It was an all too familiar site for the Buffalo Bills. In front of a national audience on Monday Night Football, the Bills outplayed a heavily favored opponent for 55 minutes, only to see it fall apart in the end. Let’s travel back to 2007 and look at the last 3 minutes of the Bills game against the Dallas Cowboys on 10/08/07.
With 3:45 left in the game, and the Cowboys trailing 16-24, Tony Romo led his offense on an 80 yard touchdown drive. With only 20 seconds remaining on the game clock, the two point conversion would determine the Cowboys’ fate. The pass to Terrell Owens failed, and the Bills looked to have upset the Cowboys (assuming the Bills could field the onside kick). Oops. The Cowboys recovered the onside kick and kicked the game winning field goal four plays later as time expired. The score? Cowboys 25, Bills 24.
Fast forward to tonight. Bills lead 24-13 with 5:32 left in the 4th quarter. Two scores in five minutes seemed unlikely on a night when the Patriots’ high-octane offense failed to find its rhythm. All that changed as Tom Brady marched his offense 81 yards in only 3 minutes and 26 seconds for a touchdown. The Bills were still only a first down away from victory. Unfortunately, just as they did in 2007, the Bills special teams failed when needed most as Leodis McKelvin fumbled away the kickoff. One minute and six seconds later, the Bills found themselves trailing, in desperate need of a comeback of their own. An offensive line that was immovable all night turned to Swiss cheese on the Bills’ final possession. It was all over. The score? Bills 24, Patriots 25.
The most important things we learned tonight:
- The Buffalo Bills still have not learned how to win. I recall discussing this with my father-in-law after the Bills loss to the Cowboys. It wasn’t as big of a deal then because the Bills were a young team, and that development would occur over time. Well, it’s been two years and nothing has changed. The blame goes to head coach, Dick Jauron. His track record (one winning season in eight years as a head coach), indicates he hasn’t guided too many teams to that intangible ability to closeout big games. If he hopes to keep his job next year, Jauron and the Bills will have to figure out “how to win,” and fast.
- Tom Brady is not an ordinary athlete. In 2007, it took Philadelphia Eagles’ QB Donovan McNabb until week 10 to resemble his “pre-knee injury” self. He didn’t fully return to form until the 2008 season. Tom Brady looked like Donovan McNabb for a good chunk of Monday’s game. He was hesitant, off balance, inaccurate, and did not trust his body as he did prior to the injury. All that changed when the game was on the line. Adrenaline took over and Brady almost instantly reverted back to all-universe quarterback. When you can score two touchdowns in less than five minutes, when trailing in the 4th quarter, WITHOUT using a timeout; you epitomize clutch.
- The seasons of the Buffalo Blunders and the Cincinatti Bungals will rest entirely on how they respond to two of the more devastating losses you will ever see. If they fail to forget about their misfortunes in week one, their seasons are, for all intent and purposes, over.