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Season Ticket: Do the Collapse

Miami's Chad Pennington, perfectly at home in Toronto.

Miami

Any realistic playoff hopes floated into the wintry November night along with Rian Lindell’s field-goal try against Cleveland three weeks ago.

Finishing with a winning record, or even at .500, isn’t going to happen, either.

At this point, even matching the barely mediocre 7-9 marks of the past two seasons does not appear tenable. Doing so would require the Buffalo Bills to remember how, precisely, you beat a team other than the Kansas City Chiefs, a feat they have not accomplished since October 19.

After Sunday’s rancid 16-3 loss to Miami in Toronto there remains, however, one distinction well within the Bills’ reach. To achieve it, they need only to keep doing what they have been doing.

Barring a three-game winning streak spanning the rest of December, the 2008 edition will have completed the most stunning, thorough collapse in the franchise’s 49 seasons.

Before this year, seven Buffalo teams opened the schedule with at least four straight wins. All but one reached the postseason, with the 1975 version providing the lone exception.

That, however, was at a time when only four teams from each conference qualified, as compared to today’s six entrants. And since the Bills had the league’s best offense and O.J. Simpson, then a nationally beloved superstar and spokesman, broke the record for touchdowns in a season with 23, the year ended amidst optimism for the future (which would turn out to be wholly unfounded, with Buffalo winning a total of just five games over the next two campaigns).

Moreover, 17 versions of the Bills have found themselves at least four games over .500 at some point in the season. Of that group, only the ’73 team — which only reached that benchmark in the final week, after being eliminated from contention — and the aforementioned ’75 squad failed to qualify for the postseason. Both of those teams finished with winning records, at least.

This year’s model has already joined that decidedly prestige-free club, while offering none of the excitement of their underachieving ancestors.

Since scoring six touchdowns during the 54-31 walkover in Kansas City, Buffalo has managed none in the last two games.

Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert has shown little interest of late in getting the ball to the team’s top runner, Marshawn Lynch, or its franchise receiver, Lee Evans.

A gimpy Trent Edwards struggled in the first half against San Francisco before leaving with a groin injury and his healthy replacement, J.P. Losman, has been even worse.

The defense and special teams, crucial to Buffalo’s 4-0 and 5-1 starts, have been blandly average during the two-month skid that followed—playing well enough to avoid humiliation, but failing to produce game-changing plays.

Dick Jauron, who may or may not have received a contract extension when times were good, has yet to show that he has any remedy for whatever has befallen his team.

To characterize Buffalo’s performances over the last two weeks as lifeless would be an insult to the departed. The first National Football League regular-season game played in Canada, which included one touchdown, four field goals and countless displays of ineptitude, turned out to be a great marketing tool—for the Canadian Football League.

Neither the Dolphins, nor the 49ers a week earlier dominated, or necessarily played well enough to beat even an average National Football League team.

For these Bills, though, even considering themselves average would rate as a remarkable act of hubris.

Pick up Thursday’s Artvoice for further analysis of Sunday’s debacle.