ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Two days later, receiver Stevie Johnson still can't get over how the Buffalo Bills botched their final play in a loss to the New England Patriots last weekend.
On Tuesday, Johnson second-guessed why a more experienced receiver wasn't targeted on a play that ended with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing an interception into the end zone to seal a 37-31 loss. And Johnson also came to T.J. Graham's defense, saying the rookie receiver shouldn't be faulted for running the wrong route because he had never attempted it in practice.
"I don't think it was the wrong play. But just the whole thing leading up to it," Johnson said, noting that he, receiver Donald Jones and tight end Scott Chandler were more familiar at running the route.
"We had people in positions where maybe they shouldn't have been. So who knows what would've happened if it was Donald, me or Scott there. So it's no blame on T.J. at all, because he's never run that route in practice or in a game."
The play in question occurred with 28 seconds left and after the Bills marched 65 yards to the Patriots 15 with a chance to pull out a comeback victory, and end an 11-game losing streak at Foxborough, Mass.
Faking to his left, Fitzpatrick turned to his right and threw a pass intercepted by Devin McCourty in the end zone. Graham was the intended receiver, but made the mistake of running behind McCourty rather than in front of him.
Rather than looking ahead to hosting AFC East rival Miami (4-5) on Thursday night, the Bills (3-6) are still stuck on the recent past.
Johnson was particularly frustrated after the loss to New England, because the Bills squandered an opportunity to turn around their season.
"We talk a lot about turning the corner," Johnson said. "You look at it on paper, and all that's great. But we're still getting losses."
Coach Chan Gailey, on Monday, took the blame for what happened against New England by saying he should've called a different play.
Gailey added McCourty positioned himself in such a way that forced Graham to make a decision whether to go in front or behind him. And, Gailey added that Graham wasn't the first option on the play.
Graham took the blame for what happened immediately following the game and again on Tuesday, when informed of Johnson's comments.
"That's fine. I appreciate that," Graham said. "But it was my fault. Somebody's got to take the blame for it."
Graham added that he had indeed practiced the play, but not since training camp.
Johnson raised his concerns after being asked why the Bills have had difficulty making plays in the clutch.
After saying he didn't know, Johnson then said: "You've got to go to the players that give you the best chance at winning the game. And if we don't make it, then we don't make it."
The Bills have lost in many fashions this season. They squandered a 21-7 second half lead in a 52-28 loss to New England on Sept. 30. They followed that up with being blown out in a 45-3 loss at San Francisco a week later. Then there was their 35-34 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 21, when Fitzpatrick's interception in the final two minutes led to the Titans scoring their decisive touchdown.
Add it up, and the Bills have lost five of six and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the 13th straight season.
And this marked the second straight week Gailey's been second-guessed, but the first time by his own player. Last week, several reporters questioned why Gailey ran the ball just five times in the second half of a 21-9 loss at Houston despite Buffalo having one of the NFL's top running attacks.
NOTES: DE Chris Kelsay (neck) did not practice Tuesday. Gailey said it's "touch-and-go" whether Kelsay will play Thursday. ... DT Marcell Dareus, already bothered by a shoulder injury, was limited in practice by a sore hamstring. ... WR David Nelson said his rehab is going on schedule since being placed on season-ending injured reserve after tearing a ligament in his right knee in the season opener. Nelson is working out in Dallas, and visited the Bills facility on Tuesday.
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