ORCHARD PARK - As the losses add up for the Buffalo Bills, the offense seems to becoming more and more inept.
Sunday's 30-23 deceiving loss to the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium left fans wondering what progress the offensive unit has made.
Say what you want about injuries, that excuse doesn't explain why Ryan Fitzpatrick's accuracy and decision making has seemed to dwindle. Injuries don't explain why the play calling has been questionable at best, and injuries don't describe why receivers David Nelson and Stevie Johnson have become nearly invisible.
With the playoffs out of the picture once again and running back Fred Jackson out for the season, why not give second-year first rounder C.J. Spiller 20-25 carries a game and see if he can become a featured back?
Instead, the Bills decided to split the carries between recently acquired Tashard Choice and Spiller. In the first half, Spiller carried the ball seven times for 64 yards and a score while Choice had four carries for 10 yards and three catches for 41 yards.
After Buffalo's defense caused a turnover at Miami's 42-yard line, the Bills faced a 2nd-and-10. Spiller took the handoff up the middle for 18 yards. On the next play, he hit paydirt from 24 yards out as he ran between the tackles to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead. Spiller was finally showing signs of being able to run down field instead of dancing in the backfield.
After the Bills forced a three-and-out, the Bills' offense came out and decided to give the ball to Choice three times. On 3rd-and-one, Gailey went with the wildcat - a formation they abandoned several weeks ago. Choice ran the wildcat and fumbled the snap, which forced Buffalo to punt.
When Gailey addressed the reasoning behind splitting the carries, the coach defended his logic which brings even more criticism.
"We had a plan of certain packages we were using C.J. and we were using Tashard in," Gailey said. "We knew we were going to use C.J. a lot in the passing game. We are trying not to wear the guy completely out. He is not the biggest back in the world and I don't think he can go out there and carry it 25-30 times. I don't want to put him in that position right now to carry it 25-30 times. I think we have to split the carries to take some of the hits off of C.J."
And just like recent weeks, the Bills got away from the run game in the second half, even though they only trailed, 13-7.
Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick was off the mark with passes almost all day.
On Buffalo's third play of the third quarter, it faced 2nd-and-12. Johnson had two defenders beat down the middle of the field, but Fitzpatrick's throw was overthrown by five yards.
In the third quarter, Fitzpatrick was 2 for 8 with two interceptions and a sack. The first interception was thrown into triple coverage. On the very first play of Buffalo's next drive, Fitzpatrick was picked off again as he under threw a pass intended for Johnson.
"The thing about it is, we all saw him early in the year hit those throws," Buffalo coach Chan Gailey noted about Fitzpatrick's deep pass accuracy. "I know there is a lot of reasons and there's probably solutions that even I haven't thought of to get that better. But we have to keep working on that."
After making the score 23-13, the Bills went for the two-point conversion. Nelson was open in the end zone and Fitzpatrick didn't see him. Fitzpatrick scrambled and Nelson was open again, but Fitzpatrick did not see him again. Instead, he threw the ball to Johnson who was covered and the pass was picked off.
"Long-down distance," Fitzpatrick continued as he described the first interception. "I have tried to stay away (from) trying to force something and make something happen. Obviously it did not work. I miss Stevie deep on one. I haven't been able to connect for whatever reason.
"It's hard for me to go out there and turn the ball over three times and struggle like I did and have people angry and upset," he added. "You hear the boos. It's a hard thing about playing quarterback when things aren't going well. I am never going to stop playing and never stop fighting. That's who I am."
The Bills are guaranteed yet another losing campaign. There is not much that can salvage the remainder of the season, but it sure would be nice to see the offense we fell in love with the first four weeks of the season with two games left.