After the Oakland loss, I thought Rex Ryan was sliding back toward the hot seat. I had no idea how embattled he truly was. Before Sunday's game, the word broke that upper management was working a power play on the head coach and that Ryan could be fired as early as Monday if the Bills lost.
Well, if Ryan was coaching for his job against the Steelers, he didn't do himself any favors in Sunday's 27-20 loss, which wasn't nearly as close as the score would suggest. His team came out flat for a must-win game. Tyrod Taylor and the offense were horrendous and the defense was a discombobulated mess.
After one quarter, the Bills were being outgained, 155 yards to minus-1. They were fortunate that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, dismissing the fact that the Bills couldn't stop the run, kept throwing the ball in the snow and threw two brutal interceptions to keep the Bills in the game in the first half.
The Steelers led at halftime, 14-7, and could have been up by 20 or more if they hadn't shown such utter contempt for Ryan's pass defense. Of course, that didn't speak well for Ryan, a supposed defensive genius whose unit has gone to pieces repeatedly against good offenses this season.
Le'Veon Bell, who didn't get really involved until the second half, rushed for 236 yards, a record against a Bills team. That means Ryan's defense has allowed two of the top three rushing games in franchise history in the last two months. Miami's Jay Ajayi ran for 214 in the loss to the Dolphins in Week 7.
Not a good look for the defensive genius, or the cronies on Rex's defensive staff.
If the reports are true, Ryan will be fired, perhaps this week. His defense was abysmal. The tackling was poor. Sure, they missed defensive tackle Kyle Williams, but there's no excuse for players giving half-hearted efforts and for coaches failing to get players onto the field in time.
Three times in the first half, a Bill barely got onto the field in time for a play. That bespeaks a lack of organization and detail among the coaches. That's long been a criticism of Ryan, that he lacks the impeccable sense of detail required for an NFL head coach.
Lack of communication and confusion on substitutions have been a problem during Ryan's two years in Buffalo. Last week, Ryan claimed to be unaware that his highly paid tight end, Charles Clay, would miss the Oakland game to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
Evidently, the Pegulas have taken notice. I also suspect that Doug Whaley and his personnel people are engaging in a power play against Ryan. One of the national reports on Sunday had an unnamed Bills source saying that Ryan had been given "superior personnel" and not done enough with it.
That sounds like a transparent attempt by the football department to point the finger of blame at Ryan in a crisis. It's true that Ryan hasn't gotten enough out of his team, but Whaley is also culpable for some of his dubious moves as GM -- notably, trading up for Sammy Watkins to support EJ Manuel and whiffing on key draft picks.
Despite the misleading halftime score, there was never a sense that the Bills could win this game. It was only a matter of time before the Steelers stopped throwing the ball two-thirds of the time and gave a staggering Buffalo defense a full serving of star tailback Bell.
On Pittsburgh's first possession of the second half, Bell carried seven times in a row and on nine of 10 plays as the Steelers marched 82 yards to a touchdown -- Bell walking in from 5 yards for the score -- to make it 21-7.
Taylor, overmatched again against a team with a legitimate franchise quarterback, had few answers. He finished 15-for-25 for 228 yards and two TDs, a lot of it in garbage time. He bailed out on plays, got sacked three times in the first quarter alone and had a couple of passes tipped or batted at the line.
Roethlisberger actually threw a third pick, throwing the ball to Zach Brown in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Taylor promptly gave the ball right back, throwing an interception on the very next play.
This game could spell the end of Ryan's turbulent and disappointing run in Buffalo. Taylor was probably doomed before it even began. It's hard to imagine that Whaley and Co. hadn't made up their minds on Tyrod well before this.
It gave them time to address an even bigger problem, the head coach. Ryan insisted his defense would be better this season. This makes five straight losses in which his vaunted D has come utterly unglued against a worthy offense.
Really, how much more do they need to see?