Sunday afternoon in front of the Sunday Ticket – it all seemed so familiar. After watching the Bills struggle through three quarters of football Buffalo was still very much in the game and tied the score at 14 with just under 14 minutes to play.
In eight games this season the Bills entered the final quarter in the lead, tied or within a single score of the lead only to see the game slip away. And such was the situation against Miami on Sunday – the Bills within reach of victory but likely to see it slip away once again. Surely I was not the only Bills fan feeling a sick sense of déjà vu.
And then it happened. Right on schedule, one team in the close-fought battle couldn't keep up. Slowly at first the game slipped away – a field goal to break the tie. Then came the 3 and out offensive series, giving up the big plays on defense and of course, the turnovers. The balance of power quickly tipped and the rout was on – just another fourth quarter for the Buffalo Bills.
But wait – could it be that the Bills were the team flexing late game muscle and boldly taking victory from their opponent? Were the Bills really pulling it all together as a team and finishing strong with a win in front of an electrified home crowd? Could this be real or had we slipped into Bizzaro World where opposites ruled the day?
I’m happy to say that Buffalo's performance on Sunday was real – very real and very good. Like many fans, I had almost forgotten what it felt like to shout out with joyous excitement as the Bills put the game away, to clap so hard that your hands hurt knowing that the Bills had sealed a victory. It was refreshing, it was fun, it was GREAT.
The curmudgeon in me wants to say that it was only a single, meaningless win on Sunday, a win that doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean that the Bills are going to finish any better than they did last season or the season before that or the season before that. In January the Bills will be at home watching playoff football on TV just like me. But for the first time in a long time, I don't really care.
For the first time in a long time I don't feel like I am watching the same old Bills going through the same old motions. What I saw on Sunday was a team with a spark and some heart finding a way to beat a beatable team rather than rolling over and finding a way to lose. There were exciting plays that had me up out of my seat and it actually got to a point where I actually KNEW they were going to win – when was the last time that happened? THIS is why I'm a passionate Bills fan – because there’s nothing better than watching your team perform and win. It doesn't happen every week, but damn it feels good when it does.
I feel like the Bills may actually be on course to turn the organization around. Sure, it's going to be tough – there is much work to do and many hurdles to overcome. But it can start with outlook and attitude even in the middle of another lost season. I'm under no illusion that the Bills are going to somehow make the playoffs by running the table and having all the breaks go their way, but I do look forward to being more competitive in future games and actually winning a few.
It's obvious that the team still needs in influx of talent, be it by existing players getting healthy or bringing in new faces. The Bills simply can't compete with the offensive line they have today (a mixture of rookies, scrubs and cast off from other teams), but I am hopeful that the line can at least be adequate soon. It is extremely doubtful that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the quarterback to lead the Bills to the next level, but his drive to make plays and quick feet may just keep the Bills competitive until the elusive "quarterback of the future" is procured. Fred Jackson has finally been given his shot as the feature back - his ability to squirt through minimal holes are better suited to the team than Marshawn Lynch’s running east-west waiting for the block that never comes. Terrell Owens won't be in Buffalo next year, but at least he's not just another invisible receiver in the offense.
We've already seen how a change on the sidelines has breathed some life into a lifeless team, but unless the front office cleans house the gain will be short lived. I trust that change will happen even if I continue to believe landing a big name will be a long shot, but if any change brings me more of what I saw on Sunday I'm all for it.
So enjoy the great win from Sunday, Bills fans. Understand that things won't change overnight, but some fresh air is coming into the organization and that, along with the hope that never seems to die in Buffalo may make being a Bills fan fun once again.