcoming break uncomfortable for his teammates, too.
Declining to single anyone out, Kelsay accused players of lacking effort in a 35-34 loss to Tennessee a day earlier. He then added it’s time for team leaders to start holding teammates accountable.
”You watch film and not everybody was playing hard every snap. And that’s unacceptable,” Kelsay said. ”It’s a blessing to be in this league. And then to go out there and lay an egg, there’s no excuses for it.”
As for what it might take to get players’ attention, Kelsay said: ”We might have to grab guys by the shirt collar and tell them to get moving.”
In his 10th season with Buffalo, Kelsay is the defense’s longest-tenured player, and one of the team’s most respected leaders. His comments come as Buffalo (3-4) enters its bye week having lost three of four, and facing numerous questions before returning from its break to play at Houston on Nov. 4.
The most pressing concern involves fixing an under-performing Mario Williams-led defense that’s allowed an NFL-worst 1,238 yards rushing, including a whopping 937 in its past four games.
The Titans were but the latest team to expose the Bills’ deficiencies.
After managing just 301 yards in his first six games, Titans running back Chris Johnson looked rejuvenated in racking up 195 yards rushing and two scores Sunday. And Buffalo crumbled in the clutch, allowing the Titans to score the decisive touchdown, Matt Hasselbeck’s 15-yard pass to Nate Washington, on a fourth-and-9 with 1:03 remaining.
This was not the type of performance anyone imagined from a defense that was supposed to be much-improved after the Bills committed more than $127 million to sign Williams and fellow defensive end Mark Anderson in free agency. Though the pass-rush has improved, Buffalo’s defense has regressed in most every other statistical category.
”I wouldn’t have believed that in a million years,” Kelsay said. ”That’s why it’s so frustrating.”
He became the latest member of the Bills organization, and first player, to openly question the team’s performance.
Coach Chan Gailey questioned his team’s mental toughness three weeks ago after a 52-28 loss to New England in which the Bills were outscored 45-14 in the second half.
A week later, general manager Buddy Nix blamed the defensive collapses on an overall lack of urgency after the Bills were accused of quitting in a 45-3 loss at San Francisco.
The Bills rebounded a week later with a 19-16 overtime win at Arizona, but they failed to carry over that momentum against Tennessee.
”I’m not pointing the finger. I’m looking in the mirror myself,” Kelsay said. ”But if you aren’t going to give us everything you’ve got, you shouldn’t be on the field.”
Gailey was caught off guard when told of Kelsay’s comments.
”Kelsay’s entitled to his opinion,” Gailey said, before adding everyone can play better. ”It’s not that I don’t think we’re playing hard. I do. I think we play hard. Can we play better? That’s the key. Being consistent. That’s the term I used with the players this morning.”
Williams has taken the brunt of criticism for his inconsistent play. He’s managed just 3 1/2 sacks and been invisible in all four losses.
Gailey said it was also unfair to single out Williams.
”I wish everybody was doing a little bit more right now, not just him,” he said.
Running back Fred Jackson said there’s plenty of blame to go around, and not just limited to the defense.
”Everybody has to be held accountable for what they are doing,” Jackson said. ”It’s a sick feeling right now. But at the same time we can’t go in the tank.”
NOTES: Gailey said RG Chad Rinehart sustained a ”long-term” injury after hurting his left ankle on Sunday. Gailey said more tests will be required before determining whether the injury is season-ending. … Rinehart was starting in place of Kraig Urbik (right ankle), who is expected to return next week. … The Bills will practice Wednesday before getting a four-day break.