After their loss to the Jets, the men in Buffalo's locker room felt it was their own lackluster play that cost them an important division game at home two weeks ago. After their second consecutive lopsided defeat the feeling has changed to genuine concern. At 5-4 the margin for error for the Bills has been significantly reduced. Going on the road again this week to face a Miami team that's finally on track with two straight victories has Buffalo's players determined to find answers.
"Against the Jets we thought we just came out and just played flat," said David Nelson. "Obviously, it's an issue and it's something we have to look at and compare the two games and get better from. In the past this year we've gotten better after a loss and this week we got worse. We have to re-evaluate what we were doing, come together as a team and move on."
For the Bills offense the big play has been noticeably absent the past two weeks. In their first six games Buffalo had at least one play of 40 yards or more, and were routinely turning in 10-12 plays of 15 yards or more per outing. On Sunday Buffalo had just six plays of 15 yards or more with four coming in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. The Bills' longest play from scrimmage was just 21 yards.
"It was definitely tough," said Fred Jackson, who had two of those six plays. "It's not the performance we wanted to put on myself included. They came out ready to play and they made plays. We didn't, myself included. I didn't make plays and that's part of the game. We've got to look at it and learn from it."
Head coach Chan Gailey believes the Bills can still move the ball on anyone and feels the execution has not been sharp enough of late. At the same time he made it plain that his team is not going to be playing after the regular season is through if the current level of play continues.
"I believe in the character of the football team and we will regroup and continue to work to get better," said Gailey. "So my responsibility as the coach is to get our guys back to playing where we were playing earlier in the season. Right now we're more of a pretender than a contender."
Defensively, the problems are two-fold. The run defense has allowed runs to bounce outside for extra yardage and the pass rush has not generated enough pressure to disrupt opposing quarterbacks the past two weeks.
Mark Sanchez (20-28 passing) and Tony Romo (23-26) have combined for a completion percentage of almost 80 percent the past two weeks (79.6%) for 500 yards.
"Pressure, coverage, tackling, everything you do on defense needs to be better," said Drayton Florence. "That sense of urgency throughout the whole game just wasn't there. It was a must win game for them just like it was a must win game for us and they out-executed us in all phases and it showed."
In the same breath Florence believes the defense can get back to what made them successful earlier this season, which were timely blitzes and takeaways.
"You've seen us beat good teams in this league," he said. "I think you know we're capable. You've just got to do it. Just because you come in capable doesn't mean you're going to win. They're just as capable as we are and they made the plays and we didn't. They whipped our (expletive). That's the bottom line."
What cropped up as a new issue Sunday were mental errors, something uncharacteristic of a Chan Gailey coached team. Buffalo only had three penalties Sunday, but it was the mental errors in terms of execution.
"We had a lot of mistakes (Sunday)," said Fitzpatrick. "It wasn't just one guy. It was everybody. I'm the quarterback. You usually see my mistakes the most and I had a lot of them. Mentally we didn't even play the game we usually do. We made too many mistakes."
"People running wide open down the field, that can't happen on this level or any level for that matter," said Kelvin Sheppard. "It's just a matter that we know it's got to stop now point blank."
The Bills believe they can get back to what helped them sprint out to a 4-1 start on both sides of the ball, and after their first pair of back-to-back defeats the sense of urgency is palpable in Buffalo's locker room.
"Something has to be done," said Danny Batten. "We have to respond, rally and win some games. We have no choice. We have worked too hard to go 5-11. We know what that feels like. We have to rally, keep working, work harder, whatever it is."
"If we want to have any thoughts of being what we planned on being, then it has to stop now," said Sheppard. "Something has to change."
"We have seven games left in the season," said Bryan Scott. "It is make or break at this point. As a team we have a bunch of fighters. Our guys are resilient. A lot is just going to be said in these next few weeks. How do we respond to it?"