Sunday’s season-opening loss to the New England Patriots was a tough pill to swallow for the perennially mediocre Buffalo Bills. As tough as it is to take any positives away from such a heart-breaking loss, the mere fact that the Bills hung tough with the kings of the AFC East for almost a full four quarters is an encouraging sign. Not that that’s any consolation for the Bills.
In a post-game interview, defensive tackle Kyle Williams didn’t bother hiding his frustration.
“Listen, if I had a dollar for every tough one with those freakin’ guys…it makes me vomit,” Williams said. “Coach said hopefully we’re going to learn from it and keep pushing and wake up better for it tomorrow, but it doesn’t seem like it now.”
Williams’ frustration is understandable given the Bills’ history against the Patriots throughout the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. At the end of the day a loss is still a loss, but there were plenty of positive takeaways for Buffalo in this one.
For one thing, the game wasn’t a blow out. The Bills’ defense kept Brady firmly in check throughout the afternoon, bringing the pressure and making the future Hall-of-Famer think twice before airing it out. It was hardly a mistake-free game for either team, but the Buffalo D kept it close by forcing and capitalizing on turnovers. Against New England, that’s just about all you can ask.
The offense seemed to do its part as well with E.J. Manuel coming alive near the end of the first half, eventually finding receivers Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson on two picturesque TD passes. No aspect of the Bills’ game was perfect, but both sides made enough plays to win, especially given the number of mistakes that were made by the Patriots.
So who was to blame for the loss? Someone has to take the fall, and in this instance the resounding opinion is that the fault lies with the coaching staff. The Bills had a narrow lead halfway through the fourth quarter and kept with the no-huddle offense that had given them very mixed results throughout the day. Instead of running the clock down and taking time to call safe, smart plays, the Bills had a quick three-and-out to give Tom Brady the ball and set up the game-winning field goal drive.
Chalk it up to an overall lack of NFL experience and move on. If the Bills continue to play like they did in their season opener, they will win their fair share of games and be back in the playoffs sooner rather than later. The defense was fierce while remaining fundamentally sound, and the offense made plays once they were given the opportunity to warm up. Keep in mind that this was E.J. Manuel’s first game back from preseason knee surgery and his first ever full NFL start. Two touchdowns and no interceptions is nothing to scoff at, especially given the circumstances.
Bills fans should be very excited about this team’s potential. Shake off the loss, and get ready for some meaningful football in Western New York.