“The Buffalo Bills – blowing it since as long as I care to remember” – my unofficial motto for the team. I’m thinking of making up a sign or some t-shirts with this motto on it – I think it could be a good seller out on the Internet.
I don’t know why I’m so unhappy about this loss, but I am. I saw plenty of positive things on the field today, but far too many really terrible things. I didn’t expect the Bills to win – I didn’t even expect it to be much of a game – I was just going in hoping I would see some signs of progress.
I don’t know what it is about the Bills uniform, but when you put in on it comes with the ability to find a way to lose. Players and coaches have come and gone over the past 14 years, but the ability to avoid wins remains. I was hoping with “new” management in the front office, new coaches and a whole slew of new players, things might turn around for the Bills, but here I sit wondering how the Bills managed to blow another 4th quarter lead to a team they had on the ropes and I know it’s just the same ‘ole same ‘ole. At this point it’s got to be the uniforms, right?
Before you fire off an e-mail to me, let me say that I understand that this is a young team where almost everything is new – they need to learn how to play in the NFL, learn how to close out a game, learn how to win. I also understand that the Bills were facing a Hall of Fame quarterback and were anywhere between a 9.5 to 11.5 point underdog, depending on how friendly you are with your bookie.
Funny how much of the old Bills I saw in this group on Sunday afternoon. If falling yellow flags are an indicator of the winter to come (I don’t have my 2013 Farmer’s Almanac), Buffalo is going to be absolutely buried in snow this winter – dig down to find the roof of your car type snow, just like in 1977. The stat line shows the Bills were flagged 10 times for 75 yards in penalties, but those are only the penalties that were accepted. And they don’t keep a separate state line for what I like to think of as boneheaded, inexcusable penalties like too many men on the field, for which they were flagged twice (young team – I know – see above – but it still makes my blood boil).
I also saw a team that would make some solid defensive plays on first and second downs, only to forget that that third down requires one to play defense, too. The Patriots had 20 third downs and converted more than half of them while Buffalo converted just over a quarter of their opportunities (4-for-13). To add insult to injury, many of these conversions were the result of big plays – a Vareen run up the gut for more than 10 or a pass that was millimeters from being tipped that went for 12 yards. Vareen’s last run looks like it should have been stopped in the backfield and just kept on rolling for 19 yards, leaving just about every Buffalo defender on the ground flopping around like a bunch of newly-netted fish. The run turned a field goal try in the upper 40s to a chip shot of 33 yards. These new Bills certainly look like the Bills I’ve seen over the past decade in that regard – unable to stop drives, get off the field and giving up big plays when they can least afford to do so.
I saw a Bills team that looked like they could move the ball well suddenly come to a screeching 3-and-out halt when they really needed to keep a drive going. Late in the game they didn’t even have to put up points – just keep the ball, kill some clock and move the ball for field position – suddenly the offense could do none of these things. If you give a charmed team like New England opportunity after opportunity you’re going to get beat, and that’s exactly what happened with the new Bills.
Offensively the Bills looked pretty vanilla. The running game was very vanilla and didn’t really try and put C.J. Spiller into space. Spiller looked slow and lacked the explosiveness we’ve seen in the past. He also coughed up the ball on his second carry, leading to a New England touchdown. Stevie Johnson put up a less than stellar 39 yards on 3 catches. While Johnson had a nice touchdown, he had a drive-killing drop late in the game that forced the Bills to punt – something that absolutely can’t happen if the Bills are going to win close ballgames. If you’re going to talk smack to the media about how you can’t be covered you need to put up better than 39 yards with a key drop.
What’s potentially most maddening is that tomorrow I’ll listen to Buffalo sports radio on my drive to work, and hear how people want to focus on the positives of the game. They’ll be happy about a moral victory and have great optimism that the Bills will win the next contest in Foxboro (the one where the Bills will get blown out). I’d like to think of the positives, too, but when I get into my office full of Patriot fans I’ll get the patronizing “you guys played a great game – I really thought that Pats were going to lose it”. On Monday’s like this I’d almost rather the Bills got blown out and nobody bothered to even talk with me. Yeah – Monday’s gonna suck – the Bills lost and there’s no changing that.
OK – so put me on record as saying this is a bad loss and we as fans shouldn’t be happy about it. Whether the Bills lost by two or thirty two, they lost and that’s all that matters – really no polishing that. I am willing to concede, however, that there were positives to the game.
I like what I saw from E.J. Manuel . For the first time in years I saw a quarterback who looked comfortable in the pocket. For a rookie signal caller, Manuel had absolutely no deer in the headlight look – he moved well and seemed in command of the situation. His reads were generally good and his passes good – that’s more than I’ve seen from just about any Bills quarterback over the last decade. From here Manuel will need to mature and grow and show consistency – if he can do that he’s going to be a very good quarterback in the NFL.
The defense also looked good – very good at times. They attacked and really had pressure on Brady much of the day. The decimated secondary actually played much better than I thought they would. With some consistency and a healthier secondary this could be a solid spot for the Bills this year.
So the Bills have something upon which to build, but at this point they’re still a losing organization and I lost my patience a long time ago. I like the progress I saw, but I hate the losses and we’re going to see a whole lot more of those this season – thankfully after tomorrow there will only be 1 more Monday I’ll have to deal with gloating New England fans.