One down, one to go.
Yes Bills fans, our annual season sweep at the hands of the New England Patriots is half over Ė it all seemed so fast, didnít it? If youíve been following the Bills for less than 10 years or have a sense of optimism so bright it blinds you from reality you might have thought the Bills had a chance to win the game. Most of us, however, knew the only unknown part of the outcome was the final score.
Yet again the Bills played the Patriots pretty well, showing much more than they have shown to date. The team played well enough to have beaten many other teams on Sunday, just not their nemesis in Foxboro. Unfortunately, the recent history of the Bills show that they often play their best against strong teams but fail to get a win and then play poorly against weak team with similar results.
I suppose Sundayís game was more palatable to watch than previous contests as the Bills did not lose in their signature style Ė coming tantalizingly close to winning and finding some miraculous way to blow it at the end. Even a hardened cynic like me has allowed himself to believe in a win before the final gun in games past, but not this Sunday Ė I never got the feeling that the Bills were going to pull it off.
What was far less palatable for me, a resident of suburban Boston, was my return to the office today. Instead of coming in and acknowledging a game where my team got dominated, I had to listen to people tell me how well the Bills had played and how they really could have won that game. It was like getting a ribbon at the Special Olympics Ė some small token meant to give the recipient some sense of accomplishment. Be proud of your team, Bills fan.
Of the three games the Bills have played this season this one was not without its positives. There were actually some things I liked. Not enough to break out the Bills jacket and walk about proudly in enemy territory, but positives nonetheless.
For the first time this season I actually saw a quarterback who was willing to actually play the position, trust himself and his teammates, take some risks AND THROW THE DAMN BALL. Ryan Fitzpatrick made some nice decisions and showed a fairly good command of the offense, leading the Bills to some scoring drives. Unfortunately I also saw a guy who is limited in his accuracy and consistency Ė a guy who threw 2 bad interceptions when he couldnít control the ball.
I saw some decent play by the offensive line, giving the quarterback some time to throw and opening some running lanes for the running backs, but I also saw some very poor tackle play. I still wonder why in the world the Bills would pay Cornell Green $3 million a year to play tackle and whether any other team in the NFL would allow him to take the field baring serious injury.
I saw some decent running by a pair of talented backs, including a pair of scores from a rookie who could be very, very exciting if given the playing time and supporting cast. I saw a catch by a tight end. I saw a nose tackle gat a sack. Just when I was enjoying seeing some positives with the team I saw something truly horrific in the third quarter. During a commercial break I saw an ad for the new Honda Odyssey minivan. The soundtrack for the commercial? Judas Priestís The Hellion. Back when the Bills were going to Super Bowls Judas Priest represented the darkness of heavy metal and were defending themselves in court, accused of urging listeners to kill themselves via demonic subliminal messages. Fast forward 20 years and this same band is selling minivans Ė not motorcycles, ATVs or even SUVsĖ but family truckster mommy wagons to get you safely to little league soccer games. Whatís next, Slayerís Angel of Death used to sell Lysol antibacterial bathroom cleaner? Times have certainly changed, and I long for the time when the Bills dominated and metal bands were about aggression and rage, not consumerism and lower highway emissions.
Despite the positives of Sundayís game, it is painfully clear that the Bills are light years away from being where fans want them to be Ė division champs and true NFL contenders. Fitzpatrick is an answer at quarterback, but not the answer at the position. Heís going to be inconsistent and inaccurate and probably injured by the time the season is over. The Bills still desperately need 2 starting caliber NFL tackles on the offensive line as well as a viable tight end, something they havenít had in years.
Defensively I donít know where to begin. Outside of the secondary most of this unit just isnít ready for primetime. The defensive line often gets blown off the ball, the linebackers have trouble in pass coverage and it seems nobody can stop the run. Against a team that views the running game as an afterthought the Patriots shredded the Bills for 200 yards on the ground.
Considering I have the Bills pegged as a 4-win team this season I guess I still have the ability to enjoy the small positives I see in the Bills Ė itís amazing how lowered expectations can change your whole outlook on a Sunday afternoon. Iím going to enjoy when a quarterback throws the ball, when the Bills sustain a drive longer than 3 and out, when a rookie running back shows flashes of greatness. Iím going to enjoy knowing that the Trent Edwards era is over, that Roscoe Parrish is contributing on offense and when someone throws the ball to Lee Evans. Iím going to enjoy watching an offense that exceeds the excitement of watching paint dry, watching some imaginative play calling, and pondering the potential to finally draft a solid quarterback or offensive tackle with a high draft pick in April. Thereís not much to be happy about this season as a Bills fan, but Iím going to try and embrace it when I can Ė just please donít have Judas Priest try and sell me a reasonable family vehicle with good crash test ratings.