In football at least, Buffalo is the place where dreams go to die. Some don't even let their imaginations run too wild at this point. As with any team that's suffered years, decades or even centuries of misery, there are arbitrary starting points for that pain, signature losses and heartbreaks that are impossible to overcome.
For the Bills, there are too many. Their last playoff appearance was 1999, and even that season ended in the most Bills' fashion possible with the benching of Doug Flutie after he led the team to a 10-5 regular-season record, sat and watched Rob Johnson play a meaningless season finale against the Colts, then watched as head coach Wade Phillips name Johnson the starter for their wild card playoff match-up against Tennessee. It was a mess that also ruined the Flutie Flakes brand in the process. And so, this being Buffalo, concrete jungle where dreams aren't made up, that playoff game ended up with the Music City Miracle.
Since 1999, the Bills have had just one winning season, a 9-7 finish in 2004. Of course, that was the season when they lost a home game to Pittsburgh in Week 17 against the Steelers' second stringers when a victory would've sent the Bills back to the postseason. So even that silver lining of a winning season isn't remembered well. There's been the Drew Bledsoe era, the J.P. Losman experiment, the Trent Edwards whatever you want to call it, the Ryan Fitzpatrick momentary ray of hope situation, and now, it's new head coach Doug Marrone and rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel.
Forgive Bills fans if they're a little tired of starting over at this point, of throwing out the phrases like development, progress, moral victories and hope for the future. And forget about all that, when in Week 1, they led the New England Patriots in the second half, while the entire world waited for the inevitable late-minute heartbreaker, which of course came signed, sealed and delivered in the final seconds.
But there were the Bills yesterday, driving with no timeouts, down 6 points at home in the final minute. Goal to go. Six seconds left. Manuel rolls out and throws it to the corner of the end zone for Stevie Johnson. And there he was, all by his lonesome, the ball falling right into his arms. Touchdown. Victory. And on the television screen, as the clock showed double zero after a Cam Newton sack on the final play of the game, I saw a single confetti fall down on the field. It was so appropriate.
No one thinks this Buffalo win meant anything but what it meant in the moment yesterday. But in the moment, for just a few minutes or even a whole day, this was not the place where dreams go to die.
Onto the winners and losers for NFL Week 2, and also, get well soon, Malcolm Floyd.
Winner - following the Eagles season. I thought this write-up from Chris Ryan at Grantland really captured what will make the Eagles so great to follow this year, especially the last few lines: "All the rhetoric about future football, and how Kelly's offense is no-time-all-freedom aside, these guys looked like they enjoyed playing with each other last night. Maybe they'll go 8-8; but who cares. Plenty of teams win games; how many of those teams do you actually love?" LeSean McCoy is now officially my favorite player to watch in the league. There was one possession in the second quarter when he danced his way out of the Eagles end zone to avoid a safety and get a 2-yard gain that was just beautiful to watch. Shady forever. Also, DeSean Jackson was born to be in a Chip Kelly offense. Sure, their defense leaves much to be desired as this week's loss showed, but this is going to be a great team to watch week in and week out.
Loser - Mike McNeil. William Moore spinebuster alert. This absolutely needs a Jim Ross announcer freak-out audio edit. In related news, Ross retired from the WWE this week. I hope his audio edits live on forever on the Internet. If you're out there with editing talents, please send me a Jim Ross announcing Bobby Fischer checkmating his opponent video edit.
Winner - Aaron Rodgers. And it didn't even feel extraordinary. That's when you know you're on a whole other plane.
Loser - following the Redskins season. Not good, not good at all. Granted, it's possible that they just faced two of the top five offenses in the league this year in Green Bay and Philadelphia, but their defense can't stop a nosebleed right now. And on offense, well, let's just say RG3 is like Windows Safe Mode right now in the pocket — you're not really getting the full functionality and all the icons are a little weird and there's probably a virus on your computer as this metaphor falls off the rails. Not all 0-2 teams are built the same, and as we've seen in the NFC East, you're never really out of it, as Redskins fans will remind you that last year's teams started 3-6 and ended with the division title. But the black clouds are swirling around this team, and next week's game against Detroit suddenly looks real important, doesn't it?
Winner or loser, not sure - Eddie Maisonet, Dedicated Jags fan. Ed's Twitter account is the sole reason why the Jaguars are still in existence. The most underrated part of this picture is his apparel. Look at that beautiful Jaguars golf shirt, man. The Jags didn't score or nothing. Ed was drinking because they got a first down. Keep being you, Ed.
Winner - DeAndre Hopkins. Two ridiculous catches in overtime for the win. How underwhelming are the Patriots and Texans, who are a combined 4-0?
Loser - Geno Smith. I know, I know. It's early. But I smell a whiff of Shaun King when I watch him play.
Winner - The Seahawks. Statement game? Statement game.
Loser - The Colts. The 49ers under Jim Harbaugh after a regular season loss are 7-0. The scores: 13-8, 26-0, 20-3, 34-0, 13-6, 27-13, 27-13. I could not put more imaginary money on the 49ers against the spread next week.
Winner - Matt Flynn. He was probably walking up and down the Raiders sideline yesterday telling anyone who would listen how Aaron Rodgers only managed to tie his record of passing yards in a single game for a Packers quarterback. Only. Tied. My Record. I'm Matt Flynn. This is the second straight week Flynn has managed to sneak into the winners and losers column. I'm going to try to do this for 17 consecutive weeks, and if I do, I'm popping champagne with the 1972 Dolphins.
Loser - The Browns. There was some preseason buzz about the Browns, especially on offense because Norv Turner is your prototype terrible head coach, brilliant offensive coordinator. After two games, that would be an 0-2 start with 16 points in eight quarters of play. They're at Minnesota (not an easy place to play) and at home to Cincinnati (still think they're one of the best teams in the AFC), so 0-4 is not out of the question here. At least Josh Gordon is coming back next week. Nevermind, sports and the city of Cleveland just don't mesh. I somehow made it through all of this without mentioning Brandon Weeden.
Winner - Phil Simms. Here's the legend demonstrating how David Wilson is suppose to protect the ball when he's running. And via @bubbaprog, a GIF version of Simms at work.
Loser - Kerry Rhodes. David Roth of SB Nation asked the question this week: Why is Kerry Rhodes not in the NFL? The answers, however speculative they may be, are not good. The possibility that Rhodes is being blacklisted for some personal pictures that may have exposed his homosexuality versus anything related to his on-field skills that didn't show any signs of deteriorating last year is concerning. Because as much as we want to talk about progress with how we deal with homosexuality in sports — and cases like Jason Collins and the immediate reaction to it is progress, but only to an extent — it's still offset by something as discouraging as this. Earlier this month, Out Sports published a list of 62 active NFL players who have made statements in support of gays. But if Rhodes can't find his way back in the league for no reason other than the fact that he might be gay, than that's about the only statement that really describes the state of where we're at with sports and the acceptance of the gay athlete.
In regards to Kerry Rhodes, he is supposed to be working out for the Giants tomorrow.
Rhodes should have already been an Eagle at this point … Philadelphia's safeties are horrid.
Same as Jacksonville. We'd love to him.
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