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Buffalo Bills Cliche Countdown: The Full Sixty Minutes

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

On June 23, Brian Galliford broke down the fourth-quarter collapses during Dick Jauron's tenure as Buffalo Bills head coach. It was a harrowing experience and a great precursor for this series.

"We just have to play for the full sixty minutes."

How many times did Trent Edwards or another member of the Bills say this after another late loss in 2009 (or 2008, or 2007)? The Bills were 9-8 when tied or leading by one score entering the fourth quarter from 2006-2009. That record is unacceptable. Even worse, the Bills lost two games when they were leading by more than one score in that time frame.

Taking a closer look at 2009, the Bills were leading or tied heading into the fourth quarter ten times. In only four of those games did the Bills outscore their opponents in the fourth. Collapsing with the lead is one thing, but the Bills must learn to put a game away.

Score entering Q4 Points scored in Q4
Final Score
Week 1 @ NE 17-10, Bills 15-7, Patriots 25-24, Patriots
Week 2 vs. TB 20-14, Bills 13-7, Bills 33-20, Bills
Week 3 vs. NO 10-7, Saints 17-0, Saints 27-7, Saints
Week 4 @ MIA 31-3, Dolphins 7-7 38-10, Dolphins
Week 5 vs. CLE 3-3 3-0, Browns 6-3, Browns
Week 6 @ NYJ 13-13 3-0, Bills (OT) 16-13, Bills
Week 7 @ CAR 7-2, Bills 13-7, Bills 20-9, Bills
Week 8 vs. HOU 10-9, Bills 22-0, Texans 31-10, Texans
Week 10 @ TEN 17-17 24-0, Titans 41-17, Titans
Week 11 @ JAX 15-10, Bills 8-0, Jaguars 18-15, Jaguars
Week 12 vs. MIA 14-7, Dolphins 24-0, Bills 31-14, Bills
Week 13 vs. NYJ 16-10, Jets 3-3 19-13, Jets
Week 14 @ KC 13-10, Bills 3-0, Bills 16-10, Bills
Week 15 vs. NE 17-3, Patriots 7-0, Bills 17-10, Patriots
Week 16 @ ATL 24-3, Falcons 7-0, Falcons 31-3, Falcons
Week 17 vs. IND 30-7, Bills 0-0 30-7, Bills

From my count, the Bills put one game truly out of reach in 2009 when they scored 24 points in the final stanza to make it a 17-point game win against the Dolphins. Against the Buccaneers, the Bills increased their lead in the fourth quarter, and Tampa Bay never really threatened, so you could certainly make a case that the Bills put that one away as well. Every other lead in 2009 wasn't safe in the fourth quarter, except the 23-point margin over the Colts backups.

Conversely, the Bills allowed three teams to put them away in 2009, giving up three scores or more against the Saints, Texans, and Titans. 14 of the points the Titans scored in the fourth were on interception returns, but the offense still scored 10 to break the tie while the Bills' offense was lifeless. Despite leading the Texans entering the final quarter, the Bills' defense allowed three rushing touchdowns by Ryan Moats that put the game away for Houston. It was a very similar story against the Saints. The Bills were down by a field goal, but two Pierre Thomas rushing touchdowns and a field goal closed out a win for the eventual Super Bowl champs.

If the Bills are going to take a step forward, they need to do so by playing a full sixty minutes. It's not enough to build a lead if you don't truly put away your opponent late.