I don’t think my liver was really ready for that delightful mess of a game.
Defensive dominance? A special teams touchdown? Thrilling, last-minute interceptions? A 50/50 split of running and passing plays? Apologist buying round after round of preemptive victory shots, chased down by Lagunitas IPAs?
So. Much. Win.
As a new dad, and a Bills fan, I haven’t gotten many days or nights like that recently, and I’m not entirely sure I could handle it if one of my teams actually started to get good for once. I know the team is bad, and we’ll get to that, but fuck what a fun night.
Which isn’t to say it wasn’t ugly. After all, winning ugly – very ugly, mostly – appears to be the best we can reasonably expect from this enigma of a squad. But, after putting together one of their most complete games of the year in Foxboro this past week, only to fall short when it mattered, the Bills took an early lead at home and cherished it like the rare commodity that it is. They ran the ball often relative to their track record, relied on their best player to get them the points they needed – albeit via field goals – and made sure not to disappoint a home crowd itching to get that primetime monkey off its back.
It honestly shouldn’t have worked, seeing as they’re a garbage team coached by a garbage Chan and owned by a garbage taint, but it’s not like the Universe doesn’t owe us a game like that every once in a while. And even with the playoffs a supremely unlikely scenario for these Bills, a win is a win is a boy this team is not very good please god where is hockey?
Screw it.... On to the milquetoast takes!
- Leave it to Chan Gailey to pick this week – the week they’re up against one of the best rushing defenses in the league – as the time to finally run the football on a consistent basis. Jesus, I hate him so hard. We joked before the game about how it would have been a hilariously sad result if this new emphasis on running more bit the Bills in the ass against Miami and was then used as the justification for letting Fitz throw 50 passes against Indy next week. Alas, sadness was not to be, and Spiller proved that they can succeed against a quality run defense. Go fucking figure – they can actually move the ball if they rely on the good players more than Fitz and his terrible arm. WEIRD.
- Speaking of Fitz... he was fun to watch last night. He’s still an awful quarterback – always will be – but the heavier focus on running took some pressure off and allowed him to put together a pretty good, mistake-free game. He cannot throw an accurate deep ball to save his life, but I enjoyed his willingness to give it the old college try and force Miami’s defense into boneheaded penalties. Apologist mused last night that we may be seeing Fitz revert to his old “fuck it, I’m gonna be me,” gunslinging self. This version of Fitz is by no means elite, and should not be trusted behind center for more than 2 or 3 games after we finally draft a QB, but he’s fun to watch, especially if you’ve given up all hope for the postseason like all reasonable fans._
- Miami’s defense was hilarious last night. In addition to being unable to stop CJ Spiller with any kind of regularity, their secondary was an utter shitshow. More than anything else, the string of fortunately-timed penalties was tough to accept as a Bills fan not used to seeing a game called our way. Every time I had an opportunity to criticize Fitz, there was a flag for pass interference. Even with the tendency to see those calls as lucky, especially since they so thoroughly bailed out #14, each and every replay showed that the Miami secondary was simply terrible and that the refs were calling it right.
- Chan Gailey is still garbage, even though he did correctly decide to run the ball more and even though it worked enough to win. The decision to replace Spiller with Tashard Choice in the red zone ranks up there as one of the more boneheaded decisions he’s made this year, and that is saying a lot. Even when the team needed to pass at the end of the 2nd quarter since they were on the 4 yard line with no timeouts, you have to have Spiller on the field. Dude is your best player and, even as a decoy, adds value to your offense.
- That said, anyone who wanted Chan to run the ball in that situation at the end of the first half lives in fantasyland. Specifically a fantasyland where the Bills win games regularly and aren’t dragged down to earth by the crushing weight of fate. In the end, the decision to take the three points, and to ensure that those three points wouldn’t be lost by a decision to run the ball and potentially let the clock run out, is one of the reasons Miami needed to force the issue and go for a touchdown in the end. You really can’t fault Gailey for playing it safe there, especially since it worked.
