Being a Bills fan means you're never without the Bills, no matter where life takes you. Thanks to Bills Backers International, fans around the world can gather together on Sunday afternoons to catch the Bills games.
As I noted before, going to a game in Orchard Park is like a religious Hajj - every able-bodied Bills fan should make the journey at least once in their lifetime. And it was on just such a journey that I met Rose Zimnicki who is a member of the Portland United Bills Supporters, the Bills Backers chapter in Portland, Oregon.
Ever the east coast pessimist, I invited Rose to join me in a long distance conversation on the Bills to give her view from the west coast.
Tony: So, good game this weekend, huh? The Bills finally finding themselves on the right side of a close game where they had better stats than their opponents. The Boston Bills Backers had a very good crowd this week for the game (we finally found someone to make weck rolls so perhaps the special halftime buffet had something to do with it), but we learned some new things today. We learned that Jason Peters is so big his head barely fits in the photo featured on the Fox broadcast (tip: next time, zoom out a bit); we learned that Peerless Price loves Buffalo and Buffalo loves Price; we learned that Bill Clinton may have been the only guy in the stadium in a suit and tie (and no Bills colors - an orange tie?); most importantly - we learned that J.P. Losman is really developing and looked good. What's the view from the left coast?
Rose: The Portland Bills Backers had a great crowd too. I wish we had the Beef on Weck here, but those rolls don't travel well to the west coast. They are hard as a rock after one day and dangerous! Some in our group like to throw things when there is a bad call. Getting hit in the head with a day old weck roll is not pleasant!
How about that audio guy who got plowed along the sidelines during the game? Jim Kelly sure got a good laugh from it. I bet Bill and Hillary were glad to be sitting in Ralph's box and not on the sidelines. Where was Hillary anyway? They showed Bill quite a few times. At the end of the game he was at least wearing a Bills hat. Although it looked like someone placed it very carefully on his head so as not to mess up his hair. I can only assume Hillary was still out in the parking lot at Pinto Ron's tailgate doing bowling ball shots and endearing herself to Bills fans (voters) everywhere.
Meanwhile, inside the stadium Losman was indeed looking pretty good. This week he didn't turn the ball over. And most impressive to me was that he threw to eight different receivers, including our tight ends! And now that Losman is gaining confidence do the coaches start getting away from the conservative play calling? The Bills next opponent is the undefeated Chicago Bears and their number four ranked defense that just embarrassed the Seattle Seahawks' high powered offense. Is this the right week for the Bills to open it up???
TB: Bowling ball shots - that brings back memories...
Somehow I don't see much of anything opening up this week against Chicago unless you're talking about a can o' whoopass their defense could open on the Bills. Call me a pessimist, but that defense is downright scary the way they dismantled Seattle on Sunday night. Losman has shown some good stuff, but I don't see that this offense is mature enough at this point to put up big points. I think if the Bills stand any chance of winning this week they'll need to do it with a controlled offense and outstanding defense like they had against Miami (although after Houston beat Miami the Bills accomplishment loses some of its luster - Miami is really terrible this year, something that makes me happier than Ray Childress at a Ned Flanders look-alike convention). I like the way the coaching staff has throttled the offense and pressure on Losman and I do think we'll see it open up as the season progresses, but it won't be this week. I'd love to see the Bills eventually use Lee Evans to go deep and stretch the field a bit, but the slack on Losman's leash hasn't loosened to that point yet. Speaking of Evans, how much did he remind you of another guy who wore #83 years ago? On a day Andre Reed went up on The Wall, Evans did his best to channel the spirit of the Bills career leader, getting some good yards after the catch the way it used to be done in Buffalo.
RZ: I don't usually remember much after a bowling ball shot. I wonder how Hillary was feeling after hers?
