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Winning Ugly
Is It Really Reason For Optimism?
by Tony Bogyo
November 13, 2007

Watch the NFL long enough and you’re sure to see some ugly things – Theismann’s leg, refs being ushered off the field in Cleveland by police after a bad call, the Patriots going 9-0. If you’re a Bills fan you have a special collection of such horrors – wide right, the homerun throwback, the Monday night Dallas game just a few short weeks ago.

While it may not have been quite as bad as any of the above examples, Sunday’s victory over the hapless Miami Dolphins was Ugly – with a capital U. As a Bills fan I’ll take any win, but Sunday’s performance was downright putrid.

A look at the stats in the game would have you wondering how any team actually won the game – more a contest of who wanted to lose more than anything else. The Bills ran 50 offensive plays and gained only 214 total yards – an average of 4.1 yards per play. They punted 6 times, were -1 in the turnover ratio, and held the ball 14 minutes less than their opponent.

OK, perhaps the stats don’t really convey the ugliness of the game, but if you saw it you were probably tearing your hair out in the first half. The Bills went 3 and out on their first four drives, collecting a measly 18 yards. It wasn’t until 5:49 mark of the second quarter that the Bills completed their first pass and made their first first down. They actually put up 41 yards on that drive until J.P. Losman underthrew Lee Evans in the end zone and turned the ball over.

Losman had a terrible game, particularly in the first half. His stats for the first 30 minutes: 4 of 11 for 62 yards and an interception with a passer rating of 18. Unlike seasons past, the poor stats were not a result of defensive pressure and defenders running wild in the backfield. On the contrary, the pass blocking of the offensive line was very good, leaving Losman with abundant time. Losman never seemed to find the receiver he wanted, always being forced to check down to shorter routes. When making the short throws Losman was very inaccurate, missing receivers wide open 6 yards down the field and making easy passes uncatchable. At times Losman held the ball far too long and took a few bad sacks. In short, he did not look like a guy who should be the starting quarterback.

What makes Sunday’s disappointing win even uglier is that it leaves more questions open than it answers. I truly thought that Losman would have another solid game to prove that he should be the starting quarterback through the end of the season, but instead I thought he played so poorly I was almost surprised that he wasn’t replaced by a rookie after halftime. Yes, the quarterback debate rages on with no end in sight – waiting for the mid week press conference to see who will be under center could become a weekly event. Does Losman deserve yet another chance as a starter? Is now the time to put a rookie in and let him learn the ropes? There aren’t many good answers here.

And what ugly game wouldn’t be complete without injuries? Marshawn Lynch injured his ankle and will get an MRI to determine the severity – if he’s held out of the Patriots game the Bills chances for victory shrink even further (get ready to see plenty of Jauron’s good buddy Anthony Thomas running for 2 yards at a clip). Kiwaukee Thomas suffered what appears to be a serious groin injury, leaving an already decimated secondary possibly down another man. And what game would be complete without a tight end going down? Robert Royal suffered a concussion leaving only Michael Gaines and Ryan Neufeld as the only healthy players at the position. Earlier in the season I joked that I was going to play for the Bills this season, but that might seriously become a reality if they continue to lose players at the rate they have been.

Yeah – I’m a pessimist, but it’s hard to get excited about the Bills after watching Sunday’s game. The optimists are happy that the Bills have won four straight and the national media refers to the team as “hot” and “streaking” – let’s not get carried away. The Bills have beat a 1-8 team twice, an 0-9 team once, a 3-6 team and a 4-5 team – anybody notice an incredible lack of victories against quality opponents? The optimists like to think of the record the Bills SHOULD have (7-2) rather than the record the Bills DO have (5-4). The optimists think the Bills have 2 quarterbacks capable of leading the team rather than wondering if either can be successful as the schedule gets drastically harder. The optimists truly believe that the Bills have a good chance of defeating the Patriots in front of a national TV audience, the oddsmakers know that the money says the home team should be spotted 16 points.

I think as Bills fans we would all like to believe that the Bills have a genuine shot to make the playoffs this year – you can see the hopes rising as you look at the faces and read the posts on message boards. Unfortunately, this seems to happen every year – the Bills show just enough to make you believe that they just might be able to do it. They start believing that the Bills can beat several quality opponents and finish 9-7 or better only to see the team go on a big losing streak and miss out on the postseason. Opinions change quickly when the Bills start losing.

I don’t mean to be a complete killjoy. I’m going to watch the games and root my heart out for the Bills. I’m going to clap my hands sore when they make a great play and throw my hat at the TV when they do something stupid. But I’m not going to lose sight of my preseason prediction that the Bills are a sub .500 team this year and I’m not going to get emotionally caught up in a team that’s let me down every time I’ve dared to dream about greatness, especially when even the wins are ugly. Call me crazy, but let’s see who has more hair at the end of the season.


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