I have been a Bills fan all my life and if there is one thing that I know we all do, it is overreact. On the other hand, we can be overly optimistic and some of us can completely miss the mark on where we place our anger and frustration with our beloved team. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on Sunday’s game and try to extinguish some of the flame engulfing the entire fanbase after yet another heartbreaking, last-minute loss to the hated New England Patriots.
First thing NOT to take from the game: We aren’t THE BEST FANBASE IN FOOTBALL.
I have attended my fair share of Bills games, as most of us probably have, and I can say without a doubt that I have never seen our fans step up to the plate the way they did the Sunday from start to finish. If you follow the Bills on twitter (@buffalobills) you will have noticed that they had re-tweeted a couple players that had posted pictures of Abbot Rd. and Southwestern Blvd. completely backed up with campers and RVs. The incredible part was that this was happening SATURDAY MORNING! The Bills also had representatives handing out Tim Horton’s to tailgaters Saturday morning. I have never heard of anything like this before outside of the playoff days of lore and I hope that this trend continues. I also applaud the Bills for allowing this to happen as many other teams have much tighter restrictions on pre-game festivities than we do.
Also, I arrived to Hammers Lot (the best tailgate in the NFL) at about 7:15 a.m. and very shortly thereafter the entire lot was at near capacity with a line of cars backed up into the street. This was all before 8 a.m.! I have never seen anything like this, even for a home opener.
Moving forward to the game, I have never heard Ralph Wilson Stadium as loud and involved in a game as I did Sunday.
Also, Bills fans made national news this weekend for two separate reasons that can be summed up in two photos:
First, anyone that criticizes the fans who wore the jumpsuits and says that they “took it too far” and that it “wasn’t tasteful,” I have no time for you. Do you know what isn’t tasteful? Murder. Do you know what is “taking it too far”? Yeah, MURDER! Now I know you may say “he is innocent until proven guilty.” This is absolutely true and as a holder of two Criminal Justice degrees, I can assure you that I have been informed of this. But I can also assure you that based on the evidence that has been presented so far I can objectively say that, barring any kind of mishap, Hernandez did it or was at least there when the crime was committed. There is absolutely no other possible circumstance. I have a feeling Hernandez is going bye-bye for a while. So fans poking fun at him is justifiable and perfectly fine with me. Also, this team has tormented us so much over the past 12 years that we deserve to throw whatever stones we can get.
As far as my thoughts on the sign, I own a t-shirt that says the same thing and I was wearing it Sunday. The world deserves to know! Finally, after the game Bills fans hung around for hours afterwards instead of going home and pouting. We also witnessed the team use #BillsMafia in one of their tweets Sunday! The Berlin Wall has fallen. All things considered, we are the BEST fanbase in the NFL. But, we already knew that. So I digress…
Second thing NOT to take from the game: All is lost with our running game.
For anyone hoping for greatness from the Bills running game Sunday, I am sure you were disappointed. I was disappointed as well. It is never encouraging when your leading rusher had 67 yards. It is even less discouraging when that is coming from your backup because your star running back looked ineffective. But it is much too early to jump the gun in regards to our rushing attack.
First, C.J. Spiller has had a very tough couple of weeks with some off the field circumstances he has had to endure. While I do not doubt for a second that C.J. is capable of putting this behind him when it’s time to play, it would be difficult for anyone to get back into their rhythm after such a horrible occurrence. But Spiller has handled a great share of adversity in his life and he will be just fine.
Second, we should be encouraged by Fred Jackson. I know for a fact that many Bills fans (including myself to a certain extent) had written off FredEx and pushed him to the back of their minds, reserved to the fact that he is old and tired and broken down and expendable now that C.J. has proven his greatness. However, he was possibly the best player on offense Sunday and carried this team when they needed him. If he and C.J. both turn it on this year things will be scary moving forward for other teams.
