Biblical scholars would conclude Job was a Bills fan, although he may not have cussed as much as the rest of us. Football fans go 349 days without games, or 350 during those dang leap years. Buffalo’s eternally patient followers just endured both the longest of the stretches between contests and the most tantalizing yet ultimately maddening end to it. There’s so much space between action, and backers still only hope their team can learn a finishing move in time to win the Mortal Kombat tournament.
Fans are excruciatingly aware that the countdown to the opener is even longer if it’s not shortened by a week or so with a playoff appearance. But nothing induces chronic sighing like waiting all that time and falling just short. Marking the opening Sunday on the calendar is not like Christmas-anticipating kids opening doors on an Advent calendar, where one can reasonably predict joyousness at the end. Instead, the Bills are once again leaning on glimpses of productivity to sustain them until the next round. Sunday’s effort wasn’t brutal like last year’s opening debacle against the Jets, although such a salve doesn’t offer much healing.
It will feel frustrating for some time knowing this squad could have made Tom Brady spend a week filling tear-stained pages in his diary with details of how unfair life is. They started auspiciously by provoking him to pout when they didn’t concede a first-drive score, as has been his habit against the Bills. Sadly, C.J. Spiller, of all players, was nonchalant with the ball enough to give the Patriot Princess a second chance. Spiller regaining last year’s form is this franchise’s immediate priority, as they must get him to the corner instead of trying to send him up the gut.
A brutal penalty or Stevie Johnson drop serve as reminders that every error or miscalculation can cause tremendous consequences, as also seen on other Sunday favorite Breaking Bad. The comparison isn’t only apt due to Bill Belichick’s resemblance in demeanor to the final-season Walter White. The next perfect football game will be the first. Until then, one ball bouncing off the fingertips instead of into the palms can lead to another being kicked through the uprights.
At least the defense flaunted occasional stoutness. A little imposed confusion goes a long way. The best sign for the prospect of flummoxing opposing offenses came on consecutive plays which saw a pass batted down by the monolithic Marcell Dareus followed with a sack by nimble Da’Norris Searcy. It only seemed natural during a jaggedly quirky contest for Searcy to get the scoring going. The scheme’s deception rang true, although not winning when the defense scored is just another brutal memory that victory was within reach.
A little more experience on the sidelines would help. Observers could tell it was Doug Marrone’s first day, and not just by his obstinate unwillingness to slow the tempo enough to eat the clock in the fourth quarter. Refusing to go for it on New England’s 43 felt meek, while his strange challenge early on was a strained attempt to seize momentum that everyone watching saw wouldn’t work.
Full recovery from the previous era of bafflement won’t be instantaneous. But at least the Bills offered signs that they could play proficiently during this season instead of waiting for yet another fresh slate to arrive. Most promisingly, calm young man EJ Manuel completed two-thirds of his passes in an effort to make you forget he hadn’t been paid to play before. Matt Leinart could learn something about poise by watching just Sunday’s game film.
But fans are tired of saying they played it close, as looking for positive signs is itself a sign of a loss. Still, we’ll be back out in force even if they are one game behind the rest of the division after one game. Fleeing after the opener isn’t Buffalo’s style, as it’s time to see if this team can build on its initial promise and achieve more than losing valiantly. It just means looking forward another week to see fulfilled progress.