Saturday Bills Musings: Maybe Next Year

The Buffalo Bills were 5-3 and had the Kansas City Chiefs on the ropes. A few mistakes cost them the game. On Thursday, the Bills played the Miami Dolphins. They had a 9-3 second half lead before once again imploding. Now the team sits at 5-5 with some difficult games on the horizon. It looks like the Bills will once again have to wait until next year for the playoffs.

Maybe Next Year

The Buffalo Bills haven’t been officially eliminated from playoff contention at 5-5, but they’d need quite a few breaks for it to happen. Why? The team’s conference record. After the loss, the Bills moved to 2-5 in the AFC. Their losses have come to the San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. All five teams are in the playoff race, so the head-to-head losses to fellow contenders hurt them.

Unfortunately, it didn’t have to be this way for the Bills. Buffalo could have, and probably should have, defeated the Houston Texans. The team had a 10 point lead on the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter before their meltdown. Heck, they were up 9-3 on the Dolphins as well in the second half. In the latter two games, the offense simply sputtered. They moved the ball at times, but couldn’t put the ball into the end zone.

Now, Bills fans ask themselves the same question they’ve been asking for over one decade: “Where did it all go wrong?”

Questionable Calls Draw Ire of Bills and Fans

Two calls don’t make or break a game, but they can greatly change momentum. On Thursday Night Football, the Bills found themselves called for two highly questionable penalties. The first was an intentional grounding call. On the play, Kyle Orton threw the ball out of the end zone to Sammy Watkins. The wide receiver broke to the inside and Orton’s throw went to the outside. Yes, a miscommunication between a receiver and quarterback can still lead to an intentional grounding call. That said, Watkins was still in the vicinity of the throw when it landed. I’ve seen plenty of plays where the receiver was further away and no penalty was called. What made this worse was that the referees didn’t initially call it. They met well after the play and then threw the flag. If you don’t call it on the spot, it shouldn’t be called at all. The penalty gave the Dolphins two points and extended their lead to three points.

Later in the game, Stephon Gilmore played a pass just about as perfectly as one can on a throw to Mike Wallace. He batted the ball away and the play was seemingly over. Instead, Mike Wallace stood up and begged for a flag. The referee obliged and threw it. There’s nothing that bothers me more than referees being influenced by a receiver, yet it happens all the time. In full speed and slow motion, it looked like Gilmore made a great play. The Dolphins later scored a touchdown on the drive that put the game away.

"Everybody [was] telling me it was a bullshit call," Gilmore said. "So it is what it is. They made it. Gotta live with it."

Walt Coleman hasn’t endeared himself to the Bills in his career, so the questionable calls shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Random Musings

-C.J. Spiller is a terrific athlete, but the Bills would probably be wise to let him walk at the end of the season. Bryce Brown can do just about anything that Spiller can and has done a good job as a rusher/receiver in the last two weeks. Brown needs a lot of work in terms of ball security, but the talent is there.

-One player that the Bills need to pay? Jerry Hughes. Hughes had one quarterback hit and four quarterback hurries against the Miami Dolphins. Buffalo’s defensive line is one of the best in the NFL and would suffer a significant blow if they can’t find a way to retain Hughes’ services. He’s just entering his prime and the team needs to keep versatile defensive playmakers like him on their team. He’s not going to come cheap, but he’ll be worth every penny.

-Marcell Dareus’ fifth year option was picked up by the Bills in the offseason, so he’s under contract next season. That said, working out a long-term deal this offseason is probably the best move the Bills can make. Dareus has 10 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and 26 stops on the season. He’s a disruptive force on the inside and quite possibly the best player on Buffalo’s roster.

-Sammy Watkins has struggled the last two weeks, but he still doesn’t look 100 percent to me. The extra rest leading up to the Jets game is the best thing that can happen to him. Look for him to have a big game against New York.

-Terry Pegula needs to keep an eye on how the Bills finish this season. If the team stumbles, which seems very possible based on the last two games, Pegula needs to decide if bringing Doug Marrone back is what’s best for the team. He hasn’t seemed to endear himself to players and if the results aren’t promising, it may be best to make a move. It was Marrone who said, “Don’t confuse effort with results.” Right now, the Bills look like they’re on their way to another losing season with teams like the Browns, Packers, Broncos and Patriots on the horizon.

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