Yet Bills running back C.J. Spiller put the blame squarely on his own banged-up shoulders for the fumble that turned what could have been a Bills win into a 52-28 obliteration by the Patriots on Sunday.
“Oh, that was crucial,” said Spiller, whose miscue at the Patriots’ 1-yard line with 1:19 remaining in the first half turned the tide, as the Bills could have gone ahead by two touchdowns at the break. “Totally crucial. That was the turning point of the game. And that’s totally on me. Nobody else. That was me. I’ve just got to do a better job of securing the ball. Especially down at the goal line.”
The Bills appeared certain to add to their 14-7 lead, after a Wes Welker fumble was recovered by Buffalo linebacker Bryan Scott at the Patriots’ 21.
Five plays later, Spiller tried to pound the ball into the end zone, but he ran helmet-to-helmet into Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.
Out came the ball, on it pounced nose tackle Vince Wilfork, and out went the air in the Bills’ balloon.
“I was just trying to squeeze it in,” said Spiller, “and I guess he just put his hat on the ball. I was just trying to get it in the end zone. I was just careless with the ball. It was a big momentum swing, with our defense having just gotten a turnover. For us to walk away with nothing, you can’t do that and win games.”
Spiller, whose shoulder injury suffered in last week’s win against Cleveland put his availability Sunday in question, said that he was healthy enough to withstand the goal-line punishment dished out by the Patriots.
“I think it was just a good hit,” Spiller said. “My shoulder didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Still, though a 68-yard Ryan Fitzpatrick-to-Donald Jones strike early in the third quarter put the Bills ahead by two scores, damage had been done.
“We’ve got to find a way to punch that in,” said Fitzpatrick. “Whether it was some throws before that, or something else. That was tough for us. Points would have been nice there. But you can’t point to one thing. When you look at that final score, there were a lot of things that went wrong.”
Almost too many to count.
The Bills, who paid handsomely for defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency, had hoped to vault two games ahead of the Patriots in the AFC East.
Instead, they cemented the notion that the Bills aren’t in the same league as the Patriots, much less a serious threat to their AFC East supremacy, even if they are tied with them at 2-2.
Exhibit A was the way that pricy defense was carved up by Tom Brady and the Patriots to the tune of five consecutive second-half touchdowns.
“We can’t allow them to get rolling like that,” said Bills linebacker Nick Barnett. “We let them get rolling and the next thing you know, it snowballed. They made a lot of good plays but we gave up a lot of plays. We played Santa Claus a lot.”
Indeed, they did.
Fitzpatrick threw four touchdown passes, but also was picked off four times.
The Bills fumbled the ball away twice, both forced by Spikes, including the killer by Spiller.
Why the Bills have lost 16 of the last 17 meetings with the Patriots needs no further explanation.
“That was really embarrassing,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’ve got a lot of pride in this locker room. But right now, we’ve got our tails between our legs.”