Texans 21, Bills 9: Chan Gailey's Play-Calling Under Fire

Bob Levey

Buffalo Bills running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson ran the football a combined 12 times in a 21-9 loss to the Houston Texans, prompting a furious media inquiry into the play-calling of head coach Chan Gailey.

The Buffalo Bills lost to the Houston Texans 21-9 in Week 9. Despite the fact that Houston did not extend its lead to two-score territory until roughly 11 minutes remained in the game, they didn't have to contend much with Bills running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who carried the ball a combined 12 times. Meanwhile, Ryan Fitzpatrick attempted 38 passes, causing reporters to question head coach Chan Gailey and his play-calling following the game.

"(Houston was) playing seven big guys in the box against our three-wide sets. You try to run 'em out of that. You're trying to throw the football to run 'em out of it, and we weren't able to do it," Gailey told reporters after the contest. "We had some passes that were dropped at times. We had some mistimed penalties. It cost us offensively. We weren't able to move the ball consistently and get in the end zone."

Gailey's plan backfired, as the Bills were able to throw effectively for a half - until the Texans shut down the short and intermediary passing lanes. Reporters asked Gailey why the team didn't throw deep more often, as well.

"We like to try to take some shots deep, but we do it more with overs and deep outs, instead of just throwing a 'go' down the field," Gailey explained. "We had a plan to do that coming back in the fourth quarter, to do a couple of throws like that, but we couldn't get to it. Once we got behind, we had to go back in the shotgun and throw the football."

Most of those throws remained of the short variety as the Bills' empty sets allowed Houston's excellent pass rush to take over the game late; all too often Fitzpatrick was scrambling for his life in the waning moments of the game. That was the byproduct of a game-long inability by Gailey to adjust to what the Texans and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips threw at them, and Gailey admitted as much after the game.

"Sometimes they take things away from you that you don't think they're going to do. But they did. They surprised us with a defense we hadn't seen very much," Gailey said. "We had to alter. I've got to do a better job of adjusting."

Coming into the contest, Jackson and Spiller had combined for an average of 36 touches per game in their previous two games. They had just 22 against Houston, and by the end of the contest, the Texans were predictably in firm control of time of possession. If the Bills want to fare better next week against the New England Patriots, they'd do well to get Jackson and (especially) Spiller back involved in the offense, lest they play right into another opponent's hands.

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