Warning: Watching the Buffalo Bills play football may negatively impact the quality and length of life. Side effects include elevated blood pressure, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, ulcer, heart palpitations, depression, rage, insomnia, loss of memory and hair loss. Serious side effects, though rare, have been reported including manic disorder, suicidal thoughts, stroke, and heart attack. Viewers of Buffalo Bills football should be aware of the risks inherent in rooting for the team so they may make an informed decision on whether to partake in such activity. Viewing is not recommended for children, women who are pregnant or those with pre-existing medical conditions.
The Bills owe me some money. I’m not sure I’ll be able to find the right lawyer to sue, but I truly believe watching Sunday’s game against Miami shaved years off of my life. It’ll be hard to prove, and maybe I’ll have to settle for simple pain and suffering rather than putting a price on years lost. My wife and kids might also mount a suit for loss of companionship – they tend to leave the house 16 Sunday afternoons a year when I watch the Bills. I think I have a case – even coach Doug Marrone commented after the game that the final kickoff took a few years off his life – a damning statement by a Buffalo Bills employee if I’ve ever heard one.
If you saw Sunday’s game you know exactly what I’m talking about – nail biter doesn’t even begin to describe it. My stomach was in knots, my blood pressure was through the roof and at the end I sat there in stunned silence, completely drained and feeling like I had finally made it to shore a la Tom Hanks in Castaway.
This was a division game; a road game; a game against a team coming off their bye week. The Bills are healthier than they’ve been in a while, but still a pretty banged up squad and being led by a quarterback fresh off the practice squad. To say I thought the Bills were looking at some pretty poor odds vastly understates my pessimistic view of the game prior to the opening kickoff.
The game started out as well as any game could start. On the 4th play of the game, Ryan Tannehill dropped back and threw an interception to Nickell Robey who jumped the route and took the ball 19 yards to the house – Buffalo 7, Miami 0 with just over a minute and a half gone.
On the following drive, Miami went 3 and out but Buffalo didn’t do much with their first drive except see Fred Jackson go down with a knee injury – a bad sign considering C.J. Spiller was already nursing an injury and was less than 100%.
The Bills held the Dolphins to another 3 and out before getting excellent field position on their own second drive. Starting at the Dolphin 44 yard line, the Bills put together a 6 play drive that culminated with a 3 yard Jackson run into the end zone – the Bills were up 14-0 and Jackson was back.
But let’s not get too carried away. The Bills are a team that has a knack of letting leads slip away – especially on the road. Being up by two touchdowns early is nice, but you have to have had quite a few Genny Creams to think that a Buffalo win was safe.
The second quarter was less productive for the Bills. Offensively the team went three and out twice and turned the ball over on an interception. They tacked on a field goal from Dan Carpenter, the ex-Dolphin kicker who was booed every time he took the field. Defensively the Bills gave up two touchdown drives – each helped with a big play. By the time the teams went to the locker room the Bills’ two touchdown lead had diminished to the margin of a field goal – 17-14.
Since 2000 the Bills are 15-9 when leading a divisional opponent at the half, but only 7-6 when that game was on the road. The game had started well, but if history was any indication, it was a coin flip as to whether the Bills would hold on. In 2004 the Bills were up by 21 points in the first quarter in Miami and went on to lose 24-23 – an epic collapse.
Sure enough – the tide had turned. The Bills came out in the second half and went three and out and promptly allowed Miami to drive 66 yards for the go-ahead score. The Bills drove all the way to the Dolphin 2 yard line but an indecisive keeper by Thad Lewis kept the Bills out of the end zone. After another field goal Buffalo trailed 21-20 – the dreaded one point margin.
The Bills are masters at the close loss. Since 2000, the Bills have lost eight games by a single point and an astounding 35 games by a field goal or less. It appeared as if Sunday would mark the 36th close-but-no-cigar affair until Mario Williams came up with a monster sack of Tannehill that jarred the ball lose – Kyle Williams fell on it with an amazing lack of grace, and the Bills were in business to run down the clock and kick the go ahead field goal if they didn’t put it in the end zone.
Being on the dark side of a game-changing late turnover you really wonder what you’ve done to anger the football gods. When you’re on the wrong side of a rare Buffalo break, where karma smiles upon the boys from Buffalo, you really have to wonder what you’ve done wrong. I’ll leave the soul searching to the Dolphins and their fans – I know that’s an ugly place.
It gave me great hope that the Bills actually played smart football in their position late in the game. They didn’t have a young quarterback throw the ball where it could have been turned over or use precious little clock – they ran the ball, protected it and used as much clock as they could – nothing risky, nothing cute. Refreshing that the coaching staff didn’t overthink the situation. Carpenter kicked a 31 yard field goal with :33 left on the clock, and the Bills just had to hold on for the win as Miami had no timeouts remaining to help them drive down the field.
What happened next is something I will remember for quite some time – I could actually feel the life being sucked out of me as I watched Carpenter’s kickoff fail to make the end zone. It was so simple – kick the damn ball as hard as you can, through the end zone and make Miami start at their own 20 yard line with no timeouts in search of more points. Sadly, that’s not what happened.
I’m a veteran of a certain end of game kickoff debacle that ended the Bills season in 2000 – the last time they were in a playoff game. I was in a bar full of ecstatic Bills fans hugging perfect strangers one minute and watching grown men and women cry and stagger onto the streets like heartbroken zombies the next – believe me when I tell you it is ugly.
Life left my body as I watched a Dolphin player field the ball, run across and cut up the field. A ball that should have been kicked into Biscayne Bay was being run halfway to Nashville as Bills bodies fell everywhere. Nearing a stroke, a yelled a stream of obscenities ending with “…the Bills have got to be the STUPIDEST team in the history of the universe!!!” How in the name of all that is holy does that kickoff not make the end zone? How does a return make it to near midfield? This can’t happen! How can one team be the victim of so much cosmic and karmic crap?
OK – breathe. Game’s not over – still out of field goal range. 23 seconds left…incomplete. 19 seconds left…incomplete. 13 seconds left…incomplete. Please won’t someone stop this Chinese water torture? Death by a thousand cuts? Set me free of kill me – I can’t take it anymore.
6 seconds left – 4th down – final play – this is it. Everybody go deep, get to the end zone, knock the ball down if it makes it that far. Ball is snapped – Tannehill looking, looking, winding up…he’s SACKED by Mario Williams!!! Wait! He slipped out!!! How did that happen? You gotta be kidding me! Nobody gets out of that! Rolling out… he’s throwing… the ball is deep… it’s in the end zone… everybody jumping… it’s knocked down! Bills Win! Bills Win! Bills Win!
Blood pressure 200 over 120 – heart rate 140 – I’m dying but all I feel is relief – it’s OK now. Exhausted, I slump onto the couch, scream out a congratulatory “Yes!” to myself and think – that was a hell of a game…too bad I shaved years off my life watching it – I gotta go call a lawyer….