I can’t help thinking this is the most confident Bills fans have been with a losing record since #12 lined up under center. We’re all leery about feeling this way, but the fact of the matter is, against all logic and evidence, this season truly does feel different.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the entire league feels different. Peyton Manning & Wes Welker are teammates… in Denver. Rex Ryan has turned a buttfumble into a contract extension. The Patriots are beatable. The Chiefs are undefeated. The Raiders have a better record than the Giants AND the Steelers. And, hey, wait a second. So do we!
The Bills have remained competitive and even exciting with a depleted secondary, their best offensive weapon slowed by injury, and three different starting quarterbacks in the last five games. You have to tip your hat to Doug Marrone and his coaching staff. Sure, there have been questionable decisions made and somehow, 9 games in, he’s yet to win a challenge. But the attitude on the field feels different. Take the pick-6 on the goalline from last weekend. I’m not going to excuse it, but I will say that I love the guts of telling your untested, undrafted quarterback to make a hard throw in that situation. Sure, it walks the fine line between brave and foolish, but let’s be honest with each other. It was easier to get over a gutsy call on the 3rd & goal, than it would’ve been to watch another “try not to lose” approach we’ve seen over the last decade (3 straight runs for no gain and a field goal = Dick Jauron’s wet dream). And more importantly than all that is that he’s got the players believing in his plan. All you have to do is look at that same play. Tuel & Graham chased Sean Smith the entire length of the field knowing full well neither would catch him and all they were really accomplishing was tiring themselves out for the ensuing drive. But they weren’t going to give up on the play. No excuses. No quit. That’s the attitude Marrone has instilled so far. (His reaction to the play: “Situationally do you question the play call? No … Do you question the execution of it? Yes.”)
It’s far too soon to say whether or not this will translate to future success, but you can’t help feeling like little by little, the culture and expectation of failure that has been the foundation of this franchise for almost two decades is finally being chipped away and a new one is being built.