Last week the Patriots rode into town and demolished our collective state of delerium in rapid fashion. It was a huge wake up call for Bills fans (myself emphatically included). After 15 unrelenting years of playoff drought, the Bills season opener against Indianapolis was like taking that first drink of water after hiking in the Sahara desert for 15 years.
The Bills were the talk of the NFL after beating a Colts team that was predicted to be at least a top five contender in the AFC. The Bills were the darling of the NFL the first week of the season. Even many in the national media hopped on the bandwagon.
So when the Bills opened the game by immediately driving down the field and scoring a touchdown last Sunday against the Patriots, I did what I swore I would never do again. I let Lucy pull the ball out right out from under me (again), just as I was about to kick the football (again).
After that first impressive touchdown by the Bills, I ripped open the door to my soul and let the Bills walk right through and make themselves at home (again). You would think after four Super Bowl losses in a row, followed by a couple of decades of despair that I might be more leery about going “all-in”.
But that’s not me, nor is it the personality of most of the Buffalo Bills fan base. We are all ‘Charlie Brown’ (#OneCharlie?), with the belief that someday Lucy is going to have that football really there for us to kick it this time around.
We as Bills fans just know in our hearts that God will not punish us forever, right? Surely we are entitled to have a Cinderella story of our own, aren’t we? ‘One for five before I die’ is a goal for many Bills fans, regardless of age.
So there I was, just as I’ve been countless times before… feeling all righteous and right with the world…
…dancing in the living room while proclaiming emphatically that the curse was over. I felt myself begin to cross that dangerous line. The Bills shredded the Patriots defense and marched down the field in a manner rarely seen in the last fifteen years. Surely this meant the demise of the Patriots dynasty was finally happening. It’s time for the Bills to rise up!
The Patriots came out with Edleman and the Gronkmobile and proceeded to grind that happy train to a halt. They scored touchdown after touchdown. Brady was flawless, and surgically excised the hearts and souls of Bills fans in less than ten minutes. Again.
How many times will we let Lucy get away with this? In reality, the simple answer for Bills fans is how ever many face-plants it takes to get there. As I mentioned to someone on Twitter this week, we have no shame left, so what is there to lose?
So Bills fans, here we sit with two games to obsess about under our belt. One dynamite game, and one “here we go again” game.
However, there was one thing Bills fans did find out last Sunday. They found out, “this just in”… there’s a reason the Patriots won the Super Bowl. It’s because they have a head coach and quarterback performing at peak Hall of Fame level, and they have had that as their legacy in place for more than a decade.
Who are these guys?
So when Bills fans got body slammed back to earth after spending most of the off season on Pluto, the delusions of Lombardies dancing in my head came to a screeching halt. Oh yea, this team is a work in progress.
Furthermore, it was more than just schemes and game plans these players had to process. There are so many new players at various positions on the team, what team chemistry will be like as the season progresses is anyone’s guess.
We don’t know where this team is headed as far as chemistry goes, because there’s been precious little time they’ve able to participate on the field together. Rex Ryan acknowledged his concern that pieces of this Bills team hadn’t had a lot of work together during the preseason.
Furthermore, Greg Roman’s offense is not only an entirely new scheme, it’s a complicated one that takes time to master.
Team chemistry issues were on full display Sunday during the game. Look no further than the nice little chat a couple of players on defense had with Duke Williams. If you saw the “interchange of opinions”, you probably didn’t come away surprised that the Bills decided to start Rambo over Duke Williams at the safety position against the Dolphins this week.
Pay attention to how the players interact with one another and you will get a real clue about the current state of team chemistry. I believe Tyrod Taylor does have the ability, the passion, and the personality to become a passionate leader like a Phillip Rivers or Tom Brady type of veteran leader.
But that will take time. Right now, he’s just trying to get his technique down and establish some kind of rhythm with the offense. The rush to judgement regarding his potential to become an effective NFL quarterback after two games is ludicrous and counterproductive.
So what can we say about team chemistry as the Bills get ready to face off against a very good Dolphins team? (but one that has also been hit by a couple of serious injuries).
Perhaps the most glaringly problem this team has in terms of intangibles is the complete lack of mental discipline displayed by the players, and especially Rex Ryan. It wasn’t so obvious in the first game because the Bills were never in serious in jeopardy of losing that game against Indianapolis.
It was a completely different story last week against the Patriots. To Coach Ryan’s credit, he held himself accountable for getting out of control on the sidelines during the game. He admitted that the behavior of players is a reflection of their head coach, and his behavior needed to change. He was right.
The number of penalties wasn’t even the worst part of that situation though. It was the mental meltdown by Aaron Williams that reflected what we were all feeling at that moment in time, a sense of complete frustration and total anguish about getting paddled by the Patriots. Aaron Williams was channeling the feelings of the entire fan base.
It was a rough day for Aaron, who scared us all when he sustained a neck injury with his family in attendance looking on. Thankfully, he was not seriously injured, but he was hurt enough to keep him out of the Dolphins game. Get well soon, Aaron.
That set up the perfect storm for disaster against an always opportunistic Patriots team on Sunday. Bills fans were overhyped after a week of watching their beloved team on replay mode in the national media.
This group of players understand how desperate this fan base is to escape their bottom dwelling status in the NFL and they welcome the challenge. But they also let the pressure to perform well get to them.
So, Rex hits the reset button this week and now we must go forward and try to learn even more about what kind of mental fortitude this team possesses, or not.
We also need to temper our own emotions as fans so we can make it through this season without completely losing our minds, win or lose. Bills fans can feel the mojo coming together for this team, but we also have to guard against letting our emotions get to the point where we meltdown and turn on each other.
It’s never been more important to become #OneVoice in the age of social media. The collective energy of fans is much louder when it can react in real time en masse.
From my vantage point, we should try to figure out how to use the power of the instant collective energy more effectively as a fan base. Imagine the energy we could direct in a positive way toward the team if we supported each other as fans instead of bashing each other into the ground.
So what if the team looked like champions in the first game and then subsequently allowed the wheels to fall off in the next? People these days love ‘pop psychology’, and it would be tempting to refer to this team as the “Bipolar Bills”.
I’ll resist the urge to label them, and suggest that there are plenty of differential diagnoses that could be made about this Bills team right now. For now, you can’t label a team that you barely know anything about.
As a fan, I think the best way to cope with all the emotional volatility of this Bills team is to go back to the old saying about football seasons (or any for that matter) being a marathon and not a sprint. We all need to take a deep breath and let this team take its bumps and bruises along the way.
The Bills are neither as good (yet) as they looked against Indianapolis, nor are they as bad as they looked at times against the Patriots. The Dolphins present a very good barometer that will direct the trend line one way or the other.
For what it’s worth, I believe Rex presented a more emotionally balanced attitude this week in his press conferences. Let’s hope it rubs off on the players so they can find more emotional balance in their game as well.
For those with a penchant for the ridiculous, I also introduced a new persona on Twitter this week. She’s been in the works for awhile, but I couldn’t keep her under control after that Patriots game. Check out @OldSloopyGirl on Twitter, and if you want to know how she came to be, check out my last couple of blog posts at www.billsmafia.com . @OldSloopyGirl is looking forward to getting to know all of you as we roll on this joy ride and see where it leads us.