Moribund offense sucking the life out of Bills fans

Photo of Patriots S Devin McCourty’s pick six from MassLive.com.

Bills fans are now resigned to total failure. I don’t remember it ever being like this. I’m sure it has been like this before, but I’ve never seen it up close and personal.

I was there in the late 60s, when the Bills got really bad, really fast, but that was only a few years after having been on the very top, and the frustration was the frustration of spoiled fans. Plus, after a couple of years of more or less horrible football, the Bills got OJ, and things were looking up.

I didn’t live in Buffalo and didn’t come home for games in the early 80s, so I really don’t know how bad those days were. I’m sure they weren’t pretty.

I’ve never seen it like Monday night at New Era with the Patriots on tap. It’s usually fun, standing in the crowd with people inching toward the security check point, people joking and laughing, talking about how the Bills are going to beat this team or how they match up against that team. Buffalo cheers. Joshing with the fans wearing visiting team gear.

Not Monday night. It was, very clearly, Bills fans being loyal to their team – “I’m here, aren’t I?” – but it also was, very clearly, Bills fans going to an execution, their own execution. Bills fans knew their offense wouldn’t score, and they knew the Patriots offense would.

Sitting in the second deck during pregame, no one talked about how the Bills would do, strategies we hoped to see, how the Bills could win. No one talked about it because no one believed it was possible. Everyone knew the Pats would win. All we could hope was that the Bills would hold the Pats under 40. “Please don’t let them score 50. Not on Monday night football. Please.”

I’ve never seen the stadium like that before.

And yet, despite all of that, with the Patriots at the line of scrimmage for their first play of the game, there the fans were, the entire lower bowl of the stadium standing, the place absolutely rocking with noise. Loud as possible in the face of their own execution, defiant to the end. And it was like that for a lot of the game. It was hopeless, and we were there behind the team like they were about to clinch home field throughout the playoffs. It was magnificent. I was proud to be a Bills fan.

Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images.

Then, of course, there was the game itself. I was ready to declare a moral victory. The Bills defense was solid; Brady was stymied almost all the way, Gronk was invisible (almost), White shut down Gordon, Edmunds made some stellar plays. For a loss, for it actually was satisfying most of the game. Then Edmunds got knocked out. Then Anderson showed why he was out of the league.

When it was all said and done, the Bills had lost, and the Bills prospects for the coming weeks had somehow gotten even worse than they’d been for the past few weeks. How could that be?

I’m worried about Edmunds. I’ve been complaining for weeks about his tackling, and Monday night he was better. He displayed his spectacular range, closing on backs and receivers alike, and he made actual tackles with his shoulders, wrapping up the ball carrier with his arms and taking him down. And then it happened, a real honest-to-goodness NFL big-time hit. I had wanted him to hit someone, really hit him, and there it was. BANG! And Edmunds didn’t get up.

I feel bad that he has a concussion. I worry that it may be only the first of several. I worry about his durability. I tell myself that Kuechly has had that problem, but he’s back, as good as ever. I hope for the best for him, as a young man, and as the Bills middle linebacker.

It was an exciting game, until it got out of control. Close games are exciting. It was old-time Bills football – we may not score much, but you sure as all get out aren’t going to score, either. You know the Patriots wanted to pull ahead and put the game away, but they couldn’t. The Bills defense was that good.

Photo of LB Matt Milano from NewYorkUpstate.com.

I’ve been reluctant to get on the Milano train, but I’m there now. The guy just makes plays. Covers ground, hits people. When he and Edmunds are running around back there in pass coverage, they are a problem for QBs. I think he surprised Brady a couple of times with his cover skills.

What surprised me is the Bills’ passing game. It was, in a word, passable. Yes there were some garbage-time completions, but the Bills actually hurt the Pats sometimes with the pass. They should have thrown more earlier in the game.

Zay Jones looks like a real NFL receiver. He runs crisp routes. He has pro hands. He just looks different from his rookie year.

