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.
1) These aren’t your grandfather’s Steelers
Most years, regardless of the names on the jerseys, if the Bills were about to play the Steelers you’d tell yourself two things. First, that we’ll be lucky if we score more than 9 points. And secondly, whoever starts for them at running back is probably gonna run for 896 yards. And most years, you’d be right. But as I mentioned before, these Steelers have a 2-6 record. They’re 28th in the league in rushing and more surprisingly are only better than 0-7 Jacksonville against the run. Meanwhile, the Bills have C.J. Spiller off the injury report for the first time in weeks and have only really been exposed defensively against teams that had success running the football.
Not enough proof for ya? The Steelers defense has 13 sacks this season. Mario Williams has 11. The Steelers have 4 interceptions. So does Kiko Alonso. The end.
Side note: Three cheers for the genius who decided to do this (via Deadspin)...
As I said before, C.J. is healthy enough to keep off the injury report and that should put a smile on everyone’s face. Last week, he and Fred Jackson had their best output of the season combining for 241 yards against an undefeated Chiefs team. If the team is going to win this week, it'll be on these guys' backs. With E.J. coming off an injury, I'm sure Marrone and Hackett want to let the running game do most of the work and not force Manuel into too many 3rd & long situations.
3) EJ Manuel
Seriously, where else is your excitement to see this game coming from? All optimism aside, the Bills went 1-3 without him (1-4, if we’re including Cleveland) and it’s going to feel good to see him line up under center. Will it take him some time to get comfortable? Perhaps. But clearly his weapons on offense aren’t tethered to how well he plays. Everyone from Stevie to Goodwin to Graham was able to come up with big plays with Lewis & Tuel, so it’s hard not to think they’ll be able to bail out E.J. on a few rusty throws. And since the gameplan didn’t really change much in his absence, there’s no fear of people not being sure how to readjust to his return.
THREE THINGS TO BE ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED ABOUT:
1) Ben Roethlisberger
Even with all the Steelers’ shortcomings this year, Big Ben is still one of the better quarterbacks in this league and this season is no different. Sure, he’s been sacked 31 times this season, but we all know that says more about his style of play than anything else. And just last week, he threw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns in a loss to the Patriots, a game they lost more because their defense gave up 55 points than because of anything he did. Add that to the fact that the Bills’ improved defense still struggles against mobile quarterbacks and it’s hard not to worry about what he’ll do this week.
2) Le’Veon Bell
I know it’s odd of me to point out that Pittsburgh is 28th in rushing and then call the rookie out of Michigan State a ‘terrifying thing,’ but anyone who shudders when they hear the name Willie Parker knows why Bell is on this list. The Bills have a history of making unknown running backs look like future Hall of Famers. Seven weeks ago, we all scoffed at the notion of Bilal Powell being a threat to our success. 149 yards later, the only throat clearing came from coughing up the pack of cigarettes we burned through watching that loss.
3) The Road
The Bills have been outscored 84-120 on the road and if not for the late-game heroics of Mario Williams in Miami, they wouldn’t have a single road win this season. There are plenty of reasons, beyond the aforementioned, to think they might be able to break this trend at Ketchup Field. But E.J.’s worst games this year were in New Jersey and Cleveland, and Pittsburgh is not an easy place to play what with their terrible “terrible” towels, equally terrible fans, and whatnot.
Playlist song addition you may not know about:
Womb Raider by Dr. Ooo
HE’S MY BROTHER AND THIS SONG IS AWESOME AND IF YOU SAY IT’S NOT, YOU’RE A PIECE OF HUMAN GARBAGE.
Guerilla Radio by Rage Against The Machine
When choosing a favorite Rage song, there are plenty to choose from and which one is the best can be argued for days. But for me, this one takes the cake for a pre-game playlist if only for it’s lyrics and how they coincide with what the Bills are doing:
It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?
ALL. HELL. CAN’T STOP US NOW!
I mean, this Bills’ season is sort of like a revolution, right? Anyways, listen to this outside your car or on your way to your favorite bar and I bet you’ll be screaming along by the end.
It's the total package! El Greasico! Yes, I'm packing boners and ruffies for all you ladies in all of Mexico and college locker rooms everywhere!
Speaking of boners, I heard some dude popped some serious wood in that shit hole stadium for giving up a jersey to some fat Buffalo heifer? JESUS FUCKEN CHRIST! That's fucken awesome! You know how man Bills jerseys that can't fit Chubs anymore that I can give to some of those Freshman 300lbs girls you got there in Buffalo?
This makes me want to cross the border in a Mighty Taco truck and live in the basement of Fatsman's parents homes for this. Who the fuck couldn't be on the board with something like this? It is the Goodwill of prostitution! Clothes for Blow jobs? YES!!
Wait? One of those cunts in the media hates this idea?
Who the fuck is this Tim Crumb asshole? This asshole looks like they found him at the Lambda, Lambda, Lambda Trial-Lambs frat house from revenge of the nerds. Jesus fucken christ. It is like Ryan Fitzpatrick made love to Poindexter and presto..an ejaculating penis with a pocket protector was born.
No wonder this Crumb fucker hates blowjobs. He probably hasn't had pussy since pussy had him. Just look at his creepy photos...
Now, let me tell you about Cake Fingers.
So little of that made any sense.
No apologies. Fuck Tim Graham.
After careful consideration, I've decided that, fuck it, I want a win this week and as Walter Sobchek said when he said what Theodor Herzl said, "If you will it, Dude, it is no dream."
Buffalo 30, Steelers 27
And I'll leave you with a fun tip. When that obnoxious Steelers fan gets in your face, remind him that even if the Bills lose, that'll only make Pittsburgh as good as Buffalo this season. Cheers.