The Buffalo Bills' run defense showed periodic signs of improvement in November and December.
But they finished with a pair of abominable performances in their final two games and head into the offseason with serious concerns about how to shore up one of the game's most fundamental facets.
The New York Jets deactivated their top two backs, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, yet they still managed to gain 276 rushing yards. It was the eighth game the Bills gave up at least 200 yards on the ground, tying a club record set in 1978.
"That's horrible," Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny said after the 38-7 loss. "It's nothing short of horrible. I mean that was our problem all year long, and we just never seemed to be able to get everyone on the same page in order to fix that.
"Defensively, if you can't stop a run, it's just going to be more of the same for us."
The Bills gave up 158 yards to seldom-used rookie running back Joe McKnight, 60 yards to option quarterback/receiver Brad Smith and 44 yards and a touchdown to rookie fullback John Conner, who went into the game with zero NFL carries. Third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens had a 10-yard touchdown run.
"We did not make them work for anything," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "They could run and not worry about it. That mindset gives you a whole different outlook when you are running the football."
The Bills surrendered 217 rushing yards to the New England Patriots in Week 16.
The Bills went into the season with a new 3-4 defense but morphed back into 4-3 schemes in an attempt to slow down emboldened running backs.
Buffalo gave up 2,714 rushing yards this year and ranked dead last in the NFL with an average of 169.6 yards a game. Opponents also averaged an NFL-worst 4.8 yards a carry.
"I think it was a terrible end to a terrible year," Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams said of Sunday's performance at the Meadowlands. "Obviously, nothing went right on offense or defense. It was not the way we wanted to finish up."