And it took just a couple of things going wrong to unravel the whole thing.
The players have already come out and squared away the blame for the game-ending interception, but it doesn't stop there. The Bills, as a team, must learn from and build on what happened, and in order to do so, they must revisit it.
Fitzpatrick looked right upon his drop-back, then came across the field to his left, before going all the way back across to his right. As a result, he missed Patriots safety Devin McCourty waiting for the ball, reading the quarterback's eyes.
The Bills' offense is almost entirely based on timing passes, and no surprise, he releases the ball almost exactly two seconds after he receives the snap.
But he was also thinking that wide receiver T.J. Graham was going to run the route differently than he actually did.
If Graham (yellow) had run underneath McCourty (red) instead of behind him, he would have been in perfect position and would have caught the football (brown) instead of his opponent.
[UPDATE: November 13, 2012 at 3:35pm ET]
Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson recently came out and added another layer to the plot (via CBS Sports):
"We know T.J. can make that play... I don't think that it was the wrong play but the whole thing leading up to it, which is he didn't run that play in practice at all, so it's not his fault at all. I've ran that play, or Scott [Chandler] or Donald [Jones]. But in that situation, I guess things were hurried up and we have people in positions where maybe they shouldn't have been. Who knows what would have happened if it was Donald, me or Scott there. So there's no blame on T.J. at all because he's never ran that route in practice or in the game."
The coaching staff should also accept some of the blame for asking Graham to do something he had no practice doing.
How to Build On It
Coming out of North Carolina State, the biggest knocks on Graham were his lack of size and his poor route-running. While he doesn't have much control over the former, Graham indicated the latter remains an area where he needs to improve (per BuffaloBills.com):
I have to work on making sure I run consistent routes. The reason why balls are overthrown or underthrown is maybe because I used a different move or I got jammed up, or I ran faster or maybe not as fast. I think I have to improve my whole game to make it more consistent, and make it more of a trustworthy relationship with Fitz.
It's important that Graham becomes reliable for Fitzpatrick, because he could stop looking Graham's way if that doesn't happen.
That Fitzpatrick went to him in such a key moment was a big step forward; the veteran passer has not looked his way very often in 2012.
His progression has been slow, though. He started out the season as a healthy inactive, and he has only been targeted on 26 of Buffalo's 297 total pass attempts (8.75 percent) and has caught just 57.7 percent of those passes (per ProFootballFocus.com). He has dropped three passes, as well.
So, clearly, the relationship remains a work in progress.
Fitzpatrick indicated that they are working on it and that it's improving.
He's a guy that's been getting better. I'm a lot more comfortable with him now than maybe I was in Week One. He's shown some good things when he's been able to touch the ball. Some of it is just having a limited number of plays and needing to get touches to other guys. That's been part of it, but I think he does need to become a bigger part of our offense.
Graham was brought in to be a big-play threat for an offense that severely lacked one. Thus far, his longest reception of the season is for 19 yards. His eight yards-per-reception average ranks fifth among Bills receivers with more than five catches, and it's well below the league average of 11.6.
The Bills' offense has not produced many big plays in the passing game, but that is also a function of their quarterback not being a very good downfield passer.
While the Bills would like to get Graham more involved, he needs to justify that by making the plays when the coaches and quarterback show confidence in his ability to do so.
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.
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