Wait a minute. Aren’t the Bills supposed to lose that way?
Getting cute with a pass while protecting a lead with time running down.
If the decisive play of Buffalo’s 23-21 win in Miami on Sunday seemed faintly familiar, that’s because it was. Downright Losmanesque, really.
To be fair, Ryan Fitzpatrick was equally capable of such late-game antics, given the opportunity. As were Trent Edwards, Kelly Holcomb and even Drew Bledsoe. Not that any of them had many leads to protect over the last 13 years or so.
This time, though, it was the other team’s offensive coordinator outsmarting himself and Ryan Tannehill carrying out the worst-case scenario.
The second-year Miami quarterback’s fumble effectively ended a game he had started by chasing rookie cornerback Nickell Roby into the end zone. It would be easy to suggest the Bills were fortunate to be handed a game they had done all they could to lose, lucky to be 3-4.
Easy, but incorrect.
Yes, they gave up a 14-0 lead, a reverse rally during which their defense got gashed by a Miami running game that managed all of 22 yards in its previous outing while their offense more closely resembled one operated by a quarterback who had been semi-employed two weeks before.
They beat the Dolphins because when they desperately needed someone to make a game-changing play, Mario Williams made one.
The highest-paid player in Buffalo’s football history ripping the ball away from Tannehill with enough force to send it bouncing 10 yards down the field, where Kyle Williams surrounded it to set up Dan Carpenter’s vengeful
31-yard field goal, provided the post-game highlight clip. It would not have been possible, though, if not for an even more athletic feat on Miami’s previous possession.
Having eradicated the early deficit, the Dolphins appeared to be marching inexorably toward a clinching touchdown when Mario Williams blew past Miami tackle Tyson Clabo to dump Tannehill for a drive-stalling sack — Buffalo’s first of a quarterback who entered the day getting dropped almost five times a game, on average.
Thaddeus Lewis and Buffalo’s offense responded with a feeble three-and-out, forcing Williams to up the level of heroism.
After years of small, yet slow, defenses — populated by largely anonymous short-timers — wearing down late in winnable games, Buddy Nix courted and signed Williams when the 2012 free agency season opened to give Buffalo the sort of game-changing force it had lacked since releasing Bruce Smith after the 1999 season.
I can’t recall a fourth-quarter comeback, by the Bills or any other NFL team, that revolved so thoroughly around a defensive end. Thanks to Williams, Lewis did not have to come through as he had done in the fourth quarter a week earlier. All that was asked of Thaddeus this time was to not screw things up. That he did very well.
If not for the bravura performance by Williams, Buffalo would be heading into games against New Orleans and Kansas City, which have a combined total of one defeat, at 2-5 with Manuel a month away from returning and the novelty of a quarterback named Thaddeus quickly wearing off.
His reaction demonstrated that my younger son, a developing football aficionado
, is truly one of the rarest creatures in all of sports, a fan of both Buffalo and Miami. And not necessarily in that order.
As is his wont, Oscar wandered off after the first quarter, largely indifferent to Buffalo’s 14-0 lead. He returned just before Miami took the lead, and made clear that, at age 7, his love of aquatic mammals trumps the proximity of the Bills.
He teared up when Tannehill’s final heave hit the ground in the end zone, taking faint consolation in the fact his favorite team’s loss meant a win for his second-favorite, but much more from being reminded that the Boston Red Sox, the focus of Mrs. We Want Marangi’s own brainwashing program, had advanced to the World Series
the night before.
David Staba has written about the Buffalo Bills, among other topics, since 1990 for a variety of outlets, including We Want Marangi since way back in 2012.