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Bills' Gailey comes to QB Fitzpatrick's defense

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) falls on the field after his fumble is picked up by Buffalo Bills defensive back Bryan Scott (43) for a touchdown in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, in San Diego. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) falls on the field after his fumble is picked up by Buffalo Bills defensive back Bryan Scott (43) for a touchdown in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
By John Wawrow
AP Sports Writer / December 12, 2011
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—There's no question, Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey would prefer Ryan Fitzpatrick to be playing with more consistency after the quarterback endured one of the worst outings his career.

Then again, Gailey added, the same concern also applies to the rest of his ragtag, injury-riddled team in the midst of a six-game skid that's knocked Buffalo (5-8) out of playoff contention.

Gailey came to Fitzpatrick's defense on Monday after the quarterback continued to take the brunt of the criticism a day after he went 13 of 34 for 176 yards passing and two interceptions in a 37-10 loss at San Diego.

"None, zero: I have no questions about him," Gailey said. "We've all seen him do it. We know he can do it. I think as soon as we continue to work on getting everybody on the same page, I think Fitz will be fine. If that was my biggest problem, I wouldn't have any problems."

There's plenty of blame to go around on a team with a porous defense that's given up an average 32 points over the past six games, and a lineup that has nine regulars on season-ending injured reserve.

"He missed a couple that he normally hits, but he made some great throws," Gailey said. "I talked with the whole team about consistency, and that is where we are.

"Everybody's got to be consistent."

Fitzpatrick is under fire after the Chargers converted both of his interceptions into touchdowns. The second one was particularly costly after it was returned for a touchdown during a decisive nine-second span in which the Chargers scored twice to open a 30-10 lead late in the third quarter.

Fitzpatrick finished with a passer rating of 31.0, the lowest since his rookie season with St. Louis in 2005. And his 38.2 completion percentage was the worst of his career in a game he's started.

"Yeah, I think you hit it on the head in terms of it being a very poor performance from me. I think that was obvious," Fitzpatrick acknowledged. "I know that these guys still have confidence in me. It's not the first bad game I've ever had. And I'm sure there's going to be more. But I've had plenty of good ones, and I've rebounded from my poor performances."

He'll get his chance Sunday, when the Bills host Miami (4-9) in a game that could go far in determining which team finishes last in the AFC East.

That's a far cry from where the Bills were -- and how high Fitzpatrick was riding -- after getting off to a 5-2 start. It was a two-month stretch in which Buffalo's offense was averaging 30.1 points a game, and led to the journeyman quarterback and Harvard grad being rewarded with a six-year, $59 million contract.

He's gone 1-6 since signing that deal prior to a 23-0 win over Washington, and his numbers have fallen off drastically.

In his first seven games, Fitzpatrick had 1,739 yards passing, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

In the past six, he's thrown for 1,274 yards with six TDs and nine interceptions.

Fitzpatrick acknowledged he's made some poor decisions in attempting to force passes into coverage. What's not an issue is his contract placing more pressure on him.

It's no help that the Bills' offense is a shell of the one that opened the season. It's missing its top threat, running back Fred Jackson; lost its most effective lineman, center Eric Wood; and Fitzpatrick is working with a patchwork group of receivers.

Roscoe Parrish and Donald Jones are on IR. Top threat, Stevie Johnson is nursing a shoulder and groin injuries. And tight end Scott Chandler, who is tied for the team lead with six touchdowns, missed last week's game with a sore left ankle.

"Unfortunately, the last six games, we've had a lot more questions than answers," Fitzpatrick said. "It's something we're going to continue to try to figure out and continue to try to work through."

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