The pain was still very real for Scott Chandler a day later.
The Buffalo Bills’ tight end spent Sunday night thinking about his overtime fumble that helped the Atlanta Falcons steal a 34-31 victory out of the Rogers Centre, a crippling blow to his team’s playoff aspirations.
“We’ve got to take that next step, and I know we’ve been saying that for a long time. I’m so tired of saying it,” Chandler said Monday. “It kills me that I wasn’t part of the solution yesterday. I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. It hurts to let the fans, your coaches, your teammates down, but we’re going to move on now.”
The question is, will the Bills do the same when the 2013 season is finished? Chandler is in the final year of a two-year contract, which pays him $2.975 million this season.
Chandler is the 25th-highest paid tight end in the NFL in terms of average salary, according to the website spotrac.com.
The team has gotten good production for its money. Chandler has 41 catches for 491 yards this year, totals that are both 15th best among tight ends in the NFL.
“He’s someone that has done some good things for us,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said.
Chandler is on pace to finish with 55 catches and 655 yards. If he does, he’ll break his career highs of 43 catches and 571 yards set in 2012, and finish with the second-most receiving yards by a tight end in franchise single-season history (726 by Paul Costa in 1967).
He has at least one catch in 28 straight games, and if he continues that streak through the end of the season, he’ll set a team record for most consecutive games with a reception by a tight end (Reuben Gant holds the record of 31 games from 1976-78).
But after back-to-back seasons with six touchdown catches, Chandler has only two this season. He’s been targeted only five times inside the red zone. He’s also been charged with three drops through 12 games.
Then there’s what happened Sunday. Chandler’s lost fumble (which was the third of his career) came at the worst possible time. Heading toward the right sideline after a completion in overtime from quarterback EJ Manuel on a crossing route, Chandler had the ball punched away from him by Falcons safety William Moore. The play was similar to the fumble by Bills receiver Stevie Johnson near the end of regulation, which cost the team a chance to line up for a potential game-winning field goal.
“As a player, you know that you’ve got to lock the ball away,” Chandler said. “In those crucial situations, you know the defense is going to be trying to get it out. Gotta do a better job of that. … I think that we would both say that we could have done a better job there. If we make those plays, we probably win the game.”
Marrone conceded Chandler has missed opportunities to make big plays at times this season.
“I think he’s been productive and obviously I think he’s had the opportunity to be more productive because of those situations,” the coach said.
Chandler, 28, provides a big target at 6-foot-7, and did a fantastic job rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered last December in order to be ready for the start of the season. But he’s not the fastest player on the field, and it’s conceivable the Bills could look for an upgrade via the draft or free agency in the offseason. There are as many as three tight ends - North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro - who could be first-round draft picks.
“Yes, this player may be productive at this point; he may be productive for three quarters. Let’s really evaluate what production is because production really is, at the end of the game, a winning performance by a team,” Marrone said.
Chandler was asked Monday whether he wondered when the Bills might catch a “good break.”
“I think if you start thinking about that, you’re getting yourself down the wrong road,” he said. “You look at a team like the Patriots. It seems like great stuff happens to them. Well, you make your own luck.”
Marrone said the team got through Sunday’s game without any significant injuries and should be at full strength when it returns to practice Wednesday.