Niagara Gazette

Sports

November 7, 2011

Fans waive white flag, Bills surrender division lead

COMMENTARY

ORCHARD PARK — Simple symbolism. That's all it was. An intangible undertone that no football mind would consider to be a contributing factor in Sunday's sobering disrobing, but still, a striking image, one we've never seen before and may never see again.

 
The Buffalo Bills' faithful, 70,000-strong, waving white flags.
 
Next time there is a "whiteout" at The Ralph, it really should be nature's doing. I'm sure it sold some extra jerseys and looked neat on TV, but out at the stadium, the artificial atmosphere set the tone for a weak, dispassionate, lazy Sunday effort in the most meaningful game played here in years. Before long, the Bills had surrendered their status as the team to beat in the AFC East.
 
The New York Jets sent discarded Bills Aaron Maybin and Jim Leonhard out for the coin toss and held the emotional edge from there on out. How does that happen in a game of this magnitude, when homefield advantage was so paramount to the Bills' chances for victory?
 
From first down to fourth, the Bills played with trepidation. They threw a quick slant to Stevie Johnson on the first series and he got buried into the turf. They stayed far away from Revis Island for the rest of the half. Ground and pound was the game plan, but Chan Gailey quickly strayed from his strategy. Wary of the Jets' pass rush, Ryan Fitzpatrick started making anticipatory throws to imagined openings. The result was 24 passing yards, two interceptions, and no points in the first two quarters.
 
When the Bills were embarrassed at home by the Jets last year, Gailey marched into the postgame press conference red-faced and angry, declaring he had learned something about his team and that changes were coming. It was a different scene Sunday. He came into the interview room with his head down, an ashen expression, beaten by a better team and accepting of that reality.

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