So things have changed for me since the Bills' last playoff victory. The one constant is, however, the abject misery and self-loathing I experience as a Bills fan.
And it isn't just because they haven't won a playoff game, or failed to make the playoffs. It isn't just because they finished above .500 once, once, since 2000 (they went a whopping 9-7 in 2004). It's the way they do it.
Everyone remembers Scott Norwood's "wide right" kick in SB XXV.
So did the Music City Miracle "Home Run Throwback" play. That one hurt the worst. I still get angry watching it. I wrote a 1,000 word email about that play the next day. "rob" told me he was looking forward to the email as soon as the game ended. My Bills angst is predictable.
Ronnie Harmon's drop hurt too.
As did SBs XXVI through XXVIII. It got so bad that they had to bring in OJ to find the Bills' killer.
But there are so many other miserable losses.
Just last year I went to the Meadowlands with TR for Bills/Jets. The Bills were winning, they had the ball, 2 minutes left. Just run the ball three times and punt if you have to, right? This is elementary stuff. Instead, JP Losman rolls out on a pass play. As soon as Losman started to roll out I stood up, put my hands on my head, and started yelling "No! No! What the fuck are you doing?! No! No! Sweet God no!" I just knew the play would end poorly. Losman gets hit and fumbles. Jets return the fumble for a TD and win. The one cool thing about being a Bills fan is that you get this weird sixth sense that lets you sniff out the exact moment they'll shit the bed and lose.
This year the Bills lost to the Patriots to start the season because Leodis McKelvin, an otherwise fine kick returner, ran the ball out of the endzone with a lead and 2 minutes left on the clock. I yelled at my TV "Take a fucking knee you jackass!" Sure enough, Leodis fumbled. Three plays later, the Pats score a TD to win.
How about the 1996 playoff loss to the Jaguars? The Bills had never lost a playoff game at Rich Stadium, and they were facing a 9-7 expansion team, albeit a 9-7 expansion team on a 5-game win streak, quarterbacked by future Redskin All-Time Great Mark Brunell. Brunell (and his passion for the Christ) drove the Jaguars down the field for a TD to tie things up, and Mike Hollis banked in a FG, he fucking banked it off the upright, to go up by 3. After Jim Kelly's clock was thoroughly cleaned and he was knocked out of the game, Todd Collins came in to cement the loss in the final minutes. This game was really the beginning of my era of self-loathing as a Bills fan.
After that loss to the Jaguars, Jim Kelly retired and Thurman Thomas got old, so Todd Collins and Antowain Smith took over at the skill positions and the team went 6-10. Marv Levy retired, and Ralph Wilson unleashed a parade of horribles upon Bills fans, hiring stupid mopes like Wade (son of a Bum) Phillips, Gregg (why the two g's?) Williams, Mike "full of" Mularkey, and Dick (less) Jauron.
Looking like the illegitimate love child of Fire Marshall Bill and Simple Jack, Jauron is the most maddeningly stupid and inept of the bunch, going 7-9 as regularly as TR's colon after his morning coffee. The other idiots were decent coordinators who got overwhelmed when they had to run the show. Jauron is a former defensive coordinator, but his defensive gameplans make no sense. Last week, facing the Dolphins in Chad Henne's first career start, the Bills gave up 250 rushing yards. Look, I'm an idiot, and I never played organized football. But I knew that the Dolphins were going to run the ball with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams BECAUSE THEIR QB NEVER PLAYED BEFORE!!! There's no way in hell Henne was going to sling it around like Warren Moon. So stack your defense against the run. The Dolphins also apparently have some fancy offensive formation called "The Wildcat." You may have heard of it. The QB isn't involved too much in this formation. Their QB is new and likely scared, so I bet they will use this Wildcat thing quite a bit. Plan for it. The 2009 Bills are nothing if not a balanced team and were similalry useless on offense, going 1/11 on third down.
