Is there anything worse than a hangover?
I woke up on Monday morning and felt like I got hit by a truck. My whole body hurt. My head felt like a basketball inflated to 15 pounds when the label clearly said Inflate to 12 Pounds. Every so often I flashed back to Takeo Spikes yelling in my ear as he did on the ESPN opening credits. Dull and persistent pain aside, waves of nausea came over me like the tide at the beach. I was hurting.
Funny thing about this hangover – I don’t recall having a drop to drink. Save for my weekly pint down at the Harp, I almost never have alcohol. I’m quite sure I had nothing to drink on Sunday night, unless my wife slipped me a mickey before the game started.
In my foggy and hurting state I realized that this was no ordinary hangover – this was the dreaded morning after a loss to Miami hangover, mixed with the we got beat on national TV hangover and a helping of the particularly nasty we aren’t nearly as good as we thought hangover. This, my friends, is the convergence of three distinct forms of blows to the ego – the perfect storm of hangovers.
A loss to Miami is never easy to take, but to put it bluntly, the Bills were bitch-slapped on Sunday night. Dominated in front of a national TV audience. Flaws exposed to even the most myopic and/or optimistic fans.
If you read my column last week you would know that there was a part of me (albeit a dark and disturbing part) who thought that this debacle was entirely possible. Save for the Super Bowl years when you knew we would somehow pull off a win regardless of the circumstances, my career as a Bills fan has been marked by an uneasiness lying under the surface that the Bills were always capable of being brutalized by any team in any game, even if it was of a hugely significant or “must-win” variety.
In case you missed the game, here are the lowlights (oh Lord, here comes the nausea again…):
- Drew Bledsoe was 10 of 25 for 98 yards, although 51 of those yards were on the last drive of the game when the outcome was already set. He threw two interceptions, both of which were the result of poor decisions rather than bad throws or being under pressure.
- The Bills turned the ball over twice in the red zone.
- The running game averaged less than 2.9 yards per carry, up from the average of 1.3 last week but short of the phenomenal 3.1 averaged against New England in week 1.
- Travis Henry now has 117 yards on the season. This was his second straight game averaging less than 2 yards per carry.
- The Bills allowed Ricky Williams to carry the ball 42 times, a new Dolphin record.
- The Dolphins held the ball for more than twice the amount of time the Bills held it – 40:50 to 19:10.
- The Bills were flagged 13 times in the game but two were declined leaving an official stat of 11 penalties for 84 yards. By contrast, Miami had 4 penalties for 35 yards.
- The offensive line allowed 4 sacks on Drew Bledsoe, twice its total for the previous two games combined.
- Henry suffered a rib injury in the first half and did not return for the remainder of the game.
- Miami benefited from an official’s review with less than two minutes to go. Initially ruled as being stopped short of the goal line, the zebras determined that the ball had broken the plane of the goal line (I certainly didn’t see anything even remotely conclusive enough to overturn a call on the field).
- Of the 12 drives the Bills had, 8 were for 3 or fewer plays. 6 did not result in positive yardage. The longest drive, 9 plays for 56 yards, came on the last drive when the game was all but over. The Bills never held the ball for more than 3:40 on offense.
- The offense scored zero points – an interception by Nate Clements for a touchdown and the extra point by Rian Lindell were the only points on the board.
- For the second week in a row the coaching staff called a trick play that blew up in their faces. Henry was intercepted in the red zone as he tried to pass to Josh Reed and the Bills went off the field without scoring.
These are the types of game notes that would want to make any member of Bills Nation want to vomit. If you feel as queasy as me after reading this, you may also be victim of this vicious hangover.
Like any hangover victim, it’s pretty easy to sit back and say, “never again.” The trick is in actually holding to this promise. This may be difficult to do given that we have made no progress in a number of areas.
The Bills running game is stuck in neutral despite what the coaching staff said about wanting to adopt a power running game. The running game has about as much power as a two cylinder Yugo. The offensive line and “Pro-Bowler-to-be” Mike Williams have yet to open any running lanes.
The offense as a whole goes as Bledsoe goes. Like it or not, he is the team. It’s great to talk about balance, but when you can’t run the ball and Drew is in a funk you’re going nowhere fast. Had the pass been effective on Sunday we would have seen a whole lot of it. We might have won only to worry about how unbalanced the attack was. If Drew goes down you might as well pull out the draft guides to see who will be the next guy to be a top 10 pick for the Bills in March.
The coaching has got to improve. The crazy gadget plays need to be retired quickly. They have about as much razzle-dazzle as Rip Taylor’s twice daily shows at Heffer Heaven in Branson, Missouri. As with last year, the challenge remains to adapt quickly in game situations. The running game and deep passes weren’t working against Miami – where were the screens and short passes? Why did the Bills not adapt? The coaches also need to rein in the penalties – the lack of discipline on this team is shameful.
I think I’m going to go back to bed now and see if I can’t sleep this thing off – I haven’t felt this bad in a long time. Every time I reflect upon the game I feel even worse. The thought of having a we’re only a .500 team hangover this time next week has me worried and my stomach is in knots.
Now if you excuse me, I’m going to be sick...
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