When Roscoe Parrish fielded a Seattle punt at his own 37-yard line a little more than midway through the second quarter of the Buffalo Bills’ home opener on Sunday, I felt oddly compelled to stand up.
Not simply because, like the rest of my being, my backside was soaked, thanks to the relentless shower that drenched the otherwise jubilant crowd for much of the afternoon. Nor did I experience a sudden urge to use the men’s room conveniently located near my vantage point for the home portion of the Bills’ 2008 schedule, three rows from the upper limits of Ralph Wilson Stadium.
No, I stood up because that’s what you do when Parrish touches the ball, since you don’t want to risk missing what might happen next.
After securing the ball, Parrish made a subtle juke to the left, leaving Seattle’s Logan Payne skidding along the wet turf. He shot through a narrow tunnel comprised of blockers and would-be tacklers, past five more onrushing Seahawks defenders. His speed stunned them into near-paralysis, leaving the highly paid professionals whose job description hinges on wrestling guys like Parrish to the ground unable to do much more than lethargically swipe at the blue, red and white blur.
By this point, most of my fellow residents of the upper deck, along with the rest of the nearly 72,000 people gathered in Orchard Park had risen, as well.
Near Seattle’s 30-yard line, Parrish slowed up enough to tease four more Seahawks into lunging after him.
After pirouetting out of the grasp of John Carlson, a tight end taking part in his first National Football League game, Parrish cut back to his right, leaving Owen Schmitt, another naïve rookie, reaching for nothing at all.
The rapid succession of flailing misses recalled Ron Carey in Young Frankenstein, doggedly trying to lift Gene Wilder’s luggage: “I got it! I got it! I got it! I ain’t got it.”
Having satisfied his appetite for humiliating his pursuers, Parrish dashed for the end zone, easily accelerating past the four Seahawks who had caught up to the play due only to his meanderings.
The highlights package shows Parrish running past, around, or through 12 members of Seattle’s punt-coverage team. This is particularly impressive, since the rules of football allow only 11 players on the field at once.
So at least one of the Seahawks, having already been shamed by the smallest player on either roster, managed to get close enough to the 5-foot-9, 171-pound Parrish to miss him a second time.
Parrish opened 2007 in similar fashion, jetting through the Denver Broncos via a more direct route for Buffalo’s first points of the year.
On that runback, no one touched Parrish. This time, at least a half-dozen Seahawks got at least one hand on him, for what that was worth.
Last year, after Parrish staked them to an early lead, the Bills spent the rest of the afternoon hoping for the clock to run out. They didn’t quite make it, finding a way to let Denver snatch the game away on the final play.
This time, a far more confident-looking group of players continued to pile up highlights, emboldened by a coaching staff that called for well-timed draw plays, fake field goals and deep throws after turnovers.
With the offense, defense and special teams combining for as complete a game as Buffalo has produced in years, the Bills crushed Seattle, a popular pick among the sports cognoscenti to reach the playoffs, by a 34-10 margin – the second most-lopsided game of the NFL’s opening weekend.
Fifteen games remain. Whether the Bills sustain their newfound ferocity or revert to the maddening inconsistency of recent seasons, this much is sure:
When Roscoe Parrish touches the ball, you stand up.
Dave Staba has covered the Bills since 1990. He welcomes e-mail at email@example.com. A full report on Sunday’s game, as well as a look at Buffalo’s prospects in a Tom Brady-free world, will appear in the September 11 issue of Artvoice.