Third, I was worried about our offensive line and I’m sure many of you were as well. My worries are nearly gone. Not only did this line provide gaping holes Sunday that our RBs seemed to just not find (don’t ask me how), they also did not allow a single sack. After years of futility at the line of scrimmage, Bills fans should be excited about the recent performance in the trenches. If you put all these ingredients together and they continue to improve and correct a few small errors, this team will be very good at running the football.
Third thing NOT to take from the game: This is going to be a bad team and we are going to miss the playoffs.
Unless your team put forth the kind of effort that the Jacksonville Jaguars did on Sunday (2 points? REALLY?!), you shouldn’t already be giving up on your team. (Warning: don’t troll Jags fans on twitter. You and your timeline will regret it.)
Let us remember for just a moment that this is basically an entirely new organization from top to bottom. With that in mind, we might want to put a lid on it until we have more evidence. All things considered, the biggest concern of everyone who follows this team that has a clue (the secondary) performed admirably against an elite QB. Our front seven applied consistent pressure and forced Brady to make bad decisions. We had a rookie linebacker orchestrating it all and he even contributed directly to two turnovers! As soon as we get the opposing team off the field on 3rd down with any sort of consistency and we get some of our talent back in the secondary, we will have a pretty impressive D.
On the offensive side, our biggest concern (the interior offensive line) performed better than expected. No sacks were allowed on EJ Manuel and Cordy Glenn did not allow a single QB pressure all day. This is even more impressive once you consider that we had to block a man who has his own zip code, gravitational pull, and also was single-handedly responsible for Woody Harrelson not being able to find Twinkies in “Zombieland” (Vince Wilfork).
EJ Manuel performed well considering it was his first game by throwing two TDs and adding a highlight reel sack evasion. On his TD pass to WR Stevie Johnson, Manuel placed the ball perfectly where only Johnson could catch it. Combine these points with an average run game that will continue to improve and this team is on a serious upswing. Oh, and as Howard Simon and Jeremy White pointed out Monday morning on WGR, ALMOST EVERY SINGLE TEAM the Bills play this year lost Sunday. Out of the teams that won (NYJ, NE, MIA, NO, KC), only New Orleans beat a team (ATL) that would be considered good. So it’s not only us, Bills fans.
Fourth thing NOT to take from the game: Buffalo’s clock-management is terrible.
On my drive home to charming Kenmore following the game and some discussion among fans regarding it, I decided to turn on WGR and listen to what others thought about the game. (Note: doing this will probably enrage you, but it can be quite comical). What was constantly being brought up, much to the chagrin of myself and my favorite radio host Sal Capaccio (@SalSports), was “I don’t trust Doug Marrone and this coaching staff because their clock management was horrible all day and cost us the game!” Really? I can think of about 5-10 more things that are more crucial that cost us the game.
While I agree that great teams (like New England) have learned how to manipulate the game through adjusting their speed and tempo based on the situation, I understand that the up-tempo no huddle offense is what the Bills do. Also, Coach Marrone added after the game that they didn’t slow things down because they felt that they needed to score. That being said, he was right. We DID need to score.
The worst part about my day Sunday was that I looked up at the clock with about 5:41 left in the 4th quarter then reminded myself of the score (21-20 at that time) and knew for a fact that if we didn’t score on our next possession that we were going to lose. I knew that if we gave Brady the ball back he was going to march down the field and crush our dreams while leaving about 0:01 on the clock. Well, that exact thing happened and it was simply because we didn’t take advantage and made mistakes. It had nothing to do with clock management. Listening to that on my ride home made my entire car laugh. Please stop beating a dead horse that was never living. If that is your argument I’m sorry, but it is invalid.
Final thing NOT to take from the game: Mario Williams is a “bum.”
Everybody pay attention to what I’m about to say. Your irrational hate toward Mario Williams is completely unfounded. Nothing enrages me more (besides Patriot fans) than all the hatred directed toward Mario. I am completely objective and unbiased on almost everyone affiliated with this team, especially Mario Williams, and I can tell you that I would never talk badly about the guy. Every day, regardless of the Bills playing or not, the following will take place on any type of Buffalo media outlet or social network:
“Mary-oh Williams is a bum. We gave this bum a hundred million dollars for nothing! He is laughing his way to the bank on our dime and he doesn’t care! How much money did he make today? And for what? Nothing!”
