Monday, December 26, 2011
Bills minus two O-linemen against Pats
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Coach Chan Gailey and the Buffalo Bills couldn't escape injuries all year long. And it's no different now with their season about to come to a close.
The relief of ending a seven-game losing streak was tempered on Monday with Gailey ruling out three players -- including starting offensive linemen Demetrius Bell and Kraig Urbik -- from Buffalo's season finale at New England. That leaves the Bills (6-9) limping toward the finish Sunday with a roster that already has 16 players on injured reserve.
Bell (knee/ankle), right guard/center Urbik (right knee) and reserve tight end Mike Caussin (right knee) were all hurt in a 40-14 win over Denver on Saturday.
Without identifying the nature of the injuries, Gailey said there's a possibility all three will require surgery.
Though Gailey said it's too early to determine whether the Bills will make any roster moves to replace the injured players, the team will likely have to add at least one offensive lineman.
Without Bell and Urbik, Buffalo's left with only one reserve.
Rookie seventh-round draft pick Michael Jasper is a candidate to be promoted from the practice squad.
A.Q. Shipley posted a message on his Twitter account Monday saying he's scheduled to have a tryout with the Bills. Selected by Pittsburgh in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, Shipley has yet to play an NFL game after spending parts of the past two seasons on Philadelphia's practice squad.
Colin Brown will become the fourth player to start at center for the Bills this season after Eric Wood (right knee) was placed on IR on Nov. 15. Rookie fourth-round pick Chris Hairston is expected to start at left tackle after filling in for Bell, who had missed eight games with a broken collarbone.
Bell's future with Buffalo is already uncertain. He is eligible to become a free agent this offseason after finishing his four-year contract.
Caussin was hurt covering a kickoff in the second half Saturday, and was getting additional playing time at tight end in place of starter Scott Chandler, who has been bothered by a sore left ankle.
On the bright side, the Bills prepare for their season finale coming off their first win since a 23-0 victory over Washington on Oct. 30.
"It obviously feels a lot better," said Gailey, who gave his players a three-day break before they return to practice Wednesday. "It took all three phases playing well and winning each phase to win a ball game. We're not that good of a football team yet that we can go win with just winning one or two phases."
Their much-maligned defense led the way by intercepting Tim Tebow four times in the second half, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
The defensive scores -- by safety Jairus Byrd and linebacker Spencer Johnson -- came on consecutive plays from scrimmage. That made the Bills only the NFL's third team since 1991 to score interception returns on back-to-back plays, according to STATS LLC.
Leodis McKelvin also scored on an 80-yard punt return, while quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was efficient in leading an offense that produced only one touchdown and four field goals.
More important Fitzpatrick didn't turn the ball over after being criticized for throwing 12 interceptions and losing a fumble versus eight touchdowns during the Bills skid.
"I'm not going to sit and complain and analyze everything we did on offense, what we could've done better," Fitzpatrick said following the game. "When we've lost so many in a row, enjoy the victory."
Gailey's confidence in his team never wavered, though he acknowledged there were low points these past two months. That's what made the win satisfying in a season the Bills will miss the playoffs for a 12th straight year, which becomes the NFL's longest drought after the Detroit Lions clinched their first postseason spot since 1999.
"I challenged them to be pros," Gailey said. "It's easy to walk out there and go through the motions at the end of the year like this. That's easy. But they didn't. To me, that's a credit to them."
Buffalo has an opportunity to sweep its two-game series against New England (12-3) for the first time since 1999. In September, the Bills rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit to beat the Patriots 34-31 and snap a 15-game skid against their AFC East rivals.
"I don't worry about streaks. I don't worry about history," Gailey said, when asked what a win would mean Sunday. "You'd be able to win two in a row going into next year, which is always good."