ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The laughter coach Rex Ryan drew in proudly displaying what he called the ugliest Bills-themed Christmas sweater vest he could find had barely subsided when the conversation switched to what's been more of a season-long clash of styles: The state of his under-achieving team.
Ryan accepted the blame Wednesday by referring to the Bills' inconsistencies – particularly on defense – as being ''ugly,'' too.
''That falls directly on me, so I get that,'' said Ryan, one of numerous team officials and players wearing similar holiday-styled sweaters. ''It doesn't need to be pointed anywhere else. It needs to be pointed at me. I'm a big guy. I've got broad shoulders. I can take it.''
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The Bills (6-7), who play at Washington (6-7) on Sunday, have been all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a 16th straight season. It's already the NFL's longest active drought and would tie the 1936-'51 Detroit Lions for the eighth-longest streak in league history.
It's a place few envisioned Buffalo to be a mere 11 months ago when the former New York Jets coach was hired and immediately proceeded to raise expectations with a series of bold vows.
He called it his objective to build a bully. Instead, the Bills were manhandled in a 23-20 loss to Philadelphia last week. And a lack of discipline has been a season-long issue for a team that leads the league with 1,086 yards in penalties.
He predicted the defense would be the NFL's best. Instead, the Bills rank in the bottom half of the league in most categories, including 20th in yards allowed, a year after finishing fourth.
Most important, Ryan said fans should prepare for Buffalo to make the playoffs. Instead, the Bills no longer control their destiny, and will be eliminated with any loss in their three remaining games.
Whatever honeymoon period Ryan enjoyed has faded, replaced by the all-too-familiar criticisms and questions directed at many of his predecessors.
This is also not what new owners Terry and Kim Pegula were expecting. Ryan was hired from a pool of 12 candidates because the Pegulas wanted someone with previous head-coaching experience to lead a team they felt had the veteran talent to make an immediate playoff run.
Ryan isn't going anywhere after just one season, but he has failed to build on his final four years in New York, where the Jets went a combined 26-38 and missed the playoffs each time.
''Maybe I set the expectations so high, but I always set them high,'' Ryan said. ''I think I'm an above-average coach, maybe, but for whatever reason we haven't had the results that we were looking for.''
Ryan is most disappointed by the performance of his high-priced defense, which has struggled in adapting to the complex system the new coach introduced this offseason.
Only now, when it's nearly too late, does Ryan see his defense starting to click.
Buffalo's 19 sacks are the third-fewest in the league after the team topped 50 in each of the past two seasons.
The Bills have allowed 30 or more points four times this year, compared with just once last season. And they were burned for a franchise-worst 466 yards passing by Tom Brady in a 40-32 loss to New England in Week 2.
''It's ugly. We don't expect to play or get numbers like that,'' Ryan said. ''We just haven't been the dominant unit that any of us anticipated.''
Guard Richie Incognito said the players deserve their fair share of blame.
''I don't think we've lived up to the expectation level or talent level that we have,'' Incognito said. ''We're a really good team. When we play our best, we're very hard to beat. And it's on us that we haven't played our best at all times this year.''
NOTES: TE Charles Clay (back) and DE Mario Williams (illness) didn't practice and their status is uncertain for Sunday. … CB Stephon Gilmore (dislocated shoulder) was placed on the season-ending reserve/injured list. … The Bills signed DE Max Valles off the Raiders practice squad. He's a rookie sixth-round draft pick out of Virginia.
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