“This guy Mary-oh Williams doesn’t play hard, doesn’t affect the game, and doesn’t have enough sacks! He’s robbing us blind!”
“Bruce Smith never got a hundred million dollars so why should Mary-oh Williams?!”
“Mary-oh Williams doesn’t play like Bruce Smith! Isn’t that what we’re paying him for?! I want Bruce Smith!”
“Mary-oh Williams is a complaining, overpaid crybaby who just complains all the time and cries! HE EVEN FAKES INJURIES! I KNOW IT FOR A FACT!”
“Give me $100,000,000 and see if I don’t get any sacks! Mary-oh Williams is a BUM!”
I was barely on Twitter or listened to WGR Monday for this exact reason. But I was still unable to evade this crap. Shredd and Regan of 103.3 The Edge even had to chime in Monday with a fake phone exchange between them and Williams that they aired where he admitted to “catching plantar faciitis from Jairus Byrd” among other uneducated quips about the pass rusher.
Let’s delve into this further, shall we?
First, if you aren’t happy with his production then would you be happy without his 10.5 sacks last year when he was healthy essentially HALF THE SEASON? Bruce Smith never led the league in sacks, would you rather he never played for us?
Second, the guy does play hard and most definitely affects the game. Anybody that truly knows football should realize that football encompasses more than just the stat-sheet. Mario Williams draws two blockers consistently based on how big of a threat he is, which creates opportunities for other players (See: Bruce Smith in regards to Phil Hansen/Cornelius Bennett). Also, Mario is BLATANTLY held on just about EVERY PLAY.
Exhibit A (credit to Sean Corleone – @BillsMafiaDon):
ENOUGH SAID! This happens just about every play, and this is not something that a player can really help. The worst part about this particular hold is that it occurred right in front of not one but two (!!) referees and was not called. This would have surely been a sack and would have put the Patriots in a very tough position late in the game. This non-call could be a direct cause for us not winning the game Sunday. But they could have overcame it with better execution all day.
Third, Bills fans have to understand that nobody will ever be Bruce Smith and nobody will ever come close. Bruce Smith, in my humble opinion, is a top 3 player in NFL history. Comparing Mario Williams to him is incredibly unfair and unjust. Mario Williams is Mario Williams and that is that.
Fourth, I have never seen or heard Mario Williams complain or cry about anything even close to the extent that someone like Tom Brady does. Plus, if he’s complaining about being held it’s pretty clear that he has every right. If your counter argument is that “Bruce Smith was held and he still made plays,” I will again remind you that Bruce Smith was a once in a lifetime player and the greatest defensive talent in NFL history.
Fifth, prove to me that Mario is faking injuries. If you are saying this you are probably the same person who is saying that Jairus Byrd is faking injuries. Spare me. These guys want to play football and be great and you can’t fake injuries in the NFL. The league, your coach, and everybody will find out and the proverbial crap will hit the proverbial fan. This isn’t happening. Finally, nobody is going to give me, you, or anybody else $100,000,000 barring any extreme circumstance and the chances of any of us logging a single sack in the NFL if given the opportunity is about 1 in 100,000,000.
Finally, if you criticize Mario for his off-the-field issues regarding his ex-fiancée, I have no time for you. That is one of the most heartless, classless things you can do and I have no respect for anyone that throws something like that in anybody’s face.
I hope you enjoyed the article and I’m grateful you took the time to read and consider my opinion. The season is far from over and while Sunday certainly was disappointing, there is a ton of football left to be played. While it can be easy to point out flaws, I hope I shed some light on what flaws you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about just yet. As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter: @kdcarlson15 and GO BILLS! See you next week for Bills vs. Panthers!