The Buffalo Bills struggled through yet another poor second-half performance against the Houston Texans, squandering a meager 7-6 halftime deficit and a good deal of momentum and watching the Texans run away with an easy win, 21-9.
At times, Buffalo managed to move the ball effectively against Houston's excellent defense, but they were never able to end a drive in the end zone, which killed their chances to play a competitive game for four quarters. Rian Lindell missed his first of four field goal attempts, players dropped Ryan Fitzpatrick passes on third down on multiple occasions, running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for only 21 touches, and plays were not made in critical situations. When Fitzpatrick fumbled on a late fourth-quarter scramble, any faint hope that the Bills had of pulling off an upset were completely eradicated.
The involvement of the running backs - Spiller in particular, who managed to gain 102 yards on his criminally low touch count of 11 - is certain to be a hot-button topic this week. Buffalo clearly tried to replicate the success out of five-wide sets that the Green Bay Packers had against Houston earlier this season, and that took Buffalo's two best offensive players largely out of the equation. It's small wonder that Buffalo struggled to put points on the board in Houston.
The Bills' inability to finish drives with touchdowns undid a strong (for them) effort from an embattled Bills defense. Unlike a Week 7 loss to Tennessee, when the defense was the main culprit for a galling loss, Buffalo got enough from the unit to win the game had the offense played better. Even still, it was not a particularly stellar effort from the defense; Matt Schaub completed 19-of-27 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, Arian Foster added a touchdown and 111 rushing yards on 24 carries, and the Texans controlled the clock with ease in the second half - especially the fourth quarter.
Buffalo did get improved play along the defensive line, particularly from Mario Williams, who recorded a sack, seven tackles and several hurries in his return to Houston. Kyle Moore added a sack and Kyle Williams continually blew up running plays behind the line of scrimmage in the second half, but breakdowns in the secondary - particularly off of play-action and on misdirection - killed the Bills' chances of cutting drives short and giving the offense more opportunities.
We'll have much more on this game in short order. For now, the Bills drop to 3-5 and are looking down the barrel of a road trip to take on the New England Patriots next Sunday.