Drayton Florence has 20 tackles and two interceptions so far this year, but Week 6 was not his best outing. (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)
Every week, we’ll take a look at a player or team whose bad performance did the most to raise the stress level of their coach.
Cornerback Drayton Florence said to pin it on him.
"I take the blame for the loss, if you want to point someone to blame for the loss, point me out," said Florence, the veteran cornerback, after the Bills’ 27-24 loss to the Giants. "I didn’t make any plays and I gave up some plays. I didn’t play good enough for our team to win. I think all 10 guys on defense played good enough to win and I didn’t play like I’m capable of playing."
You'd be hard pressed to find a Buffalo fan to disagree with him.
On the third play of it, with three minutes left and the teams tied at 24, Florence whiffed on a tackle attempt of Ahmad Bradshaw, which allowed Bradshaw to bounce outside and spring free for a 30-yard gain. On the next play, Florence was whistled for pass interference against Hakeem Nicks, moving the Giants to Buffalo's 26.
And on 3rd-and-6 from the Buffalo 22, Florence picked up another pass-interference call -- his third of the day.
Nicks, Florence's responsibility for much of Sunday's game, wound up with four catches for 96 yards, including a 60-yarder that came against Florence. Mario Manningham hauled in five passes for 56 yards.
"I’ve played against a lot better receivers than the guys we went up against today," Florence said. "Not taking anything away from them but we didn’t make those plays in crunch time."
New York's final scoring drive came about because Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed an ill-timed interception with the Bills in field-goal range. It was Fitzpatrick's second INT of the day, and Sunday marked the second time this season Buffalo has been held under 25 points in 2011 -- both games resulting in losses.
But that speaks to a bigger issue for the Bills. Namely, that the defense appears incapable of picking the offense up.
That Bills D did force four Michael Vick interceptions in a Week 5 win over Philadelphia, but since holding Kansas City to seven points in Week 1, the Bills are allowing 28 points per game. Only New England has given up more total yards than Buffalo's 420.5 average -- the Bills are 30th in passing yards against and 29th in rushing yards.
So far, the offense has been able to overcome those shortcomings, but it doesn't feel like a recipe for season-long success.
Part of the issue for guys like Florence in the secondary is that Buffalo is not generating any semblance of a pass rush. The Bills have recorded an NFL-worst four sacks on the year, and Eli Manning was barely touched Sunday en route to a 292-yard passing day.
The struggle up front turns up the pressure, then, on the defensive backfield. Thus far, no one's really heeded the call and stepped up.
Most frustrating for Florence is that he's been one of the team's better defensive players in recent seasons. He was a bust in 2008, after signing with the Jags as a free agent, but started 13 games for the Bills in 2009 and then all 16 last year. Buffalo rewarded him with a three-year, $15 million deal this past offseason, when he could have tested the free agent market.
The Bills also will continue to run Florence out there against the opposition's best receivers. They don't really have a choice. On the plus side, though, Florence's season can only swing back up after his Week 6 meltdown. Buffalo will need him to play much, much better than he did Sunday, if its surprising 4-2 start is to turn into anything more substantial.