Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Those wagons are circled again

I just had the chance to finish watching the Bills' 38-35 win over the Raiders thanks to the NFL Game Pass, which lets me watch NFL games live or whenever I want, for $270 for an entire season. Split three-ways, it's a fantastic deal. I'm able to watch a football game whenever I want, up to four at a time on the same screen, and since a game that's not live is shown without commercials, most games take about two hours.

I'm not a Bills fan per se, though they're the closest NFL team to Toronto. I like seeing them do well, but then, I don't really have a favourite team. I used to be a Broncos fan but then they started to suck after John Elway retired, and after that I've really enjoyed watching Peyton Manning play. There are lots of teams I enjoy doing well, but none I like enough to not root for their opponent when the game is about to become a rout.

At any rate, two things are impressive already about the Bills. First, they have scored 79 points this season, which is nine more than they scored in their last 6 games last season. This is a team that, for almost a decade now, has had one of the worst offenses in the league. The last time that the Bills ranked better than 25th in the NFL in yards gained was 2002, and they've ranked 30th four times in the last eight years.

This leads to the second key difference, which is that it was excruciating to watch Bills games, and the team under Dick Jauron never seemed like it tried very hard. It's one thing to watch a team lose if the games are close in some way, but the Bills lost five games last year by 24 points or more. It's hard to imagine a Dick Jauron team (yes, I know Chan Gailey was the coach last year) coming back from a 21-3 deficit.

This game simply was fantastic. The Bills had the ball five times in the second half and scored a touchdown every single time. The first three were unanswered scores which erased a 21-3 halftime lead for the Raiders with 14 minutes left in the game. The Raiders made it 28-24 with 9 minutes to left, the Bills retook the lead themselves 31-28 with 5 minutes to go, then the Raiders took just one minute to make it 35-31 with 3 minutes to go.

The ensuing Bills drive was dramatic, with a fourth-down conversion before ending up at the Raiders' 7 with 18 seconds left. It was 4th-and-1 and the Bills had no timeouts. A running back coming out of the backfield drew the linebacker out of the middle, and other receivers crossed to the left side of the field. This led David Nelson wide open in the centre of the field, on the goal line of all places, on the biggest play of the game.

With just 14 seconds left, the Raiders were actually able to get three plays off. The first, a 24-yard completion to the 44. If the receiver had gone down immediately instead of running a few more yards, the clock might have stopped with eight seconds instead of six. The Raiders tried to squeeze in one more play, but it was rushed and the pass was incomplete. With eight seconds and a timeout, even a quick strike over the middle might have worked. A 20-yard pass would have taken the ball to the 36, setting up a 54-yard field goal for a man who kicked a 63-yard field goal last week.

Even so, Campbell got off a hail mary pass that made it to the end zone and could have been a touchdown if it had been a foot to the right or a foot to the left. It was intercepted by a Bills defender sandwiched between two Raiders receivers. That's the kind of absurdly exciting game this was.

With the Patriots and Jets in their division, it's acceptable if the Bills don't make it to the playoffs, but if the games can be exciting, it's certainly a good halfway point between the doldrums of the past decade and the glory years of the early '90s.

4 comments:

Tuttle said...

1) I am a die-hard Dolphins fan, so I hate the Bills as a matter of intra-division rivalry.
2) When you refer to the "the glory years of the early '90s" can you really mean the time when the Bills made it to 4 consecutive Superbowls only to be so thoroughly trounced (except for the Giants game, I'll grant you) that there should be a law which prevents them from ever going to the Superbowl again?

If so, that's just a misuse of "glory years".

3) Still, you how the winnng team immediately comes out with a hundred thousand "Superbowl XXXIII Champions" tee-shirts? Well, both teams, and loads of vendors, print up both sets, just in case, right?

Do you know what they do with the incorrect (aka losing team) paraphernalia? Donate it to NGOs in Africa, of course.

I find it something south of amusing that there are hoardes of Nigerians and Somalis going around thinking the Bills are the most amazing team ever.

Adeel said...

Glory years is a relative term, of course, but four straight trips to the Super Bowl is pretty impressive regardless. If it takes multiple Super Bowl victories to have "glory years", then, well, very few teams have ever had them and I don't think that's true.

I've read articles about the shirts too. I think it's funny that somewhere in the world, the Patriots were 17-0, the Seahawks won a Super Bowl and Neil O'Donnell and Kerry Collins are Super Bowl champions.

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