Every year in October, the family and I jaunt to a local attraction called Pumpkinville, which resides a little more than an hour's drive south of Buffalo. This is one of those "autumn festival" thingies, with a pumpkin patch and a hayride and booths that sell pumpkin donuts (My God they're so good) and cider and apples by the bushel and ears of dried Indian corn and folksy decorative stuff made of wood and fudge and so on and so forth. Usually our excursion to Pumpkinville, for reasons of The Wife's work schedule, falls on a Sunday. Which means that I get to miss one Bills game on TV.
My only impression of the game is from listening to talk radio on the way home, but it sounds like (a) JP Losman had a bad game, (b) the coaches made some unusual playcalls like a fake punt in the Bills' very first possession, and (c) the defense pretty much rolled over and played dead while the Bears put up 40 points versus the Bills' 7. Ouch.
So, my brief thoughts on those things:
A. Lots of Losman-skeptics have insisted that his good games this season aren't as indicative of his upside as Losman-backers would claim. Fair enough, but I don't think a game like today is as indicative of Losman's downside either. Just one week ago the Bears' defense, which was pretty damned good last year, made the starting quarterback of the defending NFC Champion look foolish. So I don't exactly find it a galloping shock that they did likewise with a third-year QB in just his thirteenth career start on a team that's been one of the worst in the NFL over the last five years.
Everybody knew that this season would produce a couple of games like this for Losman. The questions are: How many, how frequent, and is he still having them late in the season when he's got some experience under his belt. If at the end of the season it turns out that more of Losman's games have looked like today's game than not, then it's time to have a discussion about a new QB. I'm not sugar-coating this game; this is a blemish on Losman's record. But we can't know how big a blemish until we've got the whole picture.
B. I didn't see the game, so I don't know about the fake punt. I was a bit disconcerted to hear an excerpt from Dick Jauron's press conference, where he sounded uncomfortably Mularkey-esque in noting that if the play had worked it would have been a great call. One talk-radio guy said that making that call that early in the game sends a message to the team that they can't beat the Bears by normal means, but I don't know about that.
C. Perhaps someone who watched the game can illuminate whether the defense wilted under pressure. If they did, then it's a pretty discouraging throwback to the D of the last few years, when the so-called veteran leaders never stepped up to make a play when the game was on the line. Remember that season-ending Steelers game two years back? The one in which the Steelers put the hurt on a supposedly-dominant Bills defense despite playing all of their backups? That's what this game sounded like.
On the radio, Nate Clements was mentioned a lot as having played no factor at all. Color me unsurprised. This guy is the poster child for not giving a shit, and I look forward to him being gone. I'd rather see a young cornerback getting torched on big plays than the overrated Clements, since a young CB would presumably get better over time. The sad thing is, though, that Clements will get a big contract from somebody this offseason. We should get a pool going on who's going to overpay Nate for his services, such as they are. I take the Redskins; Dan Snyder's always willing to throw money at overrated players.
And I also heard that the defensive line was less than spectacular. I'm OK with the approach of using fast, athletic linemen to penetrate the gaps as opposed to having a mammoth tackle in the middle to shut down the run, but the current guys aren't getting it done. A friend of mine has said that the Bills have a D-line comprised of four Phil Hansens without a Bruce Smith, but frankly, I don't think they're that good. Hansen made big plays against good teams. These guys fatten their stats against Daunte Culpepper and the Dolphins. Big whoop.
Oh well. I said the Bills would stumble a lot this year. I predicted 6-10; right now they're 2-3, at slightly under the one-third point in the season. So they're right on track. The 2006 season for the Bills simply isn't about the playoffs; they're not making them. Period. The 2006 season is about 2007.
Anyway, those Bears are apparently excellent, and that Grossman kid, who was thought by quite a few football people to be Teh Suck before the year, is suddenly looking really good. Maybe there's another young QB somewhere whose development will follow a similar track....