It wasn't Gregg Williams punting from the New England 32-yard line nine years ago. But Chan Gailey had one of his lesser moments as the Bills' head coach Sunday when he opted to punt from the Tennessee 42-yard line on fourth-and-6 with 36 seconds left in the third quarter of his team's 23-17 loss.
The Bills were trailing at that point, 20-10. That's only two scores. But Gailey could have made a strong statement about his team. They were 5-6, on a four-game winning streak. They were at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Why not go for it and be aggressive, rather than fall back on the conventional, conservative coaching strategy? It suggested a lack of faith in his offense, which had been so good at home early in the season, and an unwarranted confidence in his pathetic defense.
Sure, the Bills had played better in the third quarter. But they gave up 6.0 yards a carry on the ground -- again. Instead of giving his offense a chance in Titans territory, Gailey trusted that his defense would get the ball back quickly. It was a bad gamble. Tennessee rattled off four first downs and tacked on a field goal, taking 6:33 off the clock in the process.
Here's Gailey's defense of his decision: "I don't remember the specific situation ... Did I consider it? Yeah. But I thought we had played a little better defensively in the second half. I think we punted it to the 17. We let them get out of there and we didn't get the field position I was hoping we'd get."
Gailey gained 25 yards on the exchange. It cost him nearly half the fourth quarter and three points. Bad move. Early in the year, there was a lot of talk about the growing belief within the team. But that decision bespoke a loss of belief in the offense that got his team to 5-2 in the first place.
--- Jerry Sullivan