The realist in me (about 10%) says the Bills have no chance against the Bears, even if they play their best game. But the 90% eternal optimist in me (and aren't all Bills fans eternal optimists!?) wants to think the Bears could be ready for a big let down this week. They only beat the Vikings by two points the week before. Bears QB Rex Grossman was heavily pressured and threw two interceptions in that game. The defense will need to do a better job of blitzing than they have the last two weeks. Dick Jauron should be working on his best game plan yet for his old team. Maybe this is the week to unleash Losman. The Bills are expected to lose anyway. Why not go for it! Let's see what the Bills can do against the elite of the NFC. Sure, it may end badly. But that is why we drink during Bills games! The next week we play the Detroit Lions and all will be good again. So any chance TKO will be back to fire up the defense? We could really use him this week.
TB: The defense certainly could use TKO back in the lineup. There's talent on the field without him but they seem to lack a certain leadership and intensity - they'll need that against the Bears. It was so frustrating to see Takeo Spikes actually make it back to practice and then suffer a setback to keep him out of the game. I'm worried about the guy, especially with the draconian way the Bills handled a hamstring injury to another defensive veteran - if he's not in the lineup this week I fear they might take him out back behind the field house and have a reenactment of Old Yeller - yikes!
The Bills really need to keep the penalties in check this week - they went over the century mark (15 for 104 yards) last week in a very sloppy game (seriously - when have you ever seen THREE interference with the opportunity to make the catch penalties in a single game? - it was like watching the XFL where such rules were non-existent). I think if the Bills can tighten up the sloppiness we may be in for a fairly mundane game, which is great because the Vikings game gave me tachycardia (that's medical talk for a rapid heart rate). I could use a more subdued game this week (although the ending of the Jets game last week where they reenacted the 1982 Cal vs. Stanford game minus the trombone player was fun to watch).
As we wrap up, what do you see as the key to this week's game and how do you see it ending?
RZ: Don't worry about TKO. I heard he is dating T-Boz from the R&B group TLC. She doesn't take any crap and neither does TKO. Nobody wants to be back on the playing field more than him!
Tony, I checked your insurance and you are covered for heart medication. If you think any of the Bills games are going to be mundane this season, well I'll also make you an appointment with a good mental health physician in Boston. Buffalo games are always edge-of-your-seat, cover-your-eyes, nail-biters. (When was the last time the Bills blew away an opponent?!)
I don't expect this week to be any different. Buffalo will have to do some things to keep this game close. Open up the offense more and take advantage of our speedy, talented receivers. We need to score more than 20 points this week. Another game without turnovers is important. Test Brian Urlacher. If that doesn't work then run Willis McGahee to the weak side away from him. On defense we need to put pressure on Grossman and force him to make mistakes like Minnesota did. The Bills shut down Chester Taylor. We must do it again this week against Thomas Jones. Special Teams need to continue to be excellent. The undisciplined play of this past Sunday won't be repeated. The penalties will be kept to a minimum.
I believe the Bears are ready for a let down. They'll be looking past the Bills to go 5-0 to start the season. The Bills will upset the Bears 30-27! How is that for optimism!? But then again maybe I'm the one in need to mental help. Let's hear your prediction, Tony. And don't be too pessimistic!
TB: T-Boz? - run TKO, run! Whatever you do, don't give that girl matches or anything flammable! If he ticks her off he'll have no place to go besides the playing field - his house will be reduced to smoldering ruins (maybe he can bunk in with Andre Rison, wherever he found shelter).
Wow - you are an optimist - Bills win and put up 30 points on the Bears, in Chicago no less! Either the sky is a different color out in Oregon or you have to stop drinking beers at 10am when the games start out there.
Call me a curmudgeon, but I see the score as more like Bears 20-6. The Bills are capable of playing tough defense for most of the game, but they letup on key plays - 3rd and 4th down conversions to keep drives going. That's going to come back and bite them, even with a team powered by the likes of Rex Grossman and Thomas Jones. I think the Bills will have a tough time moving the chains all day - Losman is going to have tremendous pressure to get rid of the ball very quickly and I don't think Willis can carry the team on his shoulders alone, not against a team of this caliber, anyway. Its possible that the Bears will look past the Bills and have a trap game, but I'm not counting on it. The good news is that I don't see this game as anything to give me a heart attack. That's my call and it works for me - if the Bills lose at least I was right, if I'm wrong and the Bills win I get a pleasant surprise - gutless but honest am I.
Thanks for joining me in discussion this week - let's do it again!