Manny Lawson couldn't hide his overwhelming regret.
The veteran linebacker expected the Buffalo Bills to have the NFL's top-ranked defense in the 2015 season, three notches above where they finished in 2014. Instead, they were 19th.
Lawson also thought a stronger defense, combined with the improvements on offense, would carry the Bills into the postseason. Instead, the Bills found themselves on the outside looking in for a 16th year in a row.
"I think if we would have taken care of things on defense, we would have been in the playoffs," Lawson said Wednesday, as he and his teammates cleaned out their lockers for the offseason. "We didn't do that."
What the Bills did was go through a season of internal strife defensively, with players publicly griping that they didn't get the new scheme of coach Rex Ryan. For most of the schedule, their play indicated that they didn't want to get it.
But the members of the defense did finish with strong performances that helped the Bills win their final two games, against Dallas and the New York Jets. Lawson sees reason to believe the team can, in fact, work with what Ryan has put in place.
"I think we're going to build on it," he said. "I think once we put more faith and trust into what's going on here and belief in ourselves, then we'll get everything accomplished."
"If we started the season today, would the results be better than they were during the season? I think so," Ryan said during his season-ending news conference with General Manager Doug Whaley. "I don’t think there’s any doubt, because the fact we are way more familiar now and you know, I think that’s a big part of it."