Bills squander late lead in 15-12 loss to Rams

  • Associated Press
  • December 9, 2012 - 6:56 PM

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, the Buffalo Bills let the St. Louis Rams off the hook.

Up 12-7 with just under 5 minutes to play, a Bills defense that had been stout suddenly became vulnerable. Sam Bradford capped a 14-play, 84-yard drive with a 13-yard pass to Brandon Gibson with 48 seconds left to seal a 15-12 Rams win on Sunday.

Buffalo safety George Wilson had two opportunities during the game-deciding march to intercept errant passes by Bradford. But both times, he was unable to corral the ball.

It marked the second loss this season in which Wilson had a big hand. He dropped a certain interception two plays before Tennessee's Matt Hasselbeck hit Nate Washington for a 15-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 1:03 left to lift the Titans to a 35-34 win over Buffalo in Week 7.

"I ended up just getting one hand on each of those footballs," Wilson said. "It's tough. Those are the plays you replay over in your head over and over again, wishing the ball would have bounced your way."

It wasn't all Wilson's fault. Buffalo's defense also allowed the Rams to convert two third-downs on the winning drive and a fourth-and-1 on which Bradford hit Austin Pettis for 9 yards.

The Bills' (5-8) final drive ended with 12 seconds left when Ryan Fitzpatrick fluttered a pass up the right sideline and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar intercepted.

"We had the game and then they came back," Buffalo receiver Stevie Johnson said. "They wanted it more, I guess, and they won."

Fitzpatrick went 25 of 33 for 247 yards passing, including a 2-yard touchdown to Lee Smith.

The Bills' offense shared much of the blame after lacking finish in the first half. Buffalo came away with two field goals on three drives inside the Rams 25. That included Fred Jackson losing a fumble at the Rams 14.

"We have to develop a killer instinct," Fitzpatrick said. "We have to be able to win games like this. As an offense, we have to be able to put them away, and we did not do it."

Credit the Rams' defense, which limited the Bills to 281 yards and forced two turnovers. Rookie tackle Michael Brockers had 1 1/2 of St. Louis' five sacks.

"They just made more plays than we did," said Bills running back C.J. Spiller, who was limited to 37 yards on just seven carries. "Guys are going out there doing everything they can, we're just not making it in crucial moments."

The news got even worse for the Bills, as Jackson was helped off the field after appearing to hurt his right leg with about 5 minutes left. Jackson's leg was sandwiched by two Rams as they made a tackle on a 2-yard run near midfield.

With a towel over his head, Jackson was then carted off from the sideline, with fans chanting "Freddie! Freddie!"

In keeping St. Louis (6-6-1) in the playoff picture, Bradford helped his team win three straight for the first time since 2006. And the victory came on the road, where the Rams had traditionally struggled.

They improved to 2-3-1 away from St. Louis this season, and 9-36-1 since the start of 2007.

Bradford finished 19 of 39 for 209 yards and an interception. Steven Jackson had 64 yards rushing and scored on a 1-yard plunge, while Gibson made six catches for 100 yards.

The Rams persevered on a chilly and wet day, with temperatures in the high 30s, and a light drizzle beginning to fall in the second half.

After being limited to 71 yards and four first-downs in the first half, the Rams got on track to open the second half. Bradford directed an 11-play, 70-yard drive capped by Jackson's plunge to put St. Louis ahead 7-6.

The Bills responded immediately with Smith scoring to cap a seven-play, 75-yard drive.

Buffalo, however, failed on the extra point after the snap slipped through the hands of holder Shawn Powell.

The Rams mustered just three first downs and 66 yards on their next three possessions before Bradford began the decisive drive at his 16 with 4:55 left.

"Winning teams make plays in the fourth quarter to win ball games," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "We are not doing that."

NOTES: Rams S Craig Dahl did not return after sustaining a concussion. LT Rodger Saffold couldn't finish because of a nagging back injury. ... The Bills allowed 78 yards rushing, extending their streak to four games of holding opponents under 90. That's the team's best stretch since a four-game streak in 1999.


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