It seems the old rivalry between the Bills and the Dollies has lost a bit of it’s luster in recent years. Both teams have been living parallel ‘lives’ as they struggle to replace their legendary QBs and great teams of a generation ago.
New England has dominated the AFCE for so long that the memories from the 1970’s abysmal 10 year drought against the Phins has been replaced by the ‘flying pelvis’, along with the horror of watching Tom Brady destroy the Bills for over a decade. Even the Jets seem to inspire more distaste these days than the Dolphins. This would be unthinkable nearly 40 years ago.
Even though times have changed, it doesn’t take long to resurrect some of the old feelings of bitterness when it’s time for the Buffalo Bills to face the Miami Dolphins. Any Bills fan who is too young to remember the horrid decade of the 1970’s when the Bills failed to win a game against the Dolphins should just ask their parents what it was like when the goal posts were torn down on that fateful day at The Ralph.
As Van Miller would say, it was “fandemonium”, and it felt like vindication, after mind-blowing defeat after defeat twice a year for nearly ten years. It was like beating the Patriots* times ten, because of the number of times the Bills came SO close to getting the swimming mammal off their backs, only to succumb to some last minute catastrophe.
Sure, we’ve had those moments over the last decade with the Patriots*. However, the biggest difference is that the Bills and Dolphins were not always that far apart in talent level as the Patriots* and “new millennium” Bills. Some years during the 70’s the talent difference was obvious, but still the Bills would often find a way to do enough to just make you BILLieve the end of the drought would happen. And then it didn’t. Again. And again. And again.
So even though neither the Bills or Dolphins have dominated in any significant way in the 2000’s, there seems to be a turning point occurring where both the Bills and the Dolphins may be closer to resurrecting past glory and gory battles of years past. The Dolphins may have found their QB in Tannehill, and the Bills are hoping that EJ Manuel will be the long sought out answer to their own QB failures.
These young Bills have yet to find their way on the road. They haven’t hit their stride in putting one game together with all three units firing on all cylinders. They’ve lost a few close games, and won a couple. Doug Whaley has obviously been using this season as a revolving door experiment to find the magic formula that will turn this team around.
Though it’s painful to watch the young team struggle, it’s far less painful than watching the Bills get behind by a couple of touchdowns in the first quarter of a game and then deflate like a busted balloon. This team has grit, and they aren’t the pushovers of recent years. Under Mike Pettine’s guidance, the pieces of this defense are starting to come together to punish opponents even in defeat. The upgrade from Kelvin Sheppard to Kiko Alonso in one season is parabolic.
Now it’s time for this young group to take their show on the road and learn how to win in front of the other team’s fans. No, the Bills won’t have their QB of the future behind center. However, as I fully expected, Thad Lewis has shown that he should be disrespected at the opponent’s peril. He’ll fight through that sore foot, and he will continue to grow in his confidence as he has the next month or so to prove his worth as a great backup QB to EJ Manuel in the future.
There is no way this Bills fan falls back on the “injury excuse” as to why this team cannot go in and beat the Dolphins in their half-empty stadium. The good news is that of all the road venues, this is the one where Bills fans may represent a loud enough voice to be heard by their young team. This venue might be the one that gets them over the road hump.
In this game, it’s the defense who will have to come up big for the Bills in order to make that happen. Thad has a sore paw, and CJ, despite all the report of how his ankle is improving will still be hampered in terms of being able to make cuts. Freddie will figure large in this game, and he can be depended upon to give it his all. Stevie will be back, and hopefully be able to instill a little honesty in Miami’s defense in terms of respectability. I would like to see TJ Graham show more when he has the opportunity. Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods will have their chance to shine as well.
The key to winning this game will be for the defense to keep doing what they have been doing; forcing turnovers. However, if the offense doesn’t cash in on those turnovers with TD’s instead of FGs or nothing in return, it might be a long day for the Bills.
Of course the Bills do have their legend in the making, the one and only Kiko Alonso, who seems to be making all other rookies look pedestrian in comparison. Can Kiko break 30 tackles in one game? I’m not going to bet against him.
If ever there was a game where the Bills could prove that they are no longer the cellar dwellers of the AFCE and an automatic “W” for the opponent, this would be the game. This young team needs to learn how to win on the road. What better place than where the fan base is about as rabid as a sleeping panda, and Bills fans will represent as they do in no other venue in the NFL?