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Bills' Gailey on distraught WR Johnson: 'He'll come out strong'

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Stevie Johnson's fine and his teammates had his back Monday, a day after the Buffalo Bills receiver was left questioning God and himself for dropping what would've been an overtime game-winning touchdown pass.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick says there's no better way to keep Johnson's spirits up than to continue throwing him the ball, which is what he intends to do.

"I have 100 percent confidence in him," Fitzpatrick said. "That's the biggest thing. And I think that's the most important thing is for him to know that."

Center Geoff Hangartner isn't worried either.

"He knows we've got his back," Hangartner said. "There's no need to say anything. Everybody's made mistakes. He's no different than the rest of us. He'll be fine."

Johnson remained the focus of attention a day after dropping a 40-yard touchdown pass with 10:30 left in overtime of a 19-16 loss to Pittsburgh. The Steelers won on their next possession, when Shaun Suisham hit a 41-yard field goal.

Johnson spent the rest of the game sitting alone at the end of the bench watching the Steelers drive on the video board at the opposite end of the stadium. He was inconsolable afterward, calling the drop something he'll never get over.

And Johnson then raised eyebrows around the nation as news circulated of the tweet he posted on his Twitter account an hour after the game by wondering how God could do this to him.

Johnson laid low for most of Monday, and was the lone receiver not to make himself available to reporters in the Bills locker room.

A few hours later, Johnson provided his response with a burst of seven tweets. They ranged from him dismissing the notion that he blamed God; questioning why Bills fans would bash one of their own; and noting that he's learned a lot in dealing with life's ups and downs.

And just like that, the swagger seemed back for the Bills leading receiver who's enjoying a breakout season.

Wilcots: Fitzpatrick is answer

NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots says the Bills no longer need to seek out a quarterback of the future after the recent play of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"This will definitely test everything that he values as a player, as a person," receiver Lee Evans said. "But if he can overcome it, he'll be much better."

It just goes to show how quickly things change in the NFL. In a topsy-turvy, seven-day span, Johnson scored three touchdowns in rallying the Bills from a 21-point deficit to beat Cincinnati 49-31 on Nov. 21. A week later, the run ended with Johnson referring to himself as "humbled" and "devastated."

Kind of makes one wonder what's in store next Sunday, when Buffalo (2-9) plays at Minnesota (4-7).

"There's nobody that can wave a magic stick to make things go away. He'll have to figure that out," Evans said. "But I think that's the type of guy he is. He's come through some tough things before."

Selected by Buffalo in the 2008 seventh round out of Kentucky, Johnson had to patiently wait two seasons before getting his shot at a starting job. He's thrived this season under the faith provided him by first-year coach Chan Gailey.

Johnson leads the team with 59 catches, 796 yards and nine touchdowns. Overall, he ranks 11th in the NFL in receiving yards and is tied for fifth in scores.

Gailey said he can appreciate what Johnson's been through in having "run through the gamut of emotions in dealing with success and failure. He'll deal with it and he'll come out strong. He's a good man. He'll be fine."

Gailey doesn't intend to change his approach with Johnson this week.

"If you start treating stuff with kid gloves or start treating it with a hammer, you're making a mistake," Gailey said. "I want to make sure that things don't change because a guy has a bad game. I've had some bad games. You deal with it and you go on."

NOTES: Earlier in the day, Bills owner Ralph Wilson donated $1 million to a Buffalo-area adult daycare center. Mary Wilson attended the news conference on her husband's behalf. She said at 92, Ralph has learned the importance of nursing care. ... Mary also praised the Bills for their resiliency, noting the team is showing signs of promise in how it's been competitive in going 2-4 in its past six, with all four losses decided by 3 points. "If you don't love this team, you don't have a heart," she said. "It is a team with a heart." ... Buffalo became the NFL's fifth team to lose three games in overtime in one season, joining Green Bay (1983), the Houston Oilers (1983), Tampa Bay (1983) and Arizona (1997).

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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