A few weeks ago I decided to stop writing my weekly column at Bills Daily after succumbing to the anger and apathy the team had instilled in me after years of downright terrible performances. Also factoring into my decision was the lack of interesting Bills topics about which to write – how many times can you write about the myriad of Bills problems and weekly losses?
This is not to say that I abandoned the Bills or renounced my membership in Bills Nation. Far from forgoing the Bills, I have watched every game in its entirety and kept up with the daily news of the team (Bills Daily is great for that!). What I did do is de-emphasize the Bills in my life. Instead of planning my Sundays around the Bills I have spent more time with my family and done more of the other things in my life that need attention. If I’m not in front of the TV at 1pm for kickoff I can always watch the game on Tivo – I can always find time to watch the Bills lose on my time.
The change has been both refreshing and educational. Rather than psyching myself up for today’s game this morning I went to Chuck E. Cheese with the kids and learned quite a bit. I learned that if I fail to live a good and decent life my afterlife could be spent in a Chuck E. Cheese for all eternity, complete with screaming kids, animatronic corporate logos designed to sell to said screaming children, loud games that dispense paper prize tickets and really bad pizza. I learned that Chuck E. Cheese prize tickets have approximately the same value as the Zimbabwean dollar – if you have about 4 million you might be able to purchase something costing one U.S. Dollar. Lastly I learned that Rick Ocasek must be blissfully unaware that somewhere sad and half broken robotic children’s characters perform the Cars’ hit song “Let The Good Times Roll” as “Roll the Pizza Dough”. Just a short 25 years ago he was a big rock star married to a supermodel with hit songs on the radio – if he knew today’s reality he would undoubtedly embrace the sting of the razor slicing across his wrists – and I thought it was depressing being a Bills fan.
But I actually have something to write about today – the first (and possibly only) Bills win of the season! Yes, for the first time since January 4th I will be able to think back about Sunday’s game and know that the Bills did not lose.
By winning today the Bills proved that they are NOT the most hapless NFL team of all time – an honor reserved for the 2008 Detroit Lions who went 0-16. Coincidentally it was the Lions whom the Bills defeated to get their first win. Finally people around the country can stop with the patronizing “you should feel good – your guys played their hearts out” BS – we actually won!
So is anyone as excited about this win as me? I tell you, beating a team like the Lions, who haven’t won a game on the road for more than 3 full seasons sure is satisfying, especially when you consider that the Bills did it at home in front of a half empty stadium. And, the Bills did it against a team lead by a backup quarterback who still managed to pass for more than 300 yards. The Bills set a season record for fewest points allowed – 12 – even though 9 of those points were given up with under 6 minutes to go in the game as the Bills held on for dear life. I’ve got to tell you – those are some exciting stats.
Fred Jackson was impressive in the win, rushing for a league-high 133 yards and a score and adding a second score receiving – the first time a Buffalo Bill has done that in 7 years. The Bills notched their second interception of the season and nearly had a third until 3 Bills tried to catch it at the same time. Ryan Fitzpatrick did not throw an interception. Paul Posluszny had 13 tackles. Definitely some things to be happy about.
Of course there are also some things NOT to be very happy about. Once again the Bills had 2 first round selections on the inactive list as healthy scratches – seeing the weekly list really drives home how poor the talent evaluation is in this organization. Once again the Bills held a two score lead in the fourth quarter and rapidly allowed their opponent back in the game.
The Bills came within a hair of losing the game and did their best to put the Lions in a position to win late in the game. Needing to sustain drives and keep the ball out of the hands of the Lions offense, the Bills had a terrible play late in the fourth quarter. With just under four minutes left in the game and the Bills nursing an 8 point lead the Bills inexplicably threw a deep ball to Stevie Johnson on 3rd and 4 from the Detroit 42 yard line. Make that first down and not only do you extend the drive, you probably now find yourself well within field goal range, previous Rian Lindell 41 yard miss aside. But instead of trying to hold onto the Ball the Bills gambled and actually got lucky when Johnson beat his man and was open, but Ryan Fitzpatrick underthrew him and the Bills were forced to punt again. I’m not going to harp on the fact that once again Fitzpatrick misfired with the game on the line and the chance to put it away – but the wisdom of that particular play call eludes me – I just don’t understand why you call such a low percentage pass play in that situation and the Bills nearly paid dearly for it.
So the Lions get the Ball back and drive 88 yards down the field to score the touchdown they desperately needed. Twice the Bills gave up big chunks of yards on 4thdown conversions over the middle – Brandon Pettigrew for 14 yards and Nate Burleson for 23 yards. As they had done all day, the Bills consistently left a receiver wide open in the middle of the field and when the anemic pass rush allowed the quarterback time to find that man the Bills gave up a big play. The drive culminated, fittingly enough on another 4th down play, when a wide open Calvin Johnson caught a 20 yard touchdown over the middle having thoroughly beaten the Bills pass coverage. How did Johnson beat the pass coverage? Simple – he ran by the man covering him, linebacker Paul Posluszny.
How in the world, with the game on the line and the Lions driving do you allow Johnson to match up with a linebacker in coverage? Johnson is clearly one of the best young receivers in all of football and the undisputed go-to guy for the Lions and the Bills didn’t find it necessary to put their best corner or even any defensive back on him in a critical situation?. That’s either a terrible defensive plan or a horrific on-field miscue in a critical situation – in either case the Bills should pray to the patron saint of unsuccessful two point conversions that they didn’t go to overtime and suffer yet another soul crushing defeat.
So the Bills are off the schnide and have one in the win column. The truth is that almost anyone else, in almost any other circumstance, would have sent the Bills to 0-9. Don’t get me wrong – a win is a win and it feels good and it’s certainly better than the alternative. But this win really doesn’t do much for me – it’s hollow. I don’t think this game marks a major change in the Bills season trajectory, nor does it likely change my decision to step back a bit from the team. Leave it to the Bills to win a game and still have me thinking that the game was scary and depressing. Then again, I suppose it could be worse – I could be Rick Okasec.