A Tale Of Two Halves
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
by Tony Bogyo
September 20, 2011

Man, I’m getting too old for this. My heart can’t take what it went through on Sunday and my blood pressure had more peaks and valleys than The Viper at Darien Lake.

For the second week in a row the Bills won a game they NEVER win. Starting the season with an old-fashioned stomping of an opponent in Kansas City transformed into WINNING (yes, winning!) a shootout at home. I’ve sworn off black tooths for a bit but still I get this weird feeling that I’m living in some alternate reality this season.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. Two Mondays in a row I’ve been happy to show up for work and talk football with my coworkers – it’s kinda nice. Two Sunday afternoons in a row my wife’s sheepish, “how’d they do?” was met with a smile rather than a grumble, curse and headshake.

And so it was that the Bills took on the Raiders in front of a full house in Orchard Park with neither elderly club owner present and emerged victorious from the years’ Monty Burns Bowl with a win over the Raiders – excellent.

If Ryan Fitzpatrick and other Ivy league graduates will indulge me, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times – a tale of two halves.

As I sat and watched the first half I saw a team that was very familiar to me. The Bills first possession was a three and out, gaining a total of 1 yard. While they held Oakland scoreless in the first quarter they also never had a drive that crossed midfield. They gave up a fourth down conversion en route to allowing a 71 yard touchdown drive capped by a Michael Bush 1 yard run. Buffalo was called for 3 penalties in the half and saw their most promising drive fall a yard short of another first down which resulted in a field goal rather than a touchdown.

The Bills also turned the ball over when Fitzpatrick threw a bad interception which Oakland eventually converted into 7 points. The Raiders tacked on a third touchdown on an 82 yard drive and the route was on. Buffalo lined up for another field goal right before the half but it was blocked from 39 yards out and the Bills went to the locker room on a decidedly down note.

As I emerged from my TV room for some more chips and another drink (and to make sure my twins weren’t setting the house on fire while their mother was reading) I was in that familiar dark mood many Bills fans have grown accustomed to. Yeah, yeah, they destroyed Kansas City last week – 1 game – big whoop – KC is so bad Andrew Luck is learning the words to “Everything’s Up To Date in Kansas City” ‘cus that’s as ‘fer as he’s gonna go in April. This is still the same old miserable Bills team I expected. Can’t move the ball, can’t make a defensive stop. Terrible.

As I sat down to take in the second half with greatly lowered expectations the tide began to turn. Fred Jackson, the unheralded every-man running back who just fits Buffalo broke a 43 yard touchdown run – it was a thing of beauty and shifted momentum. Most importantly, the Bills had a bona fide highlight to watch even if they lost the game (as Bills fans know – if you can’t get W’s, at least have some highlights).

Then Buffalo recovered an Oakland fumble and drove 57 yards for a touchdown to put them within 4 points of the Raiders and suddenly there was a little spark of hope that they might be able to come back (you know that spark – the one usually extinguished in some new and diabolical way each week, taking a piece of your soul with it).

45 seconds into the final quarter and the Bills scored again and were now actually in the lead – this is where my blood pressure started going haywire.

The fourth quarter saw the lead change more frequently than Netflix comes up with a bad idea and spins it as a positive to their customer base via an e-mail blast. Oakland scored, then Buffalo scored, then Oakland scored – it was wild. The Bills final drive culminated with two fourth down conversions including the game-winning touchdown pass to David Nelson with only 14 ticks left on the clock. The raiders moved the ball and threw a Hail Mary that was caught in the end zone – but just who had caught it? If it was a tie it would go to the receiver and the Raiders would escape with a win while the Bills would get yet another epic loss for the history books – this is where my blood pressure got so high I thought I might have a stroke.

Replays showed the ball was in fact intercepted by Buffalo – game over! Bills win! Yelling ensued and my kids came to see what was the matter – it was a thing of beauty and something that should be more familiar to Bills fans but for the ever fickle finger of fate that always pokes us in the eye.

So for a second week in a row I’m pretty happy. Sure the Bills defense, supposedly much better than last year’s model couldn’t seem to make a stop and couldn’t get off the field. Sure Jason Campbell looked like Joe Montana and a rookie 5th round receiver for Oakland looked like Jerry Rice. Sure the secondary played coverage softer than a baby bunny’s butt. Sure Leodis McKelvin is showing he’s yet another Bills bust not capable of a starting role in the NFL much less a huge contract. It doesn’t matter, because we just won, baby!

OK – blood pressure is getting going again just sitting here writing. I don’t really want to think about next week’s contest against a contending team which will not be named here. I’m going to enjoy this week’s win before I head to a gathering of enemy fans here in Boston as the sole Bills fan. I may take my usual twice a season beating at the hands of these folks (not actually a beating, more like a condescending pitying, which is even worse) but who knows what’ll happen - 2011 is proving to be a very strange year.