Hope is a fleeting feeling, especially for a Buffalo football fan. It's hard to nail down the exact source of this hope that keeps creeping into our consciousness every once in a blue moon, but, no matter what the history books say about winning streaks, trap games, injuries, or the Indian burial ground that Ralph Wilson built his stadium on, we still find ourselves flirting with it cautiously, like that girl at the bar you're pretty sure is there with her boyfriend but is still eyeing you up.
Following the Bills’ week six domination of a San Francisco team that was just begging to be put out of its misery, I could hear the hope in the voices of Bills fans. I could hear it in my voice. People were even confident, which is a feeling normally saved for Browns games. At the end of week seven, however, a lot of that hope has left the building.
The fish remained thoroughly unsquished as the Bills went into Miami and found themselves between a Hard Rock and a hard place in a 28-25 loss. The Dolphins alumni came back to checkered endzones, throwback uniforms, and frequent looks at the back of Jay Ajayi as he ran through arm tackles like he was covered in grease.
If you were to have told me last Monday that Miami would outrun the Bills by almost 200 yards,I would have enjoyed a sensible chuckle. Seriously though, where has this Miami running game come from? Two weeks ago, the Miami Dolphins cut two of their starting offensive linemen. Not demoted, cut them. The team couldn't block for anyone, and the coaching staff decided to go in a completely different direction, figuring that a couple of cheaper replacements literally could not be any worse.
Compound that with the fact that Ajayi wasn't even being considered as a feature back by the Dolphins coaching staff until there were so many injuries they literally had to play him. They scratched him in week one because of attitude issues, but thankfully for him and the Dolphins, Arian Foster's legs are actually carefully intertwined twizzlers that are about to collapse upon themselves like a neutron star at any moment. Now this second year man is the fourth running back EVER to have back to back 200 yard games.
It wasn't even like Miami was really being creative with their running game either. For the most part, they just hammered the same stretch play over and over. The Dolphins coaching staff was probably crafting another play for Ajayi, figuring that the Bills defense would have to stop it eventually, but that day never came. Backed up at one point to their own one yard line, Ajayi ripped off a 53 yard run. What did we expect, a pass from Ryan Tannehill?
Tannehill is a tall drink of terrible quarterback. I used to frequently call him the worst starter in the NFL, but we live in a time where Landry Jones, although on an injury basis, is getting snaps, so I've upgraded Tannehill to 31st. Has anyone ever done less with the talent around them consistently then Tannehill? He might not have AJ Green or Julio Jones out there, but Jarvis Landry is the most wasted talent in the NFL, forced to play duck hunt on a series of Tannehill wobblers week in and week out.
The lone saving grace on that statsheet for Tannehill (did you know he played receiver on college?) was a fourth quarter touchdown pass to Kenny Stills. If you watch as much football as I do, you may remember Kenny Stills as the guy who dropped a game winning 80 yard bomb all alone 20 yards behind the nearest Seahawk week one.
Redemption time came on a third down in the fourth quarter when Stills was able to adjust on an underthrown ball, losing Darby on a move to the inside. Still, Darby had time and room to recover. Or rather, he would have, if Jonathon Meeks hadn't come in and taken him out at the knees after also being unable to adjust. That play counted for 66 of Tannehill’s 204 total yards on the day.
Let's stay on Meeks though, because normally, he wouldn't be the guy coming to help over the top in that situation. Unfortunately, Aaron Williams wasn't available, because Jarvis Landry decided to launch himself into Williams’ jaw with a blindside block that earned him all of fifteen yards in penalties.
The punishments and discipline of the NFL were being thoroughly dissected after a series of taunting and excessive celebration calls, capped off by another botched investigation into the Josh Brown allegations. With each passing week, the hierarchy gets weirder and weirder for a league that's so conscious of its image at all times that they once denied DeAngelo Williams the ability to dye his dreadlocks pink in support of his mother's fight with breast cancer during breast cancer awareness month.
Here's an updates chart of what will get you in trouble with the NFL:
- Wear some cleats that show you have personality - Just a fine
- Leave your feet and lower your shoulder into someone's head - 15 yards
- Celebrate by shooting the football through the uprights like Vernon Davis - 15 yards
- Aggressively inform the other team you got a first down - 15 yards
- Domestic violence incident - 1 game, until the public gets a hold of more evidence, then Goodell will act shocked and banhammer you, albeit with full pay
- Smoke weed - 4 games the first time
- Be Josh Gordon - well, he had a good run
The fact that Jarvis Landry was able to continue playing in that game yesterday after knocking Williams out was a joke. I get that he felt bad after the fact, and he did look to be remorseful. But we have to set up a system that punishes the action, not the intent. In the same way that Vontaze Burfict escaped punishment for diving at the knees of a player with his back turned away from the ball, the NFL shows yet again they have no interest in discipline if it involves taking a big name off the field.
We're in an age where healthy players are retiring because they can't justify the health risk any more. I have a feeling Calvin Johnson won't be the last guy to hang up his cleats because he's scared of being on the receiving end of the ever growing list of quality of life threatening injuries that a guy like Aaron Williams has.
At the very least, the NFL has to look into implementing a version of the targeting foul that the NCAA has. It is far from perfect in its current form, but there has to be some detraction to a player and a team for headhunting that is more than 15 yards. Aaron Williams might never play again, and it costs the Dolphins 15 yards.
LeSean McCoy was not ready to go Sunday. I appreciate the fact that he was willing to go, but if he did not have his normal burst, which hamstrung him with regards to what he excels at. At some point during the week, someone in charge, whether it's Rex, or whoever, needed to weigh the pros and cons of trotting a limited version of Shady out there. He's been incredible this season, no two ways about it, but risking further injury when you have an able backup isn't the best long term plan.
Tyrod is running out of people to throw to at an alarming pace. With Goodwin getting hurt yet again, Watkins on IR, and Woods in a walking boot, Justin Hunter Endzone Hunter has rapidly gone from being cut by the Titans to having a legitimate shot of being a number one receiver this week. This is terrifying. We're going to play the Patriots! Brady is angry! Belichek hates losing! Gronk really wants touchdown number 69! And in the midst of all this, Tyrod is going to have to try and march this team up the field with a possibly injured Shady and the island of misfit receivers.
It's a sad commentary on your game when your punter is likely the best player on the field. Any kicker should never be the best player. Albeit it's better than the alternative, which is watching your kicker miss a 30 yarder in overtime to win the game. Looking at you, Seattle and Arizona. When's the next debate of why ratings are down?
That hope I mentioned early on has been replaced with dread as I look at the schedule and see New England up next. This isn't your newborn baby cousin's Jacoby Brissett led Patriots. This is the real deal. This is the ultimate test. Give me something to believe in.