Niagara Gazette

October 8, 2008

SCHMITT: Maturity will be key to Bills path

By Tim Schmitt<br><a href="mailto:tschmitt@gnnewspaper.com">E-mail Tim</a>

There are two ways this thing can go. History has examples of both.

If you’re of the school of thought that the Bills’ 41-17 loss in Arizona was just the slap in the face a young team needed to remind it how difficult life in the NFL is, you’re probably hoping to reminisce about the 1988 season, when the Bills started 4-0.

The soon-to-be Bickering Bills waltzed into Soldier Field, expecting to prove to the Bears — and the football world — they were for real.

What they got was an old-fashioned beatdown, falling behind 24-3 at the half and losing by the same score. The Bears went onto the NFC Championship Game, proving their mettle.

But the Bills were no slouches, either, as they ripped off seven straights wins after the loss. Buffalo clinched the AFC in November that season, as Fred Smerlas’ block of a field goal led the Bills to a 9-6 victory.

If you’re hardly a believer in this year’s team, look no further than the following season, when the Bills got off a 3-1 start before getting whacked 37-14 by Indy. Buffalo needed the final week of the regular season to sneak into a wildcard that year and everyone knows how Ronnie Harmon’s feeble fingers botched that trip to Cleveland.

So which will Sunday’s debacle be — a springboard to a super season or a sign of things to come?

I’m guessing the former, as long as Trent Edwards can shake the cobwebs out a fortnight after getting body slammed.

Here’s why — for a young team, the Bills are mature in all the right places. Edwards has a calming effect, a rarity for young quarterbacks. Kawika Mitchell and Marcus Stroud have brought wisdom and talent upgrades.

And guys like Lee Evans might not be in the long in the tooth, but they’re plenty wise. Evans has changed his tune when it came to key players after evaluating the talent level. Not ranting, but reasoning. It’s not a trait found in too many locker rooms.

And the Arizona loss was simply the worst storm the Bills could stumble into. The Cards looked pathetic in the first half at the Jets a week prior and wanted to make a statement against the Bills. They’re also trying to build a home-field advantage.

Combine that with the early loss of Edwards, and the Bills were instantly in trouble.

But as angry as the Cardinals were, the Bills should show the same venom when San Diego comes to town a week from Sunday.

Anger is good. This is football, not golf.

“It’s tough to have a bye week after a game like that. We have a bitter taste in our mouths and it’s something we have to sit on for a little bit, but I think it does come at a good time,” Chris Kelsay said. “We can get some guys healthy, we’ve been pretty fortunate with injuries this year thus far. We have some nagging injuries on a few guys including myself, so it comes at a good time in terms of that. We’re biting at the bit to get back out on the field and show true Bills football, because it wasn’t evident this past Sunday in Arizona.

“Like I said, it’s kind of a bitter taste in all of our mouths.”

Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.