On January 8, 2000, Rob Johnson led the Bills down the field to set up a "game winning" field goal, which Steve Christie hit from 41 yards. That was the highlight of the decade for the Bills and their fans. The last 16 seconds of that game and the next 9 years have been a continuous disaster.
When hope has popped up from time to time, it has been painfully squashed. Since the playoffs will start in January this football season, the Bills will strive to end a very sad decade of football leading into a fresh start to the 2010’s.
Before I preview the 2009 Bills season, I need to air my grievances, and list the 10 most painful moments of the decade as a Bills fan (no particular order). I could list 100.
10. The Monday Night Football meltdown against the Cowboys in 2007 (Of course Nick Folk hit the 53-yard field goal twice against the Bills. Rian Lindell couldn’t hit his 47-yarder in the not much better sequel in 2008 against the Browns. I told you I could name 100).
9. The San Francisco game last year. I’ve never questioned my existence as a fan more than after that game. Of course that game was followed up by the Miami game with a similar performance in front of fans that could care less. Yeah, move Buffalo to Toronto while Jacksonville plays to a half full stadium.
8. The Denver loss to open the season in 2007. Not only did Jason Elam end the game with a game winning field goal, but that was also the game where Kevin Everett got injured. Ugh.
7. The Jets-Bills game to start the season in 2002 where the overtime started with a game winning kickoff for a touchdown by the Jets. Yes, the Bills lost their season opener 3 times at home on the last play of the game during the decade. Byron Leftwich’s pass to Ernest Wilford is the 3rd one.
6. A three week stretch in 2003 where the Bills lost by scores of 38-5, 10-6 and 12-10 and that season was completely lost. The Houston game was especially atrocious.
5. The Bills actually had a shot to make the playoffs with a win against the Steelers at the end of the 2004 season, and Drew Bledsoe was terrible and fumbled away the lead and playoff hopes.
4. Jason Peters incredible lack of blocking and Dick Jauron’s horrible play call, which allowed JP Losman to roll out leading to the fumble against the Jets last year.
3. In 2002, the one play that showed how pathetic this team has been. Down 17-7 to the Pats in the beginning of the 2nd half, the Bills drive the ball to the Pats 32 yard line and have 4th and 2. They punt.
The Pats of course score a touchdown on the next drive. They lost 35-7, and have beaten the Patriots all of one time since that game.
2. The Bills were 9 points ahead of the Dolphins last year, headed towards a 6-1 record. Then Trent Edwards tried a very weak QB sneak, and fumbled, and they went 2-8 after that moment.
1. The last 16 seconds of the only playoff game the Bills were in during the 2000’s.
Okay, that actually made me feel worse. I’m prepping up for the Bills season in 2009, knowing that more moments will probably be added to the list. I need to feel better to provide some hope for the upcoming season, so here are some things that should be positive for this upcoming season.
1. Retro uniforms for all AFL original games. That will rock, especially since the Bills have really bad uniforms normally and fantastic retros.
2. Tampa Bay is playing in Buffalo. Finally, after 33 years, the Bucs have to play in Buffalo.
3. Special teams should still be fun, with Leodis McKelvin returning kicks (he had 1 TD and should have had 2 last year if it wasn’t for an awful holding call against the Jets, yeah, I can get 100 easily), and interesting onside kicks and fake punts.
4. Trent Edwards should continue to develop as a quarterback and the offense should be a bit more open to where he can show off and Lee Evans can use his speed.
5. A lot of 4 PM games to start the season, allowing for more time to liquor up and ease the pain.
I had a pretty good grasp on how last year’s Bills team would perform, and sensed that they would definitely be better than 7 wins. I forgot to take into effect the negative karma that engulfs this team.
This year, the Bills are trying a science experiment, as they signed Terrell Owens, the master of creating negative karma. A negative plus a negative should be a positive.
The Bills signed a 35-year-old Owens who already has a toe injury and who spent the offseason creating a VH1 reality show where the only positive was that one of the stars didn’t mutilate a woman and kill himself in Vancouver.
The Bills look to have a lot of depth at receiver with the addition of Owens, and also have depth at running back. The biggest question on offense is not necessarily the health of Owens, but more the development of the young tight ends and offensive line.
The line struggled at times last year and with everyone changing positions it will be challenging to keep Edwards upright while creating holes for Lynch and Jackson.
When Edwards looks confident, like in the San Diego game last year, he appears ready to be a top 10 quarterback. Whether he will be more consistent and if the offense will be allowed to open up a bit more are two big questions going into the season. The Bills have been flirting with a no-huddle which would open up the offense some but would definitely put more pressure on the defense if the offense still struggles to score touchdowns.
The Bills need to be more aggressive but whether that is in Dick Jauron’s and Turk Schonert’s blood is very questionable at this point. I know it’s only preseason, but it still appears that a 3-4 defense by the opponents is something the Bills staff can’t comprehend. Four linebackers? How is that possible?
Never a good sign when a defensive style so baffles the play callers.
When the defense showed signs of being aggressive last year, they mostly succeeded. Being aggressive on defense does not mean always blitzing, it means understanding the situation and providing different looks and formations and going after the ball.
Even in times where they played bend but don’t break defense, they did okay, even without great linebacker play. Without an offense that can score touchdowns, a defense can’t hold back the opponent enough to win many games 13-10 or 10-6. The defense of the Bills needs to create turnovers this year, even if they can’t create a pass rush.
Aaron Maybin will probably help a bit, and a healthy Aaron Schobel will help create more pressure, but the linebackers and safeties have to play better to allow McGee and McKelvin to make a few more plays. The biggest issue on defense the last few years has been injuries, and I think the Bills did a good job of getting depth this offseason.
I just question how much talent is on that side of the ball, and also wonder how many injuries they will suffer early in the season. At least getting rid of Angelo Crowell looked like the right decision.
I’m not that high on this season. It’s really tough to get my hopes up as a fan after watching a 5-1 team not get a winning record last year.
This year, the schedule is more difficult, the Bills are almost guaranteed to start the season 0-1 after facing the Pats in New England and it’s still the 2000’s.
Tampa Bay, at Jacksonville, and maybe at Kansas City are probably the only easy games on the schedule. I see a lot of close games, a lot of heartache, and no playoff bid for the Bills. Maybe they win 8, most likely it will be 6 or 7.
If you any confidence that the Bills could make the playoffs, look at the end of the season. At home against New England, at Atlanta, at home against Indy.
Then again, the Indy game is in 2010. The Bills somehow have to excel in what’s left in this decade to make that 2010 game meaningful.