Can you taste that bitter taste in your mouth? Itís the same bitter taste you had at the end of last season and probably many seasons before. Youíve probably had that taste in your mouth a few times this season, as well.
The bitter taste is something Bills fans know well. Itís a combination of bile, stomach acid from your ulcer, blood pressure medication and flat out rage. You try to swallow it Ė push it down deep from where it came, but the bitterness never goes away. If I could invent some sort of mint to make it go away Iíd surely become the lozenge king of Western New York.
Yet another terrible loss to the most hated of all opponents. A game that alternated between blowout and just close enough to keep the kindling of hope burning. Like most games against New England, you come in hoping that somehow the Bills will show something, quickly see that the team isnít up to the task and then watch a game that gets you thinking, well, maybe they could pull it off.
And then, of course, thereís the bitterness. The bitterness of realizing although the Bills were thoroughly beat, maybe they could have pulled out a win if they hadnít beaten themselves with stupid plays or if they had gotten a break somewhere Ė anywhere.
Itís the end of the season, and Iím not sure how much more bitterness I can swallow. I should probably sit back and digest the latest loss and the latest season before passing final judgment, but I feel like sharing my bitterness with fellow Bills fans Ė call it therapeutic.
Iím bitter that the season is over and I still donít know what to think about EJ Manuel Ė heís got an incomplete grade. Heís been hurt 3 times with knee injuries Ė once before the start of the season and twice since it began. I hate to use the term fragile, but thatís what it seems like so far. Heís had some good games and some terrible games Ė QB ratings ranging between 121.9 against the Jets to 31.2 against Tampa Bay. He lead a great comeback drive to beat Carolina in week 2, but I didnít see much of those types of highlights where quarterback throws the perfect pass or puts the ball in a small space where only his receiver can get it Ė you know, the stuff that makes you say, ďWow! Did you see that?!Ē
Iím bitter that thereís still a question mark at quarterback for the Bills while other teams have found their man or seen some impressive play. Look at Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, even guys like Mike Glennon and Matt Flynn have turned heads, something a Bills quarterback has yet to do. Behind Manuel the Bills have Thad Lewis who will probably be nothing more than a career backup, and Jeff Tuel, who shouldnít even be playing in the NFL (I have no idea why heís still on the Bills roster after proving he doesnít have what it takes to be the guy, even in short term relief).
Iím bitter about the Bills receivers. I like Stevie Johnson, but heís not a #1 receiver in the NFL Ė not even close. I like his heart, but not some of his antics and certainly not his ability to blow it. Heís generally a decent receiver, but heís not a difference maker Ė have you seen a big difference when he plays and when he doesnít? Iím also bitter that the Bills are very one dimensional at receiver Ė they have plenty of small speedy guys, but no big bodied guys who can go up and get the ball. At tight end the best they have is Scott Chandler who can make some nice catches but also drops quite a few, has limited speed/mobility after the catch and has had problems holding onto the ball Ė heís inconsistent at best.
Running back leaves me with a really bitter taste in my mouth. The Bills have 2 very solid running backs but have struggled mightily at times to run the ball this season. Itís hard to say much negative about Fred Jackson Ė the guy plays and plays with heart. C.J. Spiller was supposed to be the feature back for the Bills, but itís clear heís not up to the job Ė heís just not an every down back. Spiller is too focused on getting to the edge, and this results in his getting huge yards going east/west rather than north/south. Mediocre play at the guard positions and unimaginative play calling have lead to Spillerís signature move being a first down run where he takes a few strides to the edge, makes a cut into traffic and goes for 0-2 yards after getting stuffed Ė you can count on seeing this just about every first down where Spiller is in the backfield.
Defense as a whole unit leaves me with a huge bitter taste in my mouth. How can a group that looked so good against Miami a week ago come up so small against New England this week? New England is a quality team, but they certainly arenít worlds better than the team in South Florida. The Bills defense has the talent to completely dominate an opponent, but far too many times the group just doesnít come ready to play. On Sunday you could see it from the get go Ė watching the first drive I said to myself, oh Ė another one of those games, huh? The defense on Sunday really looked as if New England was keeping them out in miserable conditions and away from their tee times in sunnier climes. Instead of being in the backfield rattling Tom Brady or taking down running backs they were getting utterly destroyed by LeGarret Blount, a running back who hadnít rushed for more than 76 yards in a game all season.
Iím bitter that Mario Williams is a great player, but only when he wants to be. The pro-bowler had zero sacks and 1 tackle on Sunday, and this isnít the only game heís had where heís disappeared. Likewise, Kyle Williams was nowhere to be found on Sunday. Marcell Dareus seems to be developing an attitude problem Ė seriously, who continues to be late after being benched for lateness the week before? Looks like the only time he wasnít late was when he was early Ė he jumped offsides on a field goal try that extended a drive and lead to a touchdown Ė one of the worst thing you can do on the defensive line. The linebackers did nothing to stop the run and the Bills got trampled Ė again, not the first time this unit has been invisible.
Donít even get me started on Buffaloís cornerbacks. Leodis McKelvin has made strides this year, but heís still an average NFL corner. Stephon Gilmore continues to underwhelm me. I know heís young, but I see Gilmore being victimized and committing stupid penalties all the time and rarely see him making positive plays. For a first round pick I need to see much better play from Gilmore, but Iím rapidly starting to see a bust in the making.
Last but not least, you canít let special teams off the hook with their terrible coverage play on Sunday Ė to see the Bills get steamrolled on the ground in the running game, struggle back and score and then get trampled by the return game was just cruel to watch. Coverage teams giving scores right back to New England certainly leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
I know, ití hard to be objective writing a review of the team in the heat of a terrible loss, but so be it Ė at this point I donít feel like holding much back. Iím going to take some time to cool off, pull hard for the team to make the most of the offseason and make some good moves, and hope for the best next season. At this point Iím not convinced the Bills are in a position to do any better next year than they did this year, but thereís a lot of ground between now and the first snap in September. For now I think Iíll sit back and watch some playoff football Ė dreaming of the day itíll be the Bills Iím watching. Watching other teams rise from failure to find success will probably leave a bitter taste in my mouth Ė anybody got a mint?