ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Appearing emotionally spent, Rex Ryan was left second guessing himself two days later over what went wrong in a loss that formally eliminated the Buffalo Bills from playoff contention.
It’s one he hopes won’t become the defining moment of his two-year tenure as coach.
Missed tackles, missed opportunities, not having enough players on the field at a critical moment, and a few missed calls by the officials were all sore subjects Ryan touched upon during a nearly 20-minute news conference Monday.
“Obviously, reviewing the film, that’s about as painful of a loss as I can remember,” Ryan said, referring to a 34-31 overtime defeat by Miami on Saturday.
“Obviously, it’s a loss you lose sleep over for myself, you know, questioning things and what we could have done different,” he added. “This is obviously the toughest defeat that I’ve taken to this point as a Bills coach. They all hurt, but this one especially.”
The loss dropped Buffalo to 7-8 and extended the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 17 seasons. The Bills close the season Sunday, when they travel to play Ryan’s former team, the New York Jets (4-11) in an AFC East matchup with nothing but pride on the line.
The one major issue unsettled is Ryan’s status as coach , a decision that rests with team owners Terry and Kim Pegula. Ryan left it to the Pegulas in dismissing a question whether it’s fair to judge a coach after just two seasons.
“Whatever they think is fair, that’s the only thing that matters,” said Ryan, who was hired by the Pegulas in January 2015 after Doug Marrone opted out of his contract following a 9-7 finish. “I’m just going to try to win this game. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t mean anything. To me, it means a lot. I want to win the game. That’s who I am.”
As for whether the loss to Miami might be a defining moment for him, Ryan said: “Well, I hope not. But if it is, it’s something I’ve got to live with.”
Otherwise, Ryan was left searching for answers after the Bills lost despite gaining a franchise-record 589 yards. His defense gave up 494 yards, including 206 rushing to Jay Ajayi.
Buffalo rallied from a 14-point deficit to take a 31-28-point lead before Andrew Franks forced overtime by hitting a career-best 55-yard field goal with 6 seconds left.
And it was a game in which the Bills inexplicably had 10 players on the field in allowing Ajayi’s 57-yard run that set up Franks’ 27-yard field goal with 47 seconds remaining in overtime.
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen,” Ryan said of being one player short. “It should never happen, but it did happen. And it cost us the game.”
Following the game, Ryan said the Bills were down to 10 players because the team failed to take into account that cornerback Stephon Gilmore was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
On Monday, Ryan declined to go into detail on what he referred to as being “ridiculous.”
“It’s my responsibility,” Ryan said. “I’ve got broad shoulders. I’ll own up to it and I’ll take it, every bit of it, but I know what happened.”
Ajayi’s run came on Miami’s first snap after Ryan elected to punt while facing fourth-and-2 at his 41 with just over four minutes remaining in OT. Though Ryan’s intention was to pin the Dolphins deep and lean on Buffalo’s defense, he acknowledged spending the weekend second guessing the decision.
“It’s easy to go back and trust me, I’ve gone back and faked that thing and went for it on fourth down 100 times,” he said. “But I know in my heart that the time that I did, I thought I was making the right decision.”
What also bothered Ryan was why the officials failed to grant the Bills a timeout as Franks was lining up to attempt his tying field goal. Ryan insisted he called time before the Dolphins snapped the ball. And even if he was late, Ryan wondered how the officials missed cornerback Corey White motioning for a timeout on the field.
Referee Craig Wrolstad said head linesman Mark Hittner called time after the ball was snapped, or at least that’s when he heard Ryan. Wrolstad said the play was not reviewable.
What hurts the most for Ryan is knowing with a win the Bills would have remained in playoff contention based on how the rest of the weekend played out.
“You overcome everything, and then you lose the way we did,” Ryan said, before taking a long pause. “Man, it’s just painful beyond belief.”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.