Titans vs. Bills: Defensive Improvement Was a Mirage, Coaching Gaffes Were Not

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IOctober 21, 2012

Oct. 14, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Bills defeated the Cardinals 19-16 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Utter disaster.

There are no two words in the English dictionary that better describe the Buffalo Bills defense seven weeks into the season.

It was wondered whether they had turned a corner after a solid performance last week against the Arizona Cardinals, but that idea went bye-bye by the conclusion of the first half.

The defense did everything it could to allow the Titans to run away with the game early, letting up touchdowns on the opening three drives. Running back Chris Johnson picked up 195 yards on 18 carries, and his first two touchdowns of the season on consecutive plays, one of which was an 83-yard scamper.

Really, how many other defenses would have a clean shot at Johnson in the backfield only to allow him to gain four yards, as Johnson did in the second quarter? Out of 22 qualifying running backs, Johnson ranks 21st in yards after contact per attempt with 1.7 per run according to ProFootballFocus.com.

There were enough lapses in different phases of the game to spread the blame, and while the offense kept the Bills close, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fumbled the ball on the first play of the second half and threw an interception at the worst possible time, giving the Titans the ball back with 2:57 left in the game. Both turnovers resulted in scores the final of which gave the Titans the one-point lead.

Why would he make the throw to a covered wide receiver while nursing a one-possession lead with so little time left in the game? The better question may be, why would the coaching staff put the ball into the hands of their inaccurate, mistake-ridden quarterback in a clutch situation when the running game continues to play well above average.

With a fourth-down stop with 3:58 to go and a six-point lead, it looked like the Bills could put the ball in the hands of their running backs to seal the game. Their running game was effective all day, with running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combining for 21 carries and 141 yards (6.7 YPA).

But just like last week, the Bills kept to the air in a four-minute scenario, and once again, that decision resulted in an interception. But this time, the Bills defense couldn't make enough plays down the stretch.

It is clear we were too quick to anoint the Bills defense, and of course the team as a whole shares the burden for the 3-4 start, but even with improvements across the board, the Bills will still need to be able to overcome their coaching staff to pick up wins in 2012.

They were able to do it last week, and after failing to do so this week, it's fair to wonder what's really holding this team back.

At 3-4, the Bills' season is far from over, but if the Bills are going to keep losing to teams as they lost to the Titans, it might as well be.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.