Week 6 and it’s getting harder to get excited about the Bills’ season. I still enjoy watching the Bills, but when you’re rebuilding and are hoping to see some development from young players some of the urgency is gone. Of course one of the main developmental players I want to see on a weekly basis didn’t play this week – E.J. Manuel is sidelined with a knee injury and this week’s main attraction was Thad Lewis.
On Sunday I did something I rarely do – I recorded the game on the DVR and watched it later after it ended – when I could cut through the commercials and brilliant sideline analysis. I actually went to a 50th anniversary party for some family friends that started at the same time as kickoff. Say what you want about football, it’s a game – being married for half a century is a major milestone and deserves adulation – if I make it that far I’ll consider it one of the major accomplishments of my life.
I didn’t purposely try and avoid the game score on Sunday afternoon, but I certainly wasn’t looking on my phone every few minutes. At about 4:15 I checked in and saw that the game was in overtime and by the time I left for home I saw that the Bills had managed to take the loss – my only surprise was that the game was much closer than I had thought it would be.
On my way home I listed to satellite radio and heard the Patriots finally lose their second game in a a row to the Saints – a Bills loss is always softened by a Pats loss when you live in Massachusetts. Before long the radio went back to the game and the Patriots had somehow managed to get the ball back again with very little time, a long field and no timeouts – who lets Tom Brady get to that situation. Sure enough, pass after pass was completed and they manage to get the ball into the corner of the end zone for the winning score. I just shook my head – how does that happen? Better yet, how does that ALWAYS happen to the Pats? It really makes you believe that there are blessed teams and cursed teams – where I live the home team fits in the former category and my beloved Bills fall into the latter. Fate is a strange thing.
I travel a bit for work – I was on the road last week. I fly on a fairly regular basis. Despite my air travel, I am fascinated by plane crashes – if there’s a show or documentary about a plane crash I’ve probably seen it. My wife thinks it’s odd that I watch shows about air disasters and the fly regularly, but I have a good reason why – it’s actually pretty comforting.
How can watching air disasters be comforting to someone who flies? The answer is simple – air disasters are never the result of a single failure. There’s a reason why millions of people travel by air every day and almost nobody dies in a plane crash – lots of things have to go wrong for a plane to crash. Look at just about any crash and the contributing factors – then understand that if any of those factors don’t line up exactly right the crash never happens. Things can and do go wrong on planes every day, but almost none end up in disaster because so many things must all go wrong for disaster to strike.
When I finally got home I went right to the TV and started watching, knowing very little about what had transpired in the game besides the final score. I must say, I was fairly impressed.
The Bengals took the opening kickoff and went down the field – 7 plays, 52 yards, most of which came on a reverse that had the Bills completely fooled. The defense did stiffen and held Cincy to a field goal – a small victory but I’ll take it. Buffalo took its first drive 73 yards keyed by a beautiful 43 yard strike from Lewis to T.J. Graham down the sideline – now that’s the Bills football I wanted to see! Two plays later Lewis called his own number and punched the ball in for a touchdown – a nice, decisive plunge that showed the Bills means business. The Bills were in this game.
On the next drive the Bengals again had a play which caught the Bills flat-footed – a screen pass to Marvin Jones that went for 42 yards. The Bills forced a third and six, but inexplicably Andy Dalton was able to fake out Kiko Alonso one on one and get to the marker. The next play was a Bengal touchdown, putting the Bengals up by 3. OK –the Bills aren’t out of this – make some plays and we’re right back in this.
The second Bills drive was methodical – the Bills drove 75 yards to the Cincy 2 yard line – 1st and goal. Fred Jackson had 3 straight shots to get into the end zone and only gained a yard. Buffalo decided to go for it on fourth down and when Lewis scrambled he came up short – no points, ball to the Bengals. This was demoralizing to watch as a Bills fan.
By the third quarter the Bills found themselves down 24-10, yet I never really felt that the game was slipping away – still some fight in the team which is refreshing given how some previous Bills teams would have folded and run for the bus. A key long pass to Marquise Goodwin went incomplete although there was clearly defensive pass interference on the play – not called. Instead of being in position to score, the Bills had to punt.
The Bills caught a break when a Mike Nugent field goal was nullified by a penalty and missed at the now-increased distance. They got new life when Lewis hit Scott Chandler for a 22 yard touchdown with just over 10 minutes to go. The defense finally stepped up late in the quarter and held the Bengals scoreless for the rest of the quarter and Lewis hit a fantastic 40 yard throw to Goodwin for the tying score with a little over a minute to go. There was still hope that the Bills might be able to pull out a win.
In overtime the defense held the Bengals to 24 yards and forced a punt. Unfortunately, the Bills went three and out, not advancing past their own 11 yard line. Brian Moorman hit a nice 51 yard punt, but the coverage team overran the return man who then went for 29 yards. 3 plays and 8 yards later the Bengals kicked the winning 43 yard field goal. Bills lose – again.
Here’s where I started thinking about plane crashes again. Buffalo could have and probably should have won on Sunday. The Bills had plenty of opportunity and just didn’t get it done. So many things did not go the Bills’ way and when they all lined up they ended up being 2-4 instead of 3-3. You could argue that had any one of a number things NOT happened the Bills would have won – the Alonso miss on third down, the failure to score a touchdown in four tries, the failure to put 3 points on the board to go for the touchdown, the pass interference that wasn’t called, the big punt return in overtime.
I know what you’re thinking – lots of things also had to go the Bills way in order for them to even be in the game at the end – I agree. I’m not saying my theory of complex failure explains why the Bills lose so many games – they merely illustrate the thoughts of a long-suffering Bills fan who tends to look away from the bright side of things. You have to admit, fate really hands the Bills more negatives than positives, and that’s what makes Sunday’s loss so hard to take. Deep down the Bills somehow find a way to make their fate lineup just right so that the plane crashes. I don’t know what it’s going to take to turn things around, but it sure would be nice for the Bills to develop some high-flying ways again.