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Bills squander win, fall to Rams 15-12

Posted Dec 9, 2012

The Bills had more than their share of opportunities to post back-to-back wins for the first time since Week 3, but Buffalo could not make a five-point fourth quarter lead stand up as their offense never found a rhythm in a 15-12 loss to the Rams.

After their only touchdown drive late in the third quarter, Buffalo’s offense struggled to string plays together resulting in a four-and-out followed by a pair of three-and-outs. On the Bills four fourth quarter possessions they gained a combined 32 yards and just two first downs.

“We are not making the plays to win ball games,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “That is what winninng teams do. Winning teams make plays in the fourth quarter to win ball games. We are not doing that right now. We have to do that or we will not get over the hump. That is what we are supposed to be doing. That is what I am supposed to be getting them to do.”

Buffalo’s struggles on offense in the second half gave the Rams just enough chances to put together a game-winning drive in the final minutes. Sam Bradford led a 14-play 84-yard drive that included a pair of third down conversions and a fourth down conversion before Brandon Gibson pulled in a 13-yard touchdown reception with 48 seconds remaining.

St. Louis was also successful on the ensuing two-point conversion to make it a three-point edge (15-12). The way the game ended played out eerily similar to the Bills Week 7 waning moment loss to Tennessee.

“Kind of the last second or last two-minute drive they go up and take the lead – yeah in that regard,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick when asked about the parallels of the two losses. “We responded to their score, but just were not able to get anything else going. We were not able to establish anything else at the end of the game there.”

With a pair of timeouts and 48 seconds on the clock Buffalo from their own 23-yard line moved out to the 42, but lost yardage from there on a sack and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception with 12 seconds left to end the last ditch effort.

“A missed opportunity, that’s what it was,” said Stevie Johnson. “We had the game and then (St. Louis) came back and they wanted it more, I guess, and they won.”

The Rams opened things up in the second half with a touchdown drive to start the third quarter marching 70 yards on 11 plays. After converting just two of their eight first half third down opportunities, St. Louis converted all three on the scoring drive (one by penalty) before Steven Jackson plunged into the end zone from a yard out for an early third quarter lead (7-6).

“The drive in the third quarter they did some different things as far as what they would show you,” said Kyle Williams. “They came out with some quick passes on first down and then tried to run the ball to get favorable third down spot. And they were able to dink it down on us and get the score. That was disappointing.”

The Bills offense woke up as well. C.J. Spiller ripped off a pair of 13-yard runs on two of the first three plays of the drive to move the sticks. Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham both had first down receptions. After Fred Jackson converted a 3rd-and-6 on a seven-yard catch and run to move the ball to the Rams 27, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Graham for 16 yards and then Johnson for nine, which set up 2nd-and-1 at the two-yard line.

Fitzpatrick then used play action and found a wide open Lee Smith in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown reception. However, holder Shawn Powell mishandled the extra point attempt to make it a precarious five-point lead for the Bills (12-7) with three minutes left in the third quarter.

The first half was largely a defensive struggle. The Bills defense was stout holding the Rams attack to just 71 total net yards in the first half. Sam Bradford was under duress for most of the first two quarters, and was sacked once by Mario Williams. Williams also forced a fumble on Bradford on a scramble by the St. Louis quarterback that led to a St. Louis punt.

Four of St. Louis’ first six possessions were three-and-outs as Buffalo’s defense held Rams RB Steven Jackson in check. The Rams longest possession through the first two quarters went 10 plays, but ended on an interception by Stephon Gilmore off a tipped pass by Bryan Scott.

Jackson finished with just 64 yards rushing on 19 carries (3.4 avg.) as the Bills defense held their fourth straight opponent to under 90 yards on the ground.

“We felt really good at half, but like I said it’s got to be a four quarter game,” said Kelvin Sheppard. “When you’re playing a very good quarterback like that a guy that continues to improve week in and week out and we knew his ability and he was able to find those matchups.”

Buffalo’s offense managed a pair of field goal drives in the first half, the first coming late in the opening quarter. Donald Jones,  C.J. Spiller and Scott Chandler contributed first down catch and runs to move the ball into St. Louis territory. Stevie Johnson’s 10-yard catch on 2nd-and-13 at the Rams 27, set up a 3rd-and-3 at the 17, but Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass intended for Jones fell short.

So the Bills took a 35-yard field goal from Rian Lindell. The Bills kicker would also put a 40-yard effort through in the waning seconds of the first half. Buffalo had all three of their timeouts after getting the ball back with 1:15 on the clock. They moved down to the Rams 22-yard line and called timeout with nine seconds in the half facing a 3rd-and-9. But instead of taking a shot at the end zone, the Bills brought Lindell on for his 40-yard attempt for a 6-0 halftime lead.

Now 5-8 the Bills host Seattle in Week 15 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto for a 4:05 pm kickoff.