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Poor Game Management Costs Bills Monday Night Upset

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Jauron facing fan scrutiny (Courtesy: BuffaloBills.com)

The niceties have been observed. We can talk for days about how Buffalo's fans and a big-play defense nearly led to a ginormous upset for the Bills on Monday Night Football. Feel free to continue to talk about it - it's a bright spot for Buffalo sports and the Bills organization. But the fact remains that the Bills lost this football game. And it doesn't take long to figure out how: head coach Dick Jauron and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild cost the Bills this game with confusing game plans, strange decisions and actions that came back to haunt the Bills as the final seconds ticked off the clock. I've narrowed it down to six decisions that hurt the Bills; feel free to agree, scrutinize or add to the list:

Poor Clock Management: I'll let Rumblings user Gabe take care of this one...

"Up 24-16 with 14:41 left in the game, the Bills run 5 plays before a Moorman punt. Four were passing plays (including a sack), and one was a Lynch 6 yd run. Total time off the clock: 3:11. Why not pound the ball? Run some time off the clock! And again, after Romo's fumble, the Bills have the ball with 9:51 left in the game. They call 4 runs (for 2, 2, 14, and 2 yds) and 4 passes (for 4, 8, 0, and 0 yds), with the last pass picked off by Terence Newman. Total time used: 3:46. Luckily, Romo's 5th INT gives the Bills YET ANOTHER chance, starting at their own 38 with 5:21 left. After two unsuccessful runs, facing 3rd and 7 with 3:58 left, why not just let the clock run down, try a draw play, and then you can get down to around 2:30 after the punt? Instead, Dallas gets the ball back with 3:45 left, giving them enough time for the two winning drives."

Yes, yes and yes. Simply put, all the Bills had to do was put this game on ice, but they missed the bucket. Smarter decisions (read: more runs... they make the clock go "tick", Dick) would have made Dallas' 9-points-in-20-seconds miracle literally impossible.

The 3rd & 2 Reverse: This one is on Steve Fairchild-Mularkey (who I will henceforth refer to as "S F-M"; note that - we're going to talk about him a lot). With the Bills poised to have a long field goal attempt on 3rd and 2, Fairchild calls a reverse to Roscoe Parrish, rather than pounding the ball up the middle against Cowboys reserve NT Jay Ratliff. The result: Dallas' defense remains disciplined, uses its speed to bottle up Parrish, a loss of yards and a Moorman punt to the 9-yard line. Bye bye, 3 points.

The Terence Newman Pick: This one will likely be talked about the most, and in his post-game press conference, Jauron literally admittetd that this was a mistake. After one of many Romo turnovers, the Bills have third down deep in Dallas territory, looking to add points to their 8-point lead to make it a two-score game. Fairchild dials up a short out route to, duh, Lee Evans, and Terence Newman is all over it. He would have picked that even if the pass hadn't been tipped. Sure, the pick from John "It''s Not Delivery, It's" DiGiorgio nullifed the Cowboys from scoring off that pick, but that was the Bills' only shot at putting the score out of reach. That one hurt the most.

The 6-Point Swing: It's not being talked about much at the moment, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Jauron goes against his gut instinct, sending Rian Lindell onto the field for a 54-yard FG attempt despite leaving him on the sidelines prior to a Dallas time-out. Lindell, as is his M.O., missed the field goal, giving Dallas the ball near midfield with enough time to get a Nick Folk field goal of their own. Sure enough, Dallas delivers, and the score swings from a potential 20-7 to 17-10. That six-point swing was killer; I got the sense that Jauron tried the field goal merely to please the fans, rather than playing it smart like he usually does. That was a terrible call, though I don't fault him for trying to score points.

The Julius Jones Challenge: It's the first quarter. On a third-and-short, Cowboys RB Julius Jones runs for a first down, is tackled, gets up and picks up additional yards, which the refs gave him. Jauron challenges, wins, but it's still a first down for Dallas. Tell me: was there a point to that challenge? It saved seven yards. It did nothing for his team. Can anyone remember an instance where Dick Jauron made a good call on a challenge? This particular challenge did not have a direct impact on the outcome of the game, but it goes a long ways toward showing just how perplexing Jauron's decisions can be at times. This one had no shot at working, and it cost his team a challenge in a close game.

The Onside Kick Alignment: At last. We get to the play that gave Dallas new life, and sunk the Bills. The onside kick. Bobby April is a heck of a special teams coach, but please tell me if I'm hallucinating when I say that his alignment on this particular play was awful:


Screen shot of highlight video from NFL.com

It's a bit fuzzy, but the evidence is right there: on the biggest play of the game, the Bills are out-numbered 6 to 4 at the line of scrimmage. How are we supposed to recover an onside kick when the kicking team has all the leverage? Those four Bills were destroyed on the play, and the two untouched Cowboys were Sam Hurd (who tipped the kick) and Tony Curtis (who recovered it); the rest of the Bills seemingly stood and watched the play happen. If you don't control that line on that kick, you don't recover the kick. Simple, yet there are the Bills, looking like Swiss Cheese on the most important play of the game. Awful.

That's it. End of story. Dick Jauron's game-planning kept the Bills in this game and created a ton of excitement, but his questionable decision-making blew the game. Couple that with S F-M's ineptitude, and you get a colossal loss. The worst news: this isn't new for our coach. So now is the time. I know you've all been dying to - bash away. Our coaches, truthfully, deserve it.