Playing catch-up is not as fun as playing football. Buffalo’s toughest opponent has been themselves, at least aside from the Patriots. The race to catch up at the semester’s end is a byproduct of slacking around the midterm. Having more wins than last year with one-quarter of the games left is fun, especially since they got there through memorable moments like Kyle Williams separating Johnny from the Football. Their renewed willingness to apply themselves hopefully didn’t become a habit too late.
The only thing more amazing than the win was the game. After getting a winter’s worth of snow in a few days, it’s easy to forget how impressive it was to see the lawn while Buffalo hosted. Unlike the Harlem Globetrotters, they actually got to play at home.
Even better, the thawed Bills overcame the history of brutal Browns games. Scoring twice in 10 seconds made up for a bad first 30 minutes. I’m sure the squad only initially played exasperatingly in front of their fans to make them appreciative. It took until after halftime, but this team finally played like they were in Detroit.
As is too often the case, this team won despite the coach. Like Dunder Mifflin workers united in contempt of Michael Scott, Buffalo is winning in defiance of Doug Marrone’s clumsy attempts at guidance. The stubborn unwillingness to emphasize running the ball from the start made for a dramatic second half, if that was the intent. I’d prefer they dispense with the tension and move the ball enough to score in the first two quarters. Even more frustrating, the drive at the first half’s end was so baffling that it’s hard to explain why the decisions were wrong. Talent overcame muddled strategy, although it was close for awhile.
Former defensive schemer Mike Pettine got no time for nostalgia. Besides, this isn’t his defense anymore. Jim Schwartz did something completely different with virtually the same players and made them slightly better. The back seven and the entire offensive 11 rely on the defensive line’s efforts. Like a mountain of snow, knowing these quarterback-loathing monsters are coming doesn’t make coping any easier.
The straightforward boldness keeps paying off. The aforementioned Kyle Williams dropping for the occasional zone blitz aside, everyone is aware which four players are basically hunting the quarterback. They dare the opposition to stop them in style reminiscent of the Packer sweep, minus a few championships, of course. But a merely decent record is not the line’s fault. It’s not often you can knock something down and rebuild it in an even more impressive manner. Schwartz is a Lego genius who is thankful for the parts he has.
Good personnel can overcome mediocre plans. Defensively, the Bills have been lucky enough to not worry about the latter. Diametric successful approaches in consecutive seasons show how the front office can make a coordinator’s job easier.
Now, fans nervously wait to see how these ominous trench dwellers can do against the unwavering Peyton Manning, a quarterback my research indicates is somewhat skilled. It’s going to take quite a bit of determination to be the first team to sack him three times in one game this season. This league’s best line can prove itself by pressuring one of the best ever.
Beating the Browns was valuable for more than revenge on Donte Whitner, although it was poetically satisfying. The Mafia is thankful to be past his era of unaccomplished mouthiness. Buffalo may or may not squeeze into the playoffs. Either way, at least they no longer rely on a safety who doesn’t defend passes. The truculent underachiever’s dash off the field was the fastest he ran all day. The easily-blocked serial blocker again lost in Buffalo, only this time as a visitor. He played great in the same sense that his visionary prediction about the Bills moving to Toronto is coming true.
Fans who wish to preserve sanity can’t indulge in hindsight, at least not excessively. Wondering how much better life would be as a fan if Buffalo took, say, Haloti Ngata at eighth overall in 2006 instead of the petulantly mediocre Whitner might make us as ungrateful as he is. Wallowing in regret is a habit that must be avoided by those who have not experienced recent success. That brings us to the Bills. A seventh win is the best way to eliminate worries about the precedent of shortfall. Too much time ruefully looking back at the losses would be like deciding this club was doomed at halftime Sunday because they were scoreless.
Fans of an uneasy franchise may wonder how much progress has been made in the alternate dimension where EJ Manuel stepped out of bounds against the Browns last season. Beating a fellow wild card contender this week is the best we get on this version of Earth. The remaining schedule’s non-Oakland portion seems daunting. But tough contests just mean chances to shock the league through sacks and passes to Robert Woods or Sammy Watkins, depending on who draws single coverage. Unhinged optimism is a byproduct of an okay record paired with one triumphant half of football in their return from the cold.