The Bills hung around for most of the game against a Titans team that was in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race, but after losing an early 7-3 lead Buffalo could never pull back even dropping a 23-17 decision at Ralph Wilson Stadium. For the Bills it was their fifth consecutive defeat.
"Extremely shocked and disappointed," said Ryan Fitzpatrick, who passed for 288 yards and a touchdown on the day. "The way that we've played lately hasn't been good enough. The last few weeks we knew that we had to get some of that going. We didn't get it done. It's been really disappointing the last five weeks."
Buffalo's defense stiffened in the second half allowing just a pair of field goal drives despite the offense's inability to put points on the board through most of the second half. The Bills offense finally made it a one score game when they put together a 15-play 80-yard drive that was finished off with two-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Stevie Johnson (23-17).
After the defense again got a stop with 1:45 to play down six, the offense had to try to go 85 yards with less than a minute to play with no timeouts. A 25-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Naaman Roosevelt got them out to midfield, but Fitzpatrick threw three straight incompletions after spiking the ball on first down to stop the clock ending Buffalo's last ditch effort.
"The defense played well," said Stevie Johnson. "They came out and stopped them three times, and we've got to convert. It's already hard enough to move the chains, get first downs and touchdowns. You can't win these games with fumbles or turnovers. We've got to make catches. We've got to block for our teammates, make good runs, everything plays a part."
"The reason we lost was fundamentals," said head coach Chan Gailey. "You've got to block, you've got to tackle. You've got to take care of the football. Those are the things that happened to us in this game and we didn't get the job done to win. You have to do those things fundamentally in order to be able to win."
Tennessee carried a touchdown lead into the second half (17-10) and added to that total with 6:45 to play in the third on an 11-play field goal drive to make it 20-10. That drive came on the heels of a fumble by Bills tight end Scott Chandler, who was gang tackled and stripped fighting for extra yardage.
"I was fighting for extra yards initially and started to try to get down, but it was too late," said Chandler. "They were just holding me up. You've got to try to protect the ball with all you can, but they were able to get it out of there."
The Titans followed that up with another field goal drive after re-gaining a field position edge. Rob Bironas was good from 44 yards out to put the Titans up 13 (23-10) with eight minutes and change to play. It proved to be insurmountable for Buffalo.
The Titans opened the scoring with a short field goal drive for a 3-0 lead less than three minutes into the game, but Buffalo responded with a nine-play 80-yard scoring drive. Ryan Fitzpatrick rolled out to buy time and got the Bills into Tennessee territory with a 21-yard hook up with Brad Smith down the near sideline. One play later C.J. Spiller took a handoff through the line then ducked outside to get the corner, but fumbled at the three-yard line.
He chased the bounding ball into the end zone and recovered it just before sliding out of bounds. The play was ruled a touchback by officials, but Chan Gailey challenged the call and it was reversed to a touchdown for Buffalo. For Spiller it was a 35-yard touchdown run to give the Bills a 7-3 lead.
"It really shouldn't have come down to that," said Spiller, who finished with a career-high 83 yards on 14 carries. "That was poor ball handling on my part because I looked at it on replay and I saw it low. I didn't give up on the play and I just knew I needed to get to it before it rolled out of bounds. I was disappointed I had fumbled, but I knew I had recovered it."
Tennessee's C.J. had a bigger and better answer. Chris Johnson took a 2nd-and-10 carry through the line untouched and accelerated to the sideline outrunning the entire Bills secondary to the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown. The extra point gave the Titans a 10-7 edge with five minutes left in the opening stanza.
The Bills crossed midfield on their ensuing possession, but the drive stalled at the Titans 34-yard line. On 4th-and-3 at the 34, Buffalo chose to go for it. Ryan Fitzpatrick dropped back to pass, but had to scramble. Hit short of the first down marker, Fitzpatrick fumbled and it was recovered by Tennessee.
The Titans then took that possession 57 yards on six plays with Chris Johnson capping it with a four-yard touchdown run.
The 10-point lead for Tennessee was short lived as Buffalo leaned on C.J. Spiller and Tashard Choice. Spiller and Choice pounded out 45 yards on the ground, with Spiller busting a 25-yard carry on a 2nd-and-1 to the Titans 37.
In the red zone a few plays later, Buffalo could not come up with a scoring play and had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Dave Rayner to pull within a touchdown (17-10).
Now at 5-7 the Bills are all but out of the playoff race, and are forced to sit with a losing streak for another week that has now reached five games.
"We put ourselves in a position to start fast and I'm not going to give you a bunch of excuses," said Dwan Edwards. "We're just not finding a way to get it done and close these games out. I don't think we have any quit in us so we'll get things corrected and move on to the next game."
The Bills travel to the west coast next week to face San Diego for a 4:15 pm kickoff.