I wasn’t around for the Super Bowl heartbreaks. Well…I was, I was just too young to remember. My Bills heartbreaks include (but are not limited to) losing to the Steelers’ backups in 2004, a trio of last second Monday Night Football losses to the Cowboys, Browns and Patriots, the Stevie Johnson drop, and blowing a 16-0 second half lead in the playoffs to the Texans. If you are a Bills fan, you have seen a lot of ways to lose a football game and now, we can add a Hail Mary to that list. But yet, this loss feels different. It’s more of how I am NOT feeling that struck me last night and today. Over these past 24 hours I have asked myself, why wasn’t I so torn up the game that I had trouble sleeping? Why didn’t I lose my appetite, as I so often do after a gut-wrenching loss? The feeling after this loss was different, and after taking a day to think about it, I think I know why.
First, I just accepted that sometimes you are on the wrong side of a miracle. For every Doug Flutie Hail Mary there must be the Miami Hurricanes. For every 1980 USA Men’s Hockey Team there must be the Soviets. For every 2004 Boston Red Sox, there must be the New York Yankees. Yesterday, the Bills were on the wrong side of a miracle catch that 99 times out of 100 would not happen. Frankly, if you have the Bills top 3 defensive backs against any other wide receiver besides the greatest in the game and future Hall of Famer, I don’t think that happens. We could get into technique and break down the individual performances that lead to the play even being possible, and while the coaches will do that, as they should, sometimes you just have to respect a miracle ending. That’s what makes sports…sports.
Second, as a fanbase we are now fortunate enough to know that the Buffalo Bills are destined for more than a regular season win or loss in Arizona. I remember a time not so long ago when losing a game like this was much more painful because it dropped the Bills to 4-6 and meant the chances were the drought would continue another year. But when you are a consistently good team and you play other good teams, you understand that sometimes these losses happen. There were many Colts/Patriots in the 2000’s that the Patriots lost. They didn’t panic. They knew their season wasn’t over yet, as the best was yet to come in the postseason. A 16-game regular season is not the Bills goal anymore. This team has turned the corner from forever “in the hunt” to contending for the top seed in the AFC. The expectation is to make the playoffs and to make a run. That is the expectation I have had for this team after the Bills walked off of the field in Houston last January. Let’s face it…the Bills are going to make the playoffs this year, just like they did last year, and just like they will for many years to come. Two weeks ago after finally beating the Patriots, Dion Dawkins said, ““It’s a good feeling, but this isn’t our Super Bowl.” Well, neither was a loss to Arizona. Falling to 7-3 is a bummer as the Bills need all the wins they can get to catch Kansas City and Pittsburgh for a top 2 seed in the playoffs, but this loss is nowhere as catastrophic as it used to be for this franchise. Good teams lose to good teams and good teams beat good teams, just like the Bills did last week.
The regular season is important, make no mistake about it, and the Bills must handle their business from September – December. But the Bills are destined for more. The Bills are earning the right to play football in January and February, and that is when things will intensify quickly. That will be the time for restless nights and not being able to eat before and after a game. The joy of knowing that the best is yet to come for this team, with playoff games in about 7 weeks, was enough to outweigh the disappointment of a loss yesterday. As Sean McDermott said in the postgame, “We’ve changed this place for the better.” You sure did, Sean. And that includes changing fans reactions to this yesterday’s “Murray Miracle” loss.
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