Buddy Nix places the blame for the Buffalo Bills’ defensive meltdowns on an overall lack of urgency and not solely on high-priced defensive end Mario Williams. And the Bills general manager maintained his confidence in coach Chan Gailey’s ability to turn around a team suddenly facing an early season crisis.
Article continues below ...
Otherwise, Nix finds himself as frustrated and ”puzzled” as anyone after watching his team get outscored by a combined margin of 97-31 in its past two games.
”Well, obviously, we’re not pleased with it. There’s really no excuse for losing the way we did,” Nix said Tuesday during a telephone conference call with reporters. ”We’re all to blame. Let’s do better. Hell, let’s get it going.”
Nix spoke from Phoenix, where the Bills (2-3) are spending the week preparing to play the Arizona Cardinals (4-1) Sunday.
The Bills elected to stay out west to save time on travel after a 45-3 loss at San Francisco on Sunday. And yet there are many fans beginning to wonder whether the team should come home at all after putting up consecutive duds, including a 52-28 loss to New England a week earlier.
It’s a two-game stretch in which the Bills have allowed 1,201 yards offense, the most by an NFL team since the New York Yanks surrendered 1,227 over that span in 1950. Buffalo has particularly struggled in the second half in each loss, having been outscored 73-14 over the past two games.
Against New England, the Bills became only the second NFL team to allow an opponent to have two players with 100 yards rushing and two more with 100 yards receiving. Against the 49ers, the Bills gave up a franchise-worst 621 yards and became the first NFL team to allow 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing.
These are numbers Nix said he couldn’t have envisioned this offseason when he revamped his defense by committing about $127 million in salary to sign Williams and fellow defensive end Mark Anderson in free agency, and after Dave Wannstedt took over as the unit’s coordinator.
Nix refused to single out Williams by saying there’s enough blame to go around on defense that he sees to be playing with a lack of urgency.
”When you miss tackles, usually it’s one of two things: It’s talent or lack of effort,” Nix said. ”And we’ve seen these guys do it before so I think they can. But we’ve got to get that urgency back somehow.”
As for Williams, Nix said it’s unfair for the player to take the brunt of the blame, because it would be difficult for anyone to play up to the high expectations that were raised around Buffalo after Williams signed a six-year, $100 million contract.
”It’s not just Mario. Mario actually plays better than people give him credit for,” Nix said, noting how Williams draws attention from opposing offenses that should allow others to succeed.
”Not to defend him, he can play better. We expect him to, but so can everybody else,” Nix said. ”I mean, we all need to play better. … I don’t care who’s getting paid what, none of us have earned it the last couple of weeks.”
Williams, who was one of the NFL’s top pass rushers during his six years in Houston, has been limited to 1 1/2 sacks this season. And the Bills’ ability to generate a pass rush has dried up in each of the three losses. Nine of Buffalo’s 10 sacks this season have come in the team’s victories over Kansas City and Cleveland.
Nix said the defense has to change its mindset.
”It’s refusing to lose, I’d put it that way, just being determined to compete,” he said. ”And some way or another, we’re missing that.”
Nix then turned his attention to defending Gailey, who’s job status has suddenly come into question in his third season, and amid concerns that the Bills have quit on him the past two games. Nix noted how Gailey didn’t lose his players in his first season after Buffalo opened with eight consecutive losses before closing 4-12.
”Chan has never lost it. He’s even keel, he’s the same every day. He’s not going to panic,” Nix said. ”He knows what he’s doing. And he won’t lose this team, neither. We will get them back. I’ve got great confidence in that.”
Nix also addressed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ongoing inconsistencies by saying they’re a result of the team’s overall poor performance.
Fitzpatrick has thrown 12 touchdown passes versus eight interceptions this season. His struggles date to last season. In going 3-11 in his past 14 games, Fitzpatrick has 22 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.
”We haven’t been consistent enough at that position,” Nix said. ”But if you can’t stop anybody, if you can’t stop the run and get off the field on defense, and keep your offense in the game, then you’ve got no chance no matter who the quarterback is.”
He then added that every position has become a concern, except for special teams.
”Other than that, we’re concerned about everybody,” Nix said. ”We’ve got to do better.”