Yesterday was a tough pill to swallow. But it's hard to say it was unexpected.
There was a lot of talk last week about how good the Giants have been in the Tom Coughlin era at bouncing back from losses. But there was plenty of reason to believe the Bills would enter their bye week at 5-1.
The defense, which led the league in takeaways, was up against an offense with nine turnovers in their first five games. And with Fitzmagic leading the offense, no team seemed unbeatable.
So it’s hard not to look at yesterday’s sloppy road loss, much like their other loss to Cincy, as both a missed opportunity and a harsh wake-up call.
I think we can all agree that entering the bye week at 4-2 is hard to get too disappointed about. This time last year, the Bills were coming out of their bye week at 0-5 and wouldn’t get their first win for four more weeks. So to say that the Bills haven’t been good enough in the first quarter of the season would be unfair and just flat-out stupid.
Still, I think we’d also agree that the Bills got exposed yesterday. The depth that worried many of us at the start of the season (Of course, when was the last time that wasn’t a concern?) reared its ugly head, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
To be fair, overall, I thought the defense really battled. We know they’re undermanned. I think all Bills fans know in their heart of hearts that despite our denial, the takeaways over the last 6 weeks have masked a defense desperately lacking in the talent department. But while Florence’s pass interference penalties really hurt, the last one only led to a field goal, which the Giants were already in range for. The offense got the ball back with a little over 1:30 and a timeout. Plenty of time to march down and at least tie the game. Sadly, Fitzpatrick, who certainly had his struggles, could only muster a feeble 4-and-out to end the game.
Still, being the Apologist that I am in moniker and interpreter of such games, it’s not hard for me to get over this loss.
For all their miscues yesterday, the Bills lost a tough game against a 4-2 team by only 3 points. If the Bills could’ve taken back just a couple of those mistakes yesterday, particularly the final interception, that might’ve been enough to get out of New Jersey with another win. But that’s life in the NFL. No one on the other sideline cares what you’ve done with your season so far and they always have a chance of getting the best of you.
And you have to say this for the Bills. They’re taking this loss square on the chin with their heads held high. The two easiest targets for criticism stood front and center to face the music.
"I take the blame for the loss, if you want to point someone to blame for the loss, point me out," Florence told the Buffalo News after the game. "I didn't make any plays and I gave up some plays. I didn't play good enough for our team to win. I think all 10 guys on defense played good enough to win and I didn't play like I'm capable of playing."
Comments like this after a tough road loss is exactly why the optimists among us aren’t running for the panic button. Personnel-wise, this is the team we expected to see on the field this season. But the heart and character is something that’s more difficult predict and far more important to the continued improvement of the team.
The Bills will certainly be feeling a bit wounded entering their week off, but I’m sure they understand they still have a tremendous opportunity ahead of them. Even if they split their games the rest of the way, they’ll finish with a 9-7 record, their first above-.500 season in 7 years. But the personality of this team isn’t interested in settling for a split.
“That's not how we look at it right now," said David Nelson. "We're going into a bye week on a loss. We started 3-0. Now we're 1-2 in the last three games and 1-2 on the road. We're not satisfied with 4-2. These two losses are on us. We let things happen to make us lose a game, and we can't have that."
There’s still plenty of football to be played and clearly there are some serious questions to be answered during the bye week. It’ll be on the coaching staff and the general manager’s office to sort them out. All I know is I’d much rather they be worrying about their play-calling and personnel, than their conviction and confidence.