Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey questioned his players’ mental toughness on Monday, a day after the team’s embarrassing and near-historic second-half collapse against the New England Patriots.
Placing the blame on everyone, including himself, Gailey called it his responsibility to address how Buffalo squandered a 14-point lead, by allowing the Patriots to score 45 second-half points in rallying to a 52-28 win.
”You can’t be ahead 21-7 in the third quarter. And if we’re mentally tough like we need to be, that game doesn’t end up the way it ended,” he said. ”And that’s my responsibility, to work on the mental toughness and the mindset of this football team.”
Gailey was unhappy with how his high-priced defense missed too many tackles and was pushed around in allowing 580 yards offense, the second-highest total allowed by the team in franchise history.
The Patriots scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions and became only the NFL’s fifth team to score both 45 points in the second half of a game and 31 in a fourth quarter.
Gailey then turned his attention to how sloppy his offense was in committing six turnovers, including running back C.J. Spiller losing a fumble while attempting a goal-line plunge late in the first half.
”After a game like that, you’re dissatisfied with a lot of things. Let’s not just pick out one thing,” Gailey said. ”I’ve got to work on the mindset of this football team and creating a sense of urgency every snap of every game.”
Inconsistency and mental toughness are suddenly not the only question facing the Bills (2-2).
Injuries are also becoming a factor for Buffalo in preparing to enter a difficult stretch of its schedule. The Bills play four of their next five on the road, starting with their game at San Francisco (3-1) on Sunday.
And they’ll be facing the defensively stout 49ers without two starting offensive linemen after left tackle Cordy Glenn and right guard Kraig Urbik both hurt their right ankles against New England. Gailey expects both to miss this week’s game, and isn’t sure whether either will be ready to play the following weekend at Arizona.
Urbik wore a protective boot on his right foot on Monday and said he’s been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain.
The troubles are piling up for a team that entered the season with high expectations in believing the pieces were in place to contend for a playoff spot and end a 12-season postseason drought.
The optimism came after Buffalo committed more than $120 million in salary to shore up its porous defense by signing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency. And there was hope the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense would find consistency in building on last season, when Buffalo finished 14th in the NFL in yards gained, the unit’s highest ranking since 2002.
So far, not so good.
The Bills have failed contend against their own AFC East rivals in losing to New England three weeks after opening the season with a 48-28 loss at the New York Jets.
The loss to the Patriots particularly stings, because of how poorly the Bills played immediately after taking a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter on Fitzpatrick’s 68-yard touchdown pass to Donald Jones.
The Patriots responded by scoring on each of their final seven possessions, capped by Stephen Gostkowski’s 30-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining.
”It’s one that will hang with us,” Fitzpatrick said. ”You try to block it out with Chan’s 24-hour rule and all that, and you hope it doesn’t linger into the next game.”
The collapse by the defense was monumental.
Buffalo had never given up 45 points in one half. The four touchdowns rushing were the most the Bills have allowed at home since giving up four against Baltimore on Nov. 13, 1977, according to STATS Inc. And the Patriots became only the second NFL team to have two players with 100 yards receiving, Wes Welker (129) and Rob Gronkowski (106), and two with 100 yards rushing: Brandon Bolden (137) and Stevan Ridley (106).
”Next game, that’s the mood,” defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said. ”No setback. Just got to move forward. Things happen, you know, a tale of two halves.”
Gailey dismissed a question of how the Bills have now given up 100 points in two games against division foes.
”You can throw statistics and numbers out all you want,” he said. ”I’m more concerned about how we play, the intensity and quality of play than I am the numbers that are thrown out there right now. Our quality of play is not where it needs to be.”