Buffalo's Chan gang shows improvement
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
Tuesday November 23, 2010 11:46 PM
PITTSBURGH — Absolutely do not — under any circumstance — underestimate the Buffalo Bills.
That’s the message coach Mike Tomlin will repeat over and over again this week to his Steelers. They may have an AFC North Division showdown in Baltimore ahead of them on Dec. 5. But they dare not look past this Sunday’s game in Buffalo.
It’s hard to imagine a 2-8 football team feeling too good about itself yet such is the case with the Bills.
Despite an 0-8 start, Chan Gailey never lost his team and the Bills never lost faith in their first-year coach.
“I talk to these guys about believing in each other,” said Gailey, the Steelers’ offensive coordinator in 1996-97. “If they believe in each other and believe in themselves, we’ve got some talent. We’ve got a chance to be a very good football team.”
The Bills have at least been good enough to win their past two games. They got their first win on Nov. 14 when they edged Detroit, 14-12. Then last week, they beat the Bengals in Cincinnati, 49-31. After trailing 31-14 at halftime, the Bills scored 35 unanswered points.
And before those two victories against last-place teams, the Bills played three contenders tough before ultimately losing. They lost by three at Baltimore (7-3), by three at Kansas City (6-4) and by three at home to Chicago (7-3).
“They’re a warm football team, I’m sure they’re looking to get hot,” Tomlin said. “I’m sure they’re excited about us coming in there.”
Over the last 16 years, Buffalo fans haven’t had much to get excited about.
After making it to the Super Bowl four straight seasons from 1990-93 when Jim Kelly ran the K-Gun offense, the Bills have only qualified for the playoffs four times. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999. Their last playoff win came in a 1995 wild-card game.
In an attempt to bring respectability back to a once-proud franchise, the Bills hired Gailey, an offensive-minded type who had been a head coach twice before. He coached Dallas in 1998-99 and led the Cowboys to the playoffs both years. He also coached at Georgia Tech from 2002-2007 and became the first coach in school history to lead the Yellow Jackets to bowl appearances in each of his first six seasons on the job.
Gailey, who was also a candidate for the opening in Pittsburgh before the Steelers hired Tomlin, says his new team is making a steady progression.
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“(Are we) where we want to be right now, I can promise you we’re not,” Gailey said. “Do I think we’re getting better? I think we’re getting better as a football team.”
One of the first changes Gailey made upon his arrival in Buffalo was on the defensive side of the ball. He switched the Bills from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4.
Then after an 0-2 start, Gailey cut starting quarterback Trent Edwards and replaced him with Ryan Fitzpatrick. In his eight starts, Fitzpatrick has played relatively well. He’s tied for seventh in the NFL with 18 touchdown passes.
“Guys are starting to believe that we can do some good things,” Fitzpatrick said. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to build on that. We’ve got a tough one this week. It’s a big challenge, but it’s a chance for us to see where we are.”
For the 7-3 Steelers, who are favored to beat the Bills by 6, it’s a chance to remain among the elite teams in the AFC.
“We got a big week this week,” Tomlin said. ”We’re going to Buffalo, getting back in the business of playing on the road. We don’t take that lightly.”
Local ties to the Bills:
A former star at Hopewell High School and Penn State University where he was a two-time All-American, “Poz” plays inside linebacker in the Bills’ 3-4 defense. Despite missing two games earlier this season with a sprained knee, he’s eighth in the NFL in tackles (60 solos, 28 assists). Posluszny was the Bills’ second-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Offensive line coach, first year
A 1972 Center High School graduate, D’Alesssandris is a journeyman who’s coached for several college teams and in four different pro leagues. He was Chan Gailey’s O-line coach at Georgia Tech from 2002-2007. He got his first NFL job as Kansas City’s assistant O-line coach in 2008 when Gailey was hired as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.