ORCHARD PARK — Despite a great start, and a surprisingly attentive, if sparse crowd that offered up a rousing standing ovation at the conclusion of the first quarter, the Bills still managed to break from the two-minute huddle on Sunday down 16 points to a team many consider one of the league’s lightweights.
Remember that number — 16. It might help this hapless edition of the Bills make history.
As in oh-and ...
Sure, Buffalo scored a garbage time TD when Steve Johnson hauled a short pass in from Ryan Fitzpatrick to cut it to 10, but the serious discussion had already begun. How bad is this version of the franchise?
Really bad. Maybe historically bad.
And not just the most pitiful team here in Buffalo, but on par with the worst the league has ever seen.
Scour the schedule for a winnable game through the remainder of the Bills schedule and it’s a spooky scavenger hunt.
Kansas City in three weeks? Not a chance the way the Chiefs’ defense is playing and with the inherent edge the hosts will get at Arrowhead.
At home against Cleveland in early December? Perhaps, but with the gaping holes in Buffalo’s run defense and after watching the Browns’ between-the-tackles ground game powered by brickhouse Peyton Hills, the visitors should have the edge if the weather turns frightful. And since it’s in December, it’ll be frightful.
So it’s conceivable — in fact, an ever-improving bet at this point — to believe the Bills could become just the second team in National Football League history to finish a 16-game season without a victory.
And as the onslaught of banners and TV ads is quick to point out — you’ve gotta Bill-ieve.
You could sense by the vibe a bright guy like Ryan Fitzpatrick was giving off in the postgame press conference that he finally grasps how bad his team is. As if he was humming with his fingers in his ears when others dismissed the Bills before, now Fitzpatrick finally come to grips with the state of the franchise.
“I don’t think anybody in that locker room expected us to be 0-5,” he said. “Everybody has to do a lot of soul-searching over the bye week.”
If the players really didn’t think losing the first five games was feasible, they certainly didn’t see a bagel in the win column for the season, but that’s precisely where they’re careening. The offense showed a spark in the first quarter as Fitzpatrick threw a strike to Lee Evans on a long score and Fred Jackson found some daylight, but when the offense shot itself in the foot yet again in the red zone, and the Jags made a few adjustments, Buffalo couldn’t sustain the momentum.
And the defense, that’s another story altogether. Torched in every game since the opener, the Bills tried to add an extra big guy up front (don’t we call that a 4-3?), but that didn’t work either.
Nothing seems to be working for this team, one that could give 2008 Lions some company as the worst ever.
“Where’s the frustration level? I don’t know if I like that word, frustration level. I think searching is a better word. We’re searching greatly for what the right answer is,” Chan Gailey said, who shared Fitzpatrick’s bewildered look. “You look at it and you try to evaluate what your guys are doing and put them in a position to be successful and take them out of positions where they can’t be successful. But you can’t take them out of every position. At some point they’ve got to step up and fight through and whip the guy in front of them.”
That’s easier said than done for this pitiful, possibly historic bunch.