Second, Kelvin Benjamin continues to make plays. Some stupid plays, yes, but he’s running nice routes and catching the ball, at least some of the time.

Even better, these guys and Clay and Cam Phillips and Andre Holmes are running routes downfield, and they’re getting open! Derek Anderson was finding them downfield and making throws, and receivers were catching it. Except Benjamin, sometimes, and Croom on the critical TD drop.

Photo of QB Derek Anderson from wgrz.com.

A measure of how well the passing game was working is Anderson’s passer rating. IF Croom catches the TD and IF Anderson doesn’t throw the pick six, Anderson’s passer rating would have been 92.7. If’s don’t win ball games, but a passer rating in the 90s, especially with 39 pass attempts, means that the ball is getting downfield and receivers are catching it. It’s what I’ve been waiting to see.

Of course, the passing game can be only passable when your journeyman backup QB plays like a rookie. Anderson has 49 career starts. He’s supposed to see McCourty in underneath coverage on the pick six. Earlier, he was supposed to see not one but TWO defenders in position to intercept his throw to Clay in the right flat, another pick six but for the Pats’ inability to catch. Earlier still, he was sacked and fumbled when he should have gotten out of the pocket.

Buffalo needs a better quarterback. Buffalo has one; he has a sore elbow. He’s bigger, escapes better, throws better and has shown few tendencies toward typical rookie turnovers. There’s hope for the passing game.

I continue to be concerned about the coaching. Kudos for innovating and going with the McCoy wildcat, but there was a lot of confusion in evidence on those plays. If your players don’t understand the offense, why not? And if they don’t understand, why run it? On multiple other plays, there was confusion about who should be on the field and should be off. That shouldn’t be happening at this time in the season.

But I can’t complain too much about the coaching. Unlike last week, the Bills came ready to play, and that means the coaches did their jobs.

Remarkably, there was hope and even excitement in New Era in the fourth quarter. The offense had shown some signs of life, and even after Brady finally managed to get his team into the end zone, a miracle seemed possible. Then McCourty made his play, and the fans headed for the parking lots. How’d they feel? I don’t know how they felt. I felt like, unlike in the movies, the last minute pardon from the Governor didn’t arrive, and I’d been executed as planned, on schedule.

Is there hope? For the long term, sure. I like Josh Allen, and I’m ready for his return. Is there hope without him on Sunday? Well, it’s the Bears, and there’s always hope against the Bears.

GO BILLS!!!

The Rockpile Review is written to share the passion we have for the Buffalo Bills. That passion was born in the Rockpile; its parents were everyday people of western New York who translated their dedication to a full day’s hard work and simple pleasures into love for a pro football team.

Editor’s babble: A beautiful description of a long-time fan’s frustration with consistently losing to the Patriots. Fortunately, if you’re a UB grad like I am the UB Bulls are 8-1 and lessen the pain of watching the Bills’ offense fail week after week. Thanks to Mark Korber for his contributions to our blog. You can’t find Mark on social media, he’s a smart man. 

One Reply to “Moribund offense sucking the life out of Bills fans”

  1. Very nice article Mark, my friends and myself even though we weren’t at the game communicated the same thoughts… Our fear is that the Pats would lay 50 plus on the Bills as they did in a night game years back in the 56-10 debacle.

    The O-line had some decent plays but also whiffed on so many—is it time to let Wyatt Teller in to handle some plays, when he was drafted we were told he was a brawler. Let him play now!!

    Many of us thought it was going to be a tough season especially after the Wood forced retirement and the meltdown of Incognito, but it is still hard to fathom how bad the offense truly is..

    The last time that I can remember thinking the offense had no chance was Drew Bledsoe’s last year when a 3 point disadvantage was hard to over come.

    My hope is that the Bills stay competitive but end up near the top of the draft board so they may draft a couple of blue chip players. With the amount of cap space they will have they should be able to sign a handful highly skilled free agents!!

    Forever a Bills fan!!