I could go on like this for 10,000 words. Maybe more. I could talk about how the Bills traded the #9 pick in the 1998 draft for Rob Johnson, and how that pick was used to draft Fred Taylor, and how Fred Taylor has twice as many career rushing yards as Rob Johnson does career passing yards, and how it makes me sad and angry that Rob Johnson has a Super Bowl ring but Jim Kelly doesn't. I could talk about Eric Moulds' career, how it should have been and how it was, how his abilities were wasted playing with a littany of shitty quarterbacks. I could talk about how the team constantly drafts good-to-excellent d-backs and lets them go in free agency. I could talk about how putrid Antowain Smith was, and how he became the featured back on two (two!) Super Bowl championship teams. I could talk about the abyssmal 2004 draft, which yielded only one player who is still in the league (Lee Evans) even though they had two (two!) first round picks (used on Evans and Losman).
I could talk about how sick I am of the media forcing stories about "long suffering" Red Sox and Cubs fans down my throat. They can kiss my ass. They don't know suffering. Try watching your team lose four title games in a row. Better yet, try watching your team lose to the Giants when you live in north Jersey, then move to Virginia right after they lose to the Redskins, and then deal with the bloviations of ubiquitous bandwagoneering Cowboys fans after back-to-back losses. That's real suffering. Well, it's not suffering like Fallujah-style suffering. Perspective. But it still sucks.
This is supposed to be a preview of this week's game against the Browns. The last time these two farcical squads faced off was a Monday night game in 2008. Brady Quinn hustled the Browns down the field in the 4th quarter to set up a Phil Dawson 56-yard field goal to go up by 2 with under 2 minutes left. After the kickoff, Trent Edwards completed one decently long pass. The Bills predictably ran Marshawn Lynch up the middle 3 times for a total of 5 yards to set up a 45 yard field goal, which Ryan Lindell predictably missed wide right.
Jim Kelly was on the sidelines. His reaction?
I stayed up late to watch the whole stupid thing. This is why I loathe myself.
The new-look Browns come to town with Eric Mangina's steady hand on the tiller. Under his stewardship, the Browns are 29th in points scored, 31st in points allowed, and 31st in takeaway/giveaway differential. Note that Romeo Crennel is still involved here. The two-headed monster that is Brady Quinn and Derek Alexander have combined for 761 yards, 2 TD, and 7 INT in 4 games. The Browns have mustered 1049 yards of total offense over that span. Note that Drew Brees has 1031 passing yards and 12 rushing yards, and thus has nearly equalled the Browns' entire offensive output by himself.
Despite these statistical problems, the Browns are licking their chops at the prospect of travelling to Orchard Park on Sunday. The Bills are 29th in points allowed and 26th in takeaway/giveaway differential. So they suck statistically too. They are, however, 100 yards ahead of Drew Brees, with 1163 yards of total offense through 4 games. Marshawn Lynch is back from suspension just in time to take carries away from Fred Jackson, who is a better and more versatile player than Lynch, and Alex "don't call me Lucy" Van Pelt is determined to find ways to keep Jackson off the field.
I predicted that TO would hate playing in Buffalo with Trent Edwards after 5 weeks. This is the game that will break TO's spirit. He has 8 catches for 158 yards and 1 TD through 4 weeks. Against the Saints he had 0 (zero!) catches. Backup defensive end Ryan Denney had 1 catch for 25 yards and a TD that game. You don't think that pissed TO off? No? Really? He is going to go apeshit unless he puts up something like 6/150/2 this week. But that won't happen. Not with Trent Edwards making plays like this.
The Browns are going to run buck wild all over the Bills. I mean that literally. Well, I mean that the Browns will run the ball for 300 yards. The Browns don't have a guy named Buck Wild. The Dolphins did it with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, so the Browns will do it with Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis. Jauron will adapt at the half by switching to a dime package.
Final score: Browns 20 Bills 7