For once, the Buffalo Bills got an equal performance from both offense and defense. Sadly, that’s not necessarily the same as an efficient one. The squad saw inconsistency on both sides at the worst possible time, as a defense accustomed to going above and beyond was too depleted and exhausted to steal another game. As a result, January football remains a myth. The pattern of defensive domination would be fine if it guaranteed more victories, but a weekly shutdown is unsustainable. I learned my lesson about overlooking Oakland in a rather painful way.
By coincidence, Buffalo has been out of the playoffs for as long as quarterback play has been inadequate. Doug Whaley’s tenure will ultimately be unsuccessful no matter how much talent he adds at 21 positions while the most important job is staffed by inconsistent hires. Kyle Orton came up short, but at least EJ Manuel didn’t get to improve through the pain of experience. I forget the upside. Giving the youngster a chance to see if he’s learned from the sideline would be one way to make the finale useful. They may as well begin an audition if their season’s ending.
You know Bills theologians are desperate when they debate whether or not Jay Cutler is the savior. The man traded for Orton along with a first- and third-rounder is ostensibly more talented than Buffalo’s incumbent. But suggesting that he could be an option behind center just shows how this team really doesn’t have an answer. South Park knew the deal about Cutler while he was still a Bronco.
Like Orton, Cutler is plagued by nonchalance despite flashes of talent. Going with either tease of an option will mean having the same frustrating conversation about the position one year from today. There’s no need to repeat the definition of insanity.
This team may as well post a Craigslist ad looking for a quarterback. The biggest qualification is the ability to deliver Sammy Watkins the ball with regularity. The rookie’s fantastic post-route score in Oakland’s odd stadium was exciting in part because it hasn’t happened as often as we’d like. Despite his amazing statistics, a disturbingly high number of passes at his feet or out of even his reach have served as an exhausting reminder how much football defends on teamwork.
A wideout can only create so much. Ditching a cornerback is a waste if he goes unnoticed by a quarterback locked into checking down to the running back. For too much of the season, Watkins has been like competitive eating titan Joey Chestnut waiting for the grill guys to cook more hot dogs. The front office must focus on satiating his appetite.
It’s depressing yet comforting when everyone around you is miserable for the same reason. Those of us for whom watching the Bills in Buffalo is a strange experience no longer feel the pain from afar when we come home for Christmas. It’s nice to wander to the Tim Hortons on your corner and see other patrons wearing the local side’s gear. And they’re as crabby as you are about sporting event results. Fans can also commiserate near the Bills chip display in the Tops lobby.
Sports are the most visible way to unite those sharing an area code. Noting a team feels like part of a community is as treacly as most Christmas specials. But that doesn’t make the sentiment untrue. It would apparently take a holiday movie with a talking reindeer, snowman, and ghosts of every relative time period to create a miracle that would get the Bills into the round of 12. But we can still enjoy memories of fleeting high moments along with the prospect of enjoying time together both now and around future Christmases. Perhaps our team can get an extra win or two by then to ensure we get a gift that’s sustained until at least the drummers are drumming.
Looking too far ahead can ruin what’s right in front of you. Heading into the Raiders game, the Bills were like a team down by 14 in the fourth quarter. They ended up worrying about the onside kick before getting one needed touchdown first. As a result, they play on only for pride. I checked, and that’s not as fun as playing for a wild card.
No Bills fan needs a reminder of how successful franchises have franchise quarterbacks. We will get one anyway. Facing Tom Brady as he prepares to move on is a final typical kick in the crotch. This is fifth time the Bills have closed the season against the Patriots during the Smirking Tommy Era, with four of those in Massachusetts. You don’t need to ask about Buffalo’s record in those contests.
The first win under these circumstances would offer a minimal amount of comfort. Finally finishing with more points at New England will have to be its own reward. Doing so with the playoffs on the line has been removed as a possibility. A few early stumbles means the Bills don’t even have to cheer for teams they don’t like this week. That simplified playoff scenario isn’t fun for all. Breaking the Foxboro streak and trying to create momentum for September 2015 will have to suffice.