In Chinese culture, yin and yang is a relational concept that has developed over thousands of years. Yin and yang conceptualizes a universe that is governed by a duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or energies that can be observed in nature.
After watching the Bills playoff loss to Houston on Saturday, I was struck by the contrasts, the yin and yang as it were, throughout the game. It went from the sublime, to the ridiculous. From the defense in half one to the defense in half two, the offense in half one to the offense in half two, Josh Allen in half one vs the Josh Allen of half two, the playcalling on both offense and defense from one half to the other, all polar opposites which existed, amazingly, in the same game.
Smooth, creative, in control, dominating, aggressive, playing to win (with a notable exception at the end of the half) and playing within their structure in the first half. Conservative, panicked, out of control, playing not to lose in half 2.
The pressure of the situation seemed to filter throughout their sideline and inflicted the offense (and particularly the QB), the defense and the coaching staff, who made some truly head scratching uses of personnel and play calling on both sides of the ball. When equilibrium was finally restored in overtime, the 3rd party in the game, the officials, stepped in and made the type of call (blind side hit) that helped determine the outcome, to the Bills detriment.
Even the Bills season was a reverse mirror image, a duality. They began the season 4 wins and 1 loss and ended 1 win and 4 losses. They were behind 16 points in the 2nd half of the first game against the Jets and came back to win. They were ahead 16 points against Houston in the 2nd half and lost.
It is not my intent to relive all of the plays, situations, coaching decisions and officials calls that helped ultimately doom the Bills. In the pantheon of brutal Bills beats, this is in the upper echelon that’s for sure.
My cardiologist was on speed dial and we were at Defcon 5 quite a few times throughout. It is too painful and there are too many items to go through to write cogently about all of them. Here though are a few items of note:
- Josh Allen looked as good as he has ever looked in that opening drive and lots of the first half (literally a nanosecond late on the throw to Brown…which maybe should have been caught anyway…and a Williams drop on a tough but catchable ball in the end zone…..either of which might have decided the game early.) And as nervous and out of control as we saw in the 19 yard sack, Allen’s intentional grounding, forced attempted lateral, throw into double coverage to Pat DiMarco (did I really see that…omg) second half was unreal. The pressure that infiltrated that sideline definitely made it to the young quarterback as well. As Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic stated perfectly I think: “Josh Allen was swimming in the “deep seas of the moment” in the 2nd half.
- In the first half the Bills D was totally dominating. In the second half Watson made some amazing plays and throws and the Bills D seemed to back off. Their tackling got worse. Allowing a 1st down completion on a 3rd and 18 was totally out of character for what they had done all year. They feared getting beat deep and gave up copious amounts of yards.
- In the 1st half they ran Josh Allen with 3 blockers out in front and he went for 42 yards. In the second half, with 3 guys out in front and a good chunk of sideline open to him, he got drilled by the one guy nobody bothered to block. Same play, way different results.
- Duke Williams made a couple outstanding catches. Duke Williams also dropped a TD in the endz one and had another drop as well.
- There were three Frank Gore runs on 2nd down and 10 in the game. In the worst of them, the Bills were at the Texan 32 yard line with 1:17 left in the first half and 2 time outs. They ran Gore and then spiked the ball.This gave them 30 seconds and only one play left. Incomplete. Field goal. Play for touchdowns not field goals! With 1st downs at the Houston 22, 32 and 14 yard lines they had zero touchdowns. The Texans came in with the worst red zone defense in the league. This very conservative “Dick Jaronesque” approach to trying to win is exasperating. They seem to fear mistakes (likely by their young QB) but playing afraid is a ticket to defeat against better teams with good offenses. If I never see another Frank Gore run on 2nd and 10 in a close game where the Bills need points to win it will be too soon. Getting behind the chains is not a ticket to victory.
I said I wouldn’t get into the nitty gritty of what happened and then I did it anyway. I needed to get a few of them out of my system. It’s hard not to want to scream.
All that said, I thought 2019 was a success on almost every level. They won 10 games, made the playoffs, grew the core of their roster, played big games on big stages, improved their QB, and kept their rebuild going ahead. They exceeded my expectations.
A win in the playoffs was there for the taking but a myriad of circumstances/pressures didn’t permit it to happen. I am hoping THAT is a catalyst for growth going forward for both the players coming back and the coaching staff who needs to learn from their mistakes as well.
Going forward there still is a lot to do. The schedule will be harder. Decisions on free agents, (both their own and outside ones) will be needed. The draft will be big again. I have faith in Beene and his scouts (it’s been a LONG time since I’ve had faith in a Bills front office) to make good decisions on players to add to this roster and who not to bring back.
The offense still needs a lot of help at all levels, a complimentary runner to go with Singletary, better O linemen in spots, a major talent at wide receiver that can be a go to 3rd down and big play guy. There will be lots of time to discuss these things after the anger and pain from the loss to Houston dissipates. Onward to 2020! Expectations will be higher. And they should be.
Thanks to Robyn Mundy for all her help in doing this column. I’ve enjoyed it.
Editor’s babble: Thanks to YOU, @Joe_Tauriello for all your terrific contributions to our blog. The Old Geezer nailed it week after week. Hopefully you’ll consider doing it again next season. Here’s to a great off season!