LANDOVER, Md. -- Rex Ryan promised during the week that his team would not quit on the season. He said the Bills still had a pulse. You wouldn't have known it when the game arrived on Sunday.
Still technically alive for the playoffs, the Bills played like a team with nothing to gain, like a demoralized squad that had checked out on the season. They played one of those games that makes their fans wish they had gone Christmas shopping instead of squandering a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV set, losing to Washington, 35-25, at FedExField.
They're officially without a pulse now. The loss, their fourth in five games, dropped them to 6-8 and eliminated them from playoff contention. All that remains are two meaningless home games and the grim task of fixing their many issues -- which starts with deciding whether GM Doug Whaley and Ryan can continue to co-exist in the same operation.
With reports swirling in the morning about strife between Whaley and the coaches, there were some observers who felt the Bills would come out with an angry edge. Instead, they came out flat, utterly embarrassing themselves in their worst first half of the season.
The defense was a sieve; the offensive line got overrun; the punter was abysmal; the play calling was pedestrian; quarterback Tyrod Taylor was running for his life early and missing badly on the few occasions when he had receivers open down the field.
The Bills trailed, 21-0, midway through the first half. They were outgained in the opening half, 265 yards to 93. With his schemes increasingly under fire from his players and the media, Rex Ryan's defense turned in perhaps its worst 30 minutes of the entire season.
They didn't quit -- the offense, anyway -- which is one thing Ryan still has going for him. The Bills pulled to within 28-17 in the second half after scoring two quick touchdowns in a span of exactly three minutes of the third quarter -- a 60-yard run by Mike Gillislee and a 48-yard bomb from Tyrod Taylor to Sammy Watkins.
In fact, when you include a 37-yard throw from Taylor to rookie Nick O'Leary on the play before the Watkins TD, the Bills gained 145 yards on three successive plays. That teased gullible Bills fans into thinking a big comeback was in the offing.
But Ryan's defense responded by allowing Kirk Cousins to drive the home team 80 yards in 13 plays, restoring Washington's lead to a commanding 35-17.
Cousins, who will be a free agent after the season, was magnificent. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns. Cousins also ran through a befuddled Bills defense for a 13-yard TD to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter.
The win lifted the Redskins to 7-7 and momentarily lifted them alone into first place in the shabby NFC East. Cousins set a record for completions in a season and became the first Washington quarterback with six 300-yard games in a season. Someone, presumably the 'Skins, will reward him handsomely for breaking through in his fourth NFL season.
The Bills have a lot of questions, too. First, their fans will have to endure the pointless conclusion to a 16th straight season without the playoffs.