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Flat effort leaves Bills divided and conquered

LANDOVER, Md. – Now it’s starting to get ugly. The we’re-going-to-get-this-right-next-year talk that began during the week has given way to more pointed words from the head coach and the players.

Job security, from top to bottom, was a recurring topic before and after the Buffalo Bills’ 35-25 loss against the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

The Bills saw their playoff hopes essentially die with last week’s defeat at Philadelphia. But on the way to officially killing them Sunday, they slid right into the abyss and are beginning to sound like an organization potentially headed for a second major overhaul in as many years.

“We have two games to prove that we belong here,” Rex Ryan said after his team fell to 6-8 in his first year at the Bills’ helm, assuring him of a worse record than his predecessor, Doug Marrone, had in 2014. “That’s every coach, every player, everybody. And that’s just the reality of the business.”

Ryan was answering a question about the way ownership might respond to the team falling short of his lofty expectations of the Bills finally ending a postseason drought that now extends to 16 seasons and their having a better defense than last year’s fourth-ranked unit.

Before the game, a report surfaced from CBS NFL insider Jason La Canfora about a growing rift between General Manager Doug Whaley and the coaching staff. Ryan was asked about that, too, and promptly shot it down.

However, according to a league source, Bills owner Terry Pegula has listened to outside NFL advice on player-personnel matters. A year ago, Pegula nearly hired Bill Polian to be the team’s “football czar,” but the Bills’ former GM and Pro Football Hall of Famer turned down the job. La Canfora reported and The News confirmed that Pegula is again open to the idea of finding someone to oversee the football operation. Whaley has a year left on his contract, and his long-term future with the franchise appears uncertain.

It looks as if he might very well have some company.

“This is the NFL, it happens, everybody’s evaluated in this league,” Ryan said. “You can read between the lines … I think any time you don’t reach your expectations or whatever, you got to look deep into why things happen. It’s easy to point to injuries. A lot of teams go through it. It’s ridiculous the amount of injuries we’ve had. Is that a contributing factor? Of course, and it would be ridiculous if you don’t think it is.

“However, we’ve got to look at other things as well and everything has to be looked at.”

Other things, such as players saying after the game that other players, as wide receiver Sammy Watkins put it, “need to forget about anybody’s feelings” and “call people out.” Or defensive end Mario Williams blaming “insurgents” within One Bills Drive for dispensing rumors to the media that he wasn’t really sick when he didn’t show up for work Wednesday. Or the Bills’ defense being an utter embarrassment. The Bills came out flat in all phases, and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over after they fell into a 28-3 hole near the middle of the third quarter. Although Ryan insisted “there was no quit in anybody” on his team, the effort mostly indicated the contrary.

And never was that more apparent than on the Bills’ defense, extending the dialogue that Ryan’s renowned scheme, which allowed him to build the name and reputation that landed him the richest coaching contract in Bills history, has been an abject failure.

That was Kirk Cousins and the Redskins who shredded Buffalo’s “D” from start to finish, not Tom Brady and the Patriots or Aaron Rodgers and the Packers or Cam Newton and the Panthers. Cousins is good, but he shouldn’t have been allowed to throw for 319 yards and four touchdowns, and run 13 yards for another score. The Redskins scored on each of their first three possessions to take a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

Asked if he thought it would ever get this bad for the Buffalo defense, linebacker Manny Lawson said, “Not this bad. We let this one get away, we let the season get away. It’s a tough bullet to swallow.”

After Cousins’ TD run, which gave the Redskins a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, defensive end Jerry Hughes went ballistic on the Bills’ sidelines. He threw down his helmet and knocked over a training table.

“I don’t really know Kirk Cousins’ history or his stats, but I felt like that might have been his first rushing TD in this NFL season, so I think that’s why I was upset,” Hughes said. The scoring run was actually Cousins’ fifth of the year.

The Bills’ offense was far from spectacular, especially in the first half. The offensive line consistently lost battles with the big and powerful Redskins’ D-line, which mostly used a four-man rush to put consistent pressure on quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor was sacked five times and hit six times. He frequently was forced to scramble, and finished with nine runs for 79 yards as part of a 240-yard rushing effort built mainly in second-half garbage time.

Taylor did throw for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Watkins, but the scores and 208 of his passing yards came in the final two quarters with the Redskins firmly in control.

The No. 1 problem for the Bills was exactly what it has been all season: terrible defense.

“We just couldn’t execute,” defensive tackle Corbin Bryant said.