There’s a term for when you’re shut out at the half, struggle to even get first downs, and find yourself exhausted defensively: a win. The Buffalo Bills started off replacing rage with indifference, which is just as ineffective. Finishing ahead despite resembling a tire fire for much of the afternoon is a sign of strong character, although they don’t have to display it every week. The league doesn’t check how many pretty wins teams accumulate by season’s end. Now, they face the challenge of possible injury news that was uglier than the game. While gamesmanship is fun, fans hope Rex isn’t bluffing this time.
I know a good way to make fans forget about earlier struggles. A few crazy gains are all it takes. But Bills fans know better than most that joy is temporary. Madden superhero Taylor made us feel bad for alternate-dimension Bills fans who are stuck with the stationary Matt Cassel. But now, the two men Taylor bested to win the job may start the next games for their respective teams. It sure was nice to be able to call a quarterback’s number while the team was short on running backs. Now, they may call his backup.
The ability to do a second thing changes everything. The best way to make up for only gaining 109 yards by air is to dash for 76 on the ground as Taylor did in a best-ever performance by an ostensible Bills passer. By contrast, Drew Bledsoe ran for 133 yards in three seasons as a Bill. Let’s say the game has changed.
Quarterbacks have added an aspect, not replaced one. A healthy Taylor isn’t just a rusher, but he can be used as one if nothing else is working. Heck, he tied for Buffalo’s fourth-most receptions Sunday. I don’t recall Taylor recording a tackle, but I should double-check. But that ability to run comes with risk, namely the chance to bend a knee in a matter for which it was not designed. Immobile quarterbacks face peril, too: a stone-footed passer could get hurt while not being able to evade a pass rush. But the exposure to tackles associated with carrying the ball on a football field are the downside of a thrower who often doesn’t throw. If Taylor is actually ready to play, he’s even more of a superhero than we thought. Sorry if the Avengers need help saving the world, but Tyrod may be busy taking on the Bengals.
Fans who were understandably crabby at halftime thought the Bills possessed as much of a chance to turn it around as Donte Whitner has of getting on the Wall of Fame. But even seemingly obvious projections may not come true. The excitement of a multifaceted quarterback getting it done despite circumstances is tempered by the circumstance of him possibly not getting the chance to impress for a few games. But nothing is hopeless. Use beating the Titans despite playing how they did as a sustaining example of this franchise’s resilience during what will be a few pregame days of trepidation.
The win despite it all also offered hope they can liberate themselves from one dubious habit, namely their propensity for breaking rules. Seven penalties for 62 yards mean the novelty wristbands helped, sort of. None of us want to spend more weeks this season discussing how they can be disciplined. Aside from the gutting penalty zero seconds in to Sunday’s game, this squad has taken a small step toward changing their reputation. Officials are humans, as we’re all too aware. They naturally look for offenses by those who’ve established a pattern of committing them. Breaking that tendency will make the simple act of execution easier.
The Bills’ performances have been as arbitrary as the quality of Saturday Night Live seasons. It’s hard to make predictions about a team that doesn’t always play to capabilities. That unevenness is itself a bad sign. Consistent inconsistency means a greater likelihood of falling short when it counts. Of course, merely lousy teams wish they could have trouble properly deploying talent. Regardless, Buffalo should continue to search for their center. Reacting quickly enough to either block pass rushers or rush past blockers is a good start. The new starting quarterback needs all the help teammates can muster, as do the rushers on whom he’ll lean.
The opportunity to straighten out rough turns is what makes everything challenging bearable. Football is merely an obvious example that’s immediate in our minds. We only learn by looking at what got screwed up last time. It’s frustrating that each recalculation takes a game. But all they can do is figure out how to play just energetically enough. Changing the dynamic level sure beats tempting fate, as the Titans should’ve known better than to open an old wound sustained during a cheap shot. I hope they enjoyed that last forward pass. There are lessons already learned about humility’s value which a team with a familiar new starting quarterback better retain. That’s unless they want to endure a similar freakout to those they’ve already unleashed at home.
Mistakes give us something from which to learn, so make sure to make many of them. Well, at least note what went wrong when they do occur. Protection and pressure will scare the Bengals more than personal fouls, even if they hurt. Rough patches are ultimately only frustrating to those who don’t learn from them.
The crushing moment when a promising talent is hobbled just means last year’s opening starter may have to show how he’s improved since his last efforts. EJ Manuel can prepare for the same chance to rebound as the rest of this team. Victory is the reward for those who can reach their capabilities despite slacking like a digital content creator for most of the allotted time. After all, it happened Sunday.
Now, the Bills wonder if they must alter their plans for a different passer. Manuel waits like everyone else to learn if he’s on the other side of a scenario where a mobile quarterback is replaced due to a knee injury. If Taylor is letting the Adamantium do its work, his backup can prove that watching the game has allowed him to gain calmness. A nice story where he approaches his potential would really help his team, as well. Or, Taylor’s miraculous recovery could be the happy story we crave. Buffalo just got a win despite major absences, so wondering who will take snaps isjust another challenge.