Another season of frustration

It was another season where expectations were not realized, where games there for the taking were not seized and where a team that had arguably it's best shot at a playoff berth in a long time could not capitalize in landing one.

"We didn't play up to our potential," said Chris Kelsay. "We made mistakes at critical points in games. We need to play with intensity and emotion from the first kickoff to the last buzzer. That's one thing we didn't do very well."

Kelsay's defensive co-captain Donte Whitner was a bit more blunt in his assessment.

"My perspective is we underachieved as a football team," Whitner said. "Someone brought it to my attention saying, 'You guys went 2-8, or something crazy.' I didn't even look at it that way and that's what happened. We are an underachieving football team and that's what we are."

Buffalo did indeed lose eight of their last 10 games as they watched a promising 5-1 start vanish in a month as turnovers and inconsistent play led to their third straight 7-9 record and no playoff berth.

"I am very sick of it," said Whitner of missing the playoffs again. "Even watching the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple of weeks ago put on their AFC North division champion hats and stuff like that was tough. It is tough watching things like that especially when you put so much pride into your game and you want to win so bad and desperately."

Dramatically hurting their chances to reach the postseason this fall was their inability to defeat a division opponent. It's only the second time in franchise history that the Bills have gone winless in their division. The only other time it happened was in 1976.

"To me not winning a division game this season and not beating the Patriots," said Kawika Mitchell when asked what hurts most from the 2008 campaign. "If we would have won (Sunday) I would have been fine not going to the playoffs. I would have been extremely happy to break that winning streak that they have against us and the losing streak that we have. It's embarrassing really."

"I thought with the personnel that we brought in and the talent that we have and the potential that we had, sweeping the East with the exception of the Patriots last year, and the circumstances that fell early in the season with Tom Brady going down, things looked good for this team to finally get on top of the Patriots and we didn't do it," said Kelsay. "We didn't fulfill the expectations that we had for ourselves and the expectations that people had outside this room of us."

"That's frustrating," said Lee Evans of the team's 0-6 division mark. "Very frustrating. I can honestly say I've never been a part of anything like that. Had we fared well in our division, we may have had a chance to go to the playoffs, but it's definitely frustrating when you play your division close and you play them often and you can't get a win."

Whitner believes there may have been a false sense of security created by Buffalo red hot 4-0 start, that eventually became 5-1 after an inspiring win over San Diego in Week 6. But the long painful slide soon followed and the Bills couldn't stop it.

"I think we should attribute that to guys maybe feeling too good about starting off so well," Whitner said. "It was a point in there where we were very excited about being 5-1, 4-0 whatever. Then we lost a lot of games in a row."

So what needs to happen to turn things around in one offseason and fulfill their playoff aspirations?

Some players think it comes down to making something happen at the most important times in the game.

"I think there were too many times there where we didn't play our best football and other teams were able to make plays and we didn't," said Paul Posluszny. "We didn't make the big plays that we need to win games. We didn't take the victories from other teams. We played solid but we didn't make anything great happen. That is what you have to do, to win and to make the playoffs you have to make big plays and play solid throughout the game and when it comes down to crunch time you have to be the team to make the big play to win."

Others believe more personnel is needed.

"I don't know when the last time we've been to the playoffs is, but obviously something is not right, so you have to make sure you get the right personnel in here and make sure that we build with the people that we have here already and try to do it again," said Kawika Mitchell.

And still others believe the mental toughness must be improved.

"We have to change the mindset," said Whitner. "We had the mindset changed, but somewhere in there we let those games slip away from us. We had a lot of games in there that we should have won, we felt like we should have won, but we didn't. So now we have to go back to the drawing board and come out next year the same as we did this year and keep it going, not make excuses. I think it starts with the players."

In all likelihood every one of the players is accurate in their assessment when one reflects on the 2008 season. And this organization will likely be seeking to change all those areas deemed deficient this offseason to end a playoff drought that is as frustrating to them as it is to their fans.

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