- I kind of blacked out for most of the second half and spent much of it outside enjoying the wafting smell of Apologist’s cigarettes. From what I saw, though, the offense was being coached not to lose at that point, which is honestly fine by me. It made for a boring half, at least until the waning moments, but it also meant that the defense was working with decent field position. Miami only started beyond the 20 once in the second half, which was a huge reason why the game didn’t unravel like it probably should have. Sometimes “playing not to lose” is the undoing of this team. Last night, it proved to be the smart call.
- Mario Williams is pretty good at football, guys. I know it’s tough for many fans and pundits to admit when they’re wrong or when they’ve inserted their heads so far up their asses that they can’t see the contours of reality, but it’s probably time for us all to collectively abandon the conversation of whether Mario is a bust. He’s not. He was hurt, he got fixed, and he’s been a stud ever since. Hearing Jerry Sullivan on WGR this morning claim that Williams’ wrist injury didn’t impact his play was the aural equivalent of being stabbed in the dick. Sully has been sanctimoniously hounding Mario for the entire season, and now that it is very clear that the poor play was injury-related, rather than a sure sign of impending doom for the Bills’ $100 million investment, it’s hilarious to see that sanctimony blow up in his face.
- Despite having a pretty good night, Wannstedt is still not sending enough by way of pass rushers. He sent four or fewer guys on 29 of 31 drop backs. That is bonkers. I really don’t understand it. Again – we’re playing a below-average, young QB and Wanny gives him ample opportunity to pick apart our below-average, young secondary. It’s been confirmed that our LBs can’t cover anyone, so why not send one of them to pressure the quarterback? Sure, Tannehill and an array of shitty receivers might not have exploited this, but we’ve seen – and will see again next week, probably – what happens when we allow good passing teams unfettered time in the pocket. If the Bills defense wants to show up against good teams, this strategy has to change.
- Jairus Byrd needs to get paid. He had a super rough start to the season, but has since been playing out of his mind. Just as he helped seal an ugly win in Arizona, he made the big plays when it mattered last night – one INT, one fumble recovered, giving him 6 of the 14 Bills takeaways on the year. If there’s a Bills fan out there who hasn’t watched this replay at least a dozen times, I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong.
- After a couple pretty good games, Stephon Gilmore looked very much like a rookie last night. Not really a criticism, since he is a rookie (albeit a first rounder), but I’m hoping to see him rebound next week against Andrew Luck.
- I’m not sure why you’re all surprised by the kind of consistent, good season #21 is having in his return game. Personally, I have never spoken ill of Leodis McKelvin, and neither has anyone at this website. Ever.
- I miss the days when a kickoff didn’t feel so much like defending a penalty kick in soccer. Wasn’t John Potter supposed to fix this? What happened there? It’s as if they never actually practiced defending kickoff returns out of the assumption that there would never be any, and now we’re seeing the fruits of that assumption. Ugh. I’m starting to instinctively close my eyes, hope for the best and expect the worst. It helps, really.
- Rian Lindell was perfect from chip shot range this week! This is progress! /stabs eyes out
- Dan Carpenter clanging one off the uprights was one of my favorite moments of the night, if only because it prompted me to commence a drunken recap of a Madden game I won a few weeks back where my buddy similarly missed a field goal and which was not interesting to anyone but me and my abandoned dignity. Apologist, good friend that he is, tried to seem interested the whole time, but I’m pretty sure a part of our friendship died anyway.
Moving forward, it’s tough to know what to expect from the remainder of the season. Did they turn a corner? Fuck if I know. Maybe? If they did, will it be enough to keep them in the playoff hunt? Doubtful.
Someone tweeted yesterday that the playoffs started last night, which is a fair description since the Bills need to win out to have a realistic shot at making the actual playoffs. While completely unrealistic and super naïve in its implication that this team could ever string together seven straight wins, I find this perspective to also be a kind of refreshing way to approach the rest of this season if only since it will give me an excuse to stop watching as soon as they lose again.
Which they will.
Probably next week.