Inside The Bills

Turnovers sealed Bills division fate

Posted by Chris Brown on January 12, 2009 – 7:13 pm

By now everyone is well aware that turnovers played a big part in the Bills slide down the stretch in 2008, which ultimately kept them from contending for that ever elusive AFC playoff berth. But some turnovers prove more costly than others, and unfortunately for Buffalo the most damaging ones came in their division games.

The Bills had more than half of their turnovers for the season against their AFC East opponents. Sure Buffalo faces each of those teams twice, but to commit 16 of your 30 turnovers in six of your 16 games is unusual.

It began in Miami in Week 7 where the Bills surrendered a nine-point second half lead (16-7) by committing four turnovers in the fourth quarter. That was followed by three giveaways against the Jets that led to 10 New York points in what wound up being a nine-point victory for ‘Gang Green.’

“Seven in two games,” said offensive coordinator Turk Schonert after the Jets loss. “You are not going to win against good teams especially in your division. We had turnovers two times in a scoring area. If we just kick those two field goals, that is six points and they don’t get seven. Do the math because we win. It is not hard.”

But the Bills continued to make it hard for themselves against their division foes as they committed two more turnovers at New England in a 20-10 defeat the following week. Suddenly Buffalo was 0-3 in the division and a minus-10 in the turnover category in their four losses.

The second run through the division wasn’t much better. Buffalo committed seven more turnovers, with the underthrown fade pass against Miami and fumble on a rollout late against the Jets the most crippling.

All told Buffalo finished a minus-11 in the turnover category against their division opponents with 16 giveaways and just five takeaways. It was a sharp contrast from the year before when the Bills were a plus-4 in their six division games with 11 takeaways and seven giveaways.

“We really didn’t give ourselves a chance with the turnovers and that’s really all you can say about it,” said Lee Evans. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance turning the ball over. Coach Jauron talks about it all the time. You give yourself a chance when you protect the football. And if you don’t it’s hard to win in this league.”

Even though Buffalo’s defense couldn’t do much to even the turnover battle with takeaways of their own, they did a solid job of keeping points off turnovers to a minimum. Despite being a minus-11 against their AFC East rivals Buffalo was only outscored 33-20 off turnovers in their six division games.

“The defense did a great job holding them after turnovers,” said Evans. “So we had opportunities, but we were never able to get the momentum back.”

More than anything the turnovers took the ball out of Buffalo’s hands and allowed their AFC East rivals to play keep away. And in most of the Bills’ division games it was enough to keep victory out of reach as well.

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