If there's a more deplorable word to be uttered in a professional locker room than "quit," good luck finding it.
No athlete ever wants to give the impression that he quit in a game, and the Buffalo Bills were adamant that they did no such thing Sunday in their 45-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but it was certainly hard to buy into their proclamations.
"No, I don't think our team gives up," coach Chan Gailey said. "I think they hurt. I think they get rattled, and that's part of my responsibility, to not let 'em get rattled. When things start going bad, you gotta be strong mentally. I've got to find a way to get our team to that point."
Right down the line in the locker room, the Bills repeated that they didn't quit. So if that were the case and they really were giving it their all, then are their tortured fans led to believe that this team, which supposedly beefed up its defense and was considered a threat to earn a playoff berth, is that bad?
The 49ers took a 31-3 lead 48 seconds into the fourth quarter, and it was clear the game was over, but Buffalo's response was disturbingly lame. The offense went three-and-out on its next two possessions, and the defense trudged back out and allowed a seven-play, 67-yard touchdown drive, then an 11-play, 69-yard TD drive that made it 45-3. On that last march, the 49ers had backups in the game, and the Bills were powerless to stop them.
"It's embarrassing," linebacker Bryan Scott said. "I'm sick of it, because we are better than this. ... We are sick of this. This is terrible."
Again, the question is, are the Bills really better than this? Their two wins have come against the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, teams with a combined record of 1-9. In the three losses to the New York Jets, New England Patriots and 49ers, they have allowed 145 points and are minus-eight in takeaway/giveaway.
In the fourth quarter of the last two games, they have been outscored 52-7. If the Bills aren't quitting, then they sure aren't finishing with much verve.
Buffalo gave up a franchise-record 621 yards Sunday. Even last year's defense, which set a team record with 5,938 yards allowed, never gave up 500 in a game, let alone 600. The 1,201 combined yards the Bills have given up in the last two games is a team record, and it's the first time since 1950 that any NFL team has given up at least 550 yards in back-to-back games.
The Bills gave up 311 rushing yards against San Francisco, third most in team history. The 97 points they have allowed in the last two games is the most since the 103 points they allowed in back-to-back games at the end of 1976 against Miami and Baltimore. The 42-point margin of defeat tied for third worst. And last and certainly least, the Bills became the first team in NFL history to allow 300 yards rushing and 300 yards passing in the same game.
"Nobody quit," safety George Wilson said. "Quit does not associate with these men in this locker room. Nobody quit. Nobody laid down. Everybody played to the very end. We didn't tackle well. They moved the ball. We didn't stop them. They made more plays than we did. Nobody in this locker room quit."