Bills' playoff hopes all but done

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) runs the ball against Buffalo Bills strong safety...

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) runs the ball against Buffalo Bills strong safety Da'Norris Searcy (25) in the first quarter of their NFL football game in Orchard Park, New York December 4, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:44 PM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Whatever faint playoff hopes were harboured by the Buffalo Bills were crushed by the cleats of Chris Johnson on Sunday.

The enigmatic Tennessee Titans running back romped for 106 yards and two touchdowns before the first half had even been completed, leading the way for the visitors’ 23-17 victory over the Bills. Johnson ended up romping for 153 yards on the day.

Five weeks ago the Bills held hopes of reaching the post-season for the first time since 1999. Buffalo was 5-2 at the time, had just humiliated the Washington Redskins 23-0 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, and were being led by running back Fred Jackson, who was an early season candidate for league MVP honours.

Now, in the first week of December, Jackson is done for the season with a broken right leg, an injury suffered against the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago.

And after their humbling setback to the Titans, it would appear safe to say the Bills are done for the season too.

Sunday’s loss was the team’s fifth consecutive setback, dropping it’s record to 5-7. Even if the Bills were to win out through their final four games, 9-7 likely won’t get it done in their quest to reach their goal of a playoff spot.

Besides, a game in Foxborough remains against the mighty Patriots, a team the Bills beat at the Ralph earlier in the season. Does anyone really think the Bills will sweep the season series against Tom Brady and The Hoody, Bill Belichick? Don’t bet on it.

There have been plenty of positives in this 2011 campaign for the Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick has brought stability to the quarterbacking position, Jackson was an electrifying force before his unfortunate injury, and first-round pick Marcell Dareus looks to be a force clogging up the middle of the Buffalo defence for years to come.

Sunday also was a coming-out party of sorts for running back C.J. Spiller, who has been considered a mild disappointment since being picked ninth overall in the 2010 NFL draft by the Bills. Now entrenched in the starter’s role because of Jackson’s injury, Spiller rumbled for 83 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort.

But a lack of depth and talent, combined with a lengthy injury list, has plagued the Bills down the stretch. Indeed, two more bodies entered the trainer’s room Sunday, with defensive back Aaron Williams and defensive lineman Chris Kelsay both knocked out of the game.

Trailing 23-10 in the fourth quarter, the Bills put together a valiant comeback effort that fell just short.

After a Stevie Johnson touchdown grab narrowed the lead to 23-17, the Bills got the ball back on their own 15 with 62 seconds to play and no timeouts. In the end, it proved to be too much of an obstacle to overcome.

The victory kept the Titans in the AFC wildcard race at 7-5.

Johnson, by the way, obviously learned from the hefty $10,000 US fine that was levied on him by the league for pretending to shoot himself in the leg during a touchdown celebration against the New York Jets last week, an obvious mimick of Jets wideout Plaxico Burress.

After scoring his fourth quarter touchdown, Johnson this time ran over to the official and politely handed him the ball.

On this day, even a humbled Johnson was not enough.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca
twitter.com/zeisberger


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