The Buffalo Bills have had some heartbreaking losses over the years. We can add another one to the list after the Bills blew a six-point lead in a 35-34 loss to the Tennessee Titans Sunday.
Buffalo took a 34-28 lead late in the third quarter with the offense looking unstoppable. From there, an offensive holding penalty by Erik Pears killed the Bills' next drive and Bryan Scott stopped the Titans on fourth down at the Buffalo 36-yard line. Ryan Fitzpatrick then threw an interception on a pass intended for Donald Jones to give Tennessee the ball at their own 48 with 2:57 left. Matt Hasselback made the Bills pay when he found Nate Washington for a 15-yard touchdown on fourth and nine. Fitzpatrick and the Bills went four and out to end the game.
Here's a look at the grades:
Quarterbacks: Until his last five passes this may have been Ryan Fitzpatrick's best game of the season. He finished 27 of 35 with 225 yards and three touchdowns. Fitzpatrick made nice throws on the run and some good intermediate throws. The touchdown throws to Jones and Stevie Johnson were right on the money. The interception was a backbreaker and Fitzpatrick's two short passes on the final drive were awful decisions. I can't fault him for the misfire on the final pass intended for Johnson because he was under pressure. Also, 34 points should've been enough to win the game. Grade: B
Running backs: I think Chan Gailey has figured out how to use both backs effectively. Fred Jackson ran nine times for 71 yards and caught a team-high eight passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. C.J. Spiller ran 12 times for 70 yards and caught six passes for 32 yards. They both were tough to bring down and moved the chains well. Grade: A+
Wide receivers: Stevie Johnson got wide open on his touchdown and finished with five catches for 71 yards. Donald Jones had a solid day with four grabs for 47 yards, including the nice touchdown catch. T.J. Graham and Brad Smith each had just one short reception. It's unclear if Jones ran the wrong route on the interception. Grade: B+
Tight ends: Scott Chandler had two catches for 15 yards. He was open for a pass over the middle on the final drive, but the ball was deflected away. Grade: C
Offensive line: Fitzpatrick was strip sacked once by Kamerion Wimbley, who blew by Chris Hairston. I feel like Hairston struggled more than in recent games. He also had a false start to force the Bills into settling for a field goal at the end of the first half. Pears had holding and unnecessary roughness penalties that hurt the team. Fitzpatrick was hit five times on the day, but the run and screen game was excellent. The unit's blocking setup an easy touchdown catch for Jackson. Losing Chad Rinehart to an injury could be trouble if Kraig Urbik can't come back in two weeks. Grade: B
Defensive line: I think Kyle Williams (five tackles, one for a loss and half a sack) was the only member of this group to show up today. Chris Kelsay recorded a sack, but Hasselback scrambled right into his arms. I didn't Mario Williams doing anything today and Kyle Moore looked better today. Heck, I liked what Shawne Merriman was doing with his pass rushing more than Williams. I didn't notice Marcell Dareus doing anything either. Just two sacks and they gave up 197 rushing yards. Grade: D
Linebackers: Bryan Scott had the nice pass defense on fourth down and Nick Barnett had one tackle for a loss. Otherwise these guys were giving up big runs to Chris Johnson and giving up pass plays over the middle of the field. Kelvin Sheppard and Barnett each had a team-high nine tackles, but many of those were downfield. I didn't notice Nigel Bradham doing much. Grade: D
Secondary: They didn't have a bad game. Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams weren't picked on and each had a pass defense. George Wilson dropped what would've been a game-clinching interception and Justin Rogers got beat by Nate Washington on the game-winning throw, but it was a nice pass. Wilson and Byrd were strong in the run game. The DB's weren't helped by the poor pass rush. Grade: B
Special teams: Shawn Powell had a 22-yard punt that could've cost the Bills if Scott didn't stop the Titans on fourth down. That was his only punt of the day. Rian Lindell made two field goals, including a 42-yarder. Brad Smith finally had a big kick return, an 89-yard touchdown. Leodis McKelvin was dangerous too, averaging 37.5 yards per kick return. Alex Carrington earned a late penalty on a kickoff early in the game. Kick coverage was good. Grade: B
Coaching: The defense couldn't stop anything in the first half, but got some stops in the second half. They just couldn't get stops when it mattered. I noticed on the opening Tennessee drive that Buffalo was caught in the wrong defense when Hasselback spread the field in the no huddle. The Bills had three linebackers out there and they don't like Sheppard and Bradham in coverage. The play calling on the final offensive possession was suspect. When the Bills cut the Titans' lead to 28-26 in the third quarter I thought the Bills should've gone for two to tie the game. They could've done it again when they pulled ahead 33-28. That would've forced overtime. Gailey, like most NFL coaches, was too conservative. Grade: C
What are your grades for the Buffalo Bills? Post a comment or let me know on Twitter @MPN_DanGoldman