Whew! Glad that’s over! Man that was painful – it seemed to just drag on and on, slowly grinding you into madness. You knew things would reach their inevitable conclusion, but having to suffer through it certainly wasn’t fun. Finally – we can stop any ridiculous talk of playoffs for the Bills. What, did you think I was talking about something else?
Yes, we’ve finally reached what I like to call the Jim Mora week of the Bills season – the point at which talk of the playoffs is greeted with the same insane incredulity and comic bewilderment as Jim Mora when asked about it in a post-game press conference in 2001. As a matter of fact, it was after a week 10 loss that put the Colts at 4-6 and saw them finish 4th in the division with a final record of 6-10 (for those of you playing along at home, the Bills finished 5th in that same division that year at 3-13).
Nobody wants to see the Bills in the playoffs more than me, but thinking they would end the drought this year was setting yourself for disappointment (as Bills fans we have enough of that without making our own). New coaches, new quarterback, lack of talent, lack of depth, injuries and just plain bad luck all pointed to 2013 being yet another season talking about the draft over Thanksgiving dinner rather than how to get a ticket to the Super Bowl.
At times we saw some promise with the Bills this season, but too often we saw the same ‘ole same ‘ole – finding ways to lose. Sunday’s loss complete the season trifecta on ways to lose – close games, games you should have won but didn’t and finally, the good old fashion drubbing. The Bills hadn’t really been drubbed this season – my definition being a game where they were never really in it at any point and lost by more than 1 score.
The game started well enough. Although the defense looked a little sleepy and lacking in intensity, Jairus Byrd made a huge interception that put the Bills in great position to go up by a touchdown early in the game. Sadly, this was probably the best play of the day for the Bills and resulted in only a field goal – it was all downhill from there.
You saw the game – you don’t need much of a recap. It was cold and windy. EJ Manuel returned to the lineup and was terrible. The running game never materialized and despite facing a team that had given up 197 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground each of the previous weeks (maddening when you consider those teams were Oakland and New England, each with a running game inferior to Buffalo’s). Brian Moorman put on a punt-fest the likes of which probably had him in the trainer’s room for fatigue or repetitive stress injuries on Monday. The defense generally held up their end of the bargain, although Mario Williams has been M.I.A for a few weeks.
Sunday was pretty shocking. Manuel really took a step backward in his progression to become a solid NFL quarterback. Manuel is young and needs time (he’s only played 6 NFL games) and the regression is likely temporary, but it is crushing to see, especially if the realistic goal of the season isn’t the playoffs but development of young players.
To hear Bills fans talk (and I honestly find them to be very astute and knowledgeable fans), the Bills are better than a lot of the teams they play – Dolphins, Jets, Steelers, yet they’ve lost to 2 of these teams. Sure, the schedule was tough with some elite teams for the past few weeks, but Pittsburgh was supposed to be the first in a string of winnable games as the Bills turned things around with softer opposition.
Last week there was much talk about playoff possibilities and people saying they though the Bills could run the table and finish at 10-6 – with a straight face some people said such things! I had to laugh, because every year in the face of overwhelming evidence there’s the group of fans that think some magical spell will be cast that sees the Bills make good on the fact that they have not been mathematically eliminated from contention. Yes sir, the fact that you’ve lost 4 of your last 5 games, haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 1975 and only have 3 wins isn’t going to stop the Bills from morphing into an unbeatable powerhouse that beats all lesser teams (lesser being defined as just about everyone else in the league).
God bless Bills fans for their optimism – without it they’d be in real trouble. It’s what keeps this team afloat – the fact that someone, anyone might consider going to Ralph Wilson stadium in December to see a 4 win team play. But the optimism eventually sounds crazy and delusional and really begins to wear on me. It’s always painful to admit we’ll have to wait until next year, but at least we have Jim Mora week to save us. So please, if you’ve already crunched a bunch of numbers and there’s still a scenario where the Bills make playoffs please stop what you’re doing, go to YouTube and watch Jim Mora’s classic rant until you see the comedy – then you’ll know you’re ready to join the rest of society.