Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
inimitable Ronnie Roscoe was unable to enlighten readers
with his unique brand of sports wisdom for this issue.
his stead and our panic, we’re falling back on clichés.
Quite simply, the Bills snatched defeat from the jaws of
victory before a national audience on Monday Night Football.
After dominating the lackluster New England Patriots for
the entire 1st half and playing solidly for most of the
second, the Bills collapsed in horrific fashion. It was
like watching Old Yeller, the Director’s Cut.
to strong play by the Buffalo defense and a slapdash New
England offense, the Patriots touched the ball for less
than 8 minutes in the 1st half. Everything was going the
Bills’ way. In the waning moments of the half, surefooted
Adam Vinatieri appeared to have notched the game at 3 apiece
when the Patriots were called for a delay of game. A Bill
Belichik team incurring a delay of game at a crucial moment,
can you believe it? Vinatieri—the game’s most clutch kicker,
money anywhere inside the fifty and plenty deadly beyond
it—shanked the retry badly to the left.
2nd half began promisingly enough. The Bills showed resilience
when Kelly Holcomb connected with Eric Moulds for a 55-yard
touchdown, retaking the lead at 10-7. Willis McGahee was
a beast, rushing for 136 yards on 31 carries.
three strong defensive series and a takeaway with 12:49
left, the Bills took over the ball on the Patriots’ 29-yard
line. The O-line surrendered a sack, however, and Rian Lindell
had to settle for one of his three field goals.
was the beginning of the end. Deion Branch caught a 37-yard
Tom Brady pass. Then Cory Dillon, hampered all season by
injuries and a questionable starter for the night’s game,
cut Buffalo’s lead to 16-14 at the 7:06 mark, with a 1-yard
the ensuing drive, Patriots linebacker Roosevelt Colvin
blindsided Holcomb and stripped the ball on the Buffalo
23-yard line. Brady hit Branch again for 22 yards and then
Dillon ran the ball in to make it 21-16. The Patriots scored
14 points in under 2 minutes.
powered by McGahee, pushed the ball to the New England 38.
But, on fourth-and-7, Holcomb inexplicably threw a swing
pass to Eric Moulds who was stopped for no gain. It was
a dumb mistake.
Bills still managed to get the ball back and, like true
showmen, saved their best for last. On the final play, with
2 seconds left in the game, Buffalo called a play so embarrassing,
so poorly conceived and executed that the Buffalo News
couldn’t even bear to mention it in their copious coverage
of the game and, in fact, I can find no mention of anywhere
else. It looked like a poorly executed version of some ancient
play which hadn’t been tried since the flying wedge was
made another alarmingly short pass, and then three or so
players formed some kind of rotating, lateral-throwing whirligig,
except the third lateral was an illegal forward one. In
all ways, it was a totally idiotic play. It was like a performance
art collaboration between the Teletubbies and the Blue Man
Group, as recreated by an auto workers’ theater group—perfectly
are a lot of reasons the Bills didn’t win—the fact that
they had to settle for field goals when they should have
been scoring touchdowns is a big one, and they did get screwed
on some key penalties. But none of these are as downright
shameful as the blatant idiocy of the last few offensive
plays called by the Bills, the ones that really, really
me try to make this clear: it’s the last play of the game.
You have to get 85 yards up the field to score. It’s virtually
impossible. What do you do? Think about it. You know what
you would do:
everybody run like hell downfield and I’m going to throw
the ball as far as I can.”
it—Hail Mary, Statue of Liberty, whatever you want to call
it. Maybe it falls dead, maybe you get intercepted, but
maybe you score. Maybe you get lucky. It’s not likely,
but there’s a reason basketball players hurl the ball across
the court when they hear the buzzer: every once in a while
it works, and you don’t get lucky not trying.
who ever played the game would have tried a bomb pass on
first-and-85 with two seconds left in the game, down by
5 points. Anybody who really cared about winning. Counting
the previous botched fourth down, that’s two chances to
score, to win, lost due to a total lack of urgency.
to the Patriots is no dishonor. But losing because we just
stopped trying is.