Niagara Gazette

Sports

October 11, 2012

MENDOLA: Reality awaits Bills on Sunday

Niagara Gazette — The New England Patriots just took the lead from the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium and the crowd was bewildered. No joke: the song played over the public address system belted out, "Back to life, back to reality."

Surely they had seen this movie before, or felt some misery akin to it, but to where had their heroes disappeared?

With their record down to 2-2, Bills fans regrouped for a road trip to San Francisco with eyes on progress only to have it snuffed again by a good 49ers club.

Why was this happening? This was the year their beloved Bills would become the shark a decade after jumping it. Instead there's the eerie surroundings of smaller fish, plankton and Quint.

If Buffalo wants to stop the 2013 season from being just another sequel to "Jaws," they'll need to encounter an NFL truth in a hurry. This is reality. A team can have as many good story lines and subplots as "The Wire," but without good acting it's just another after school special.

Call it: "We Can Play Football, Too"

Reality is here and that reality involves the death of the good effort merit badges. It's cool that the starting running back went to a super small college, the quarterback has a great beard and the star receiver has a knack for clever touchdown dances. After three years of these stories, however, they aren't enough.

If Stevie Johnson is an elite receiver, he comes back for passes and makes difficult catches. If Ryan Fitzpatrick is to be a true NFL starting quarterback, he has to overcome his defense's woes and pull several rabbits out of his helmet. Fans have to leave the game saying, "I'm glad we have that guy."

The season is far from over, but forgive the over-the-top Bills fans decrying Mark Anderson's injury as a season-killer or crediting an assistant coach most have never heard of as the team's demise. No one wanted this (not even the NFL).

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