The first NFL Sunday is something football fans around the world await with bated breath. We suffer through the preseason, the injuries, the rumors, the what-ifs and predictions, waiting for the kickoff to come and meaningful football to arrive. We grab our beers, fire up the grills, stock up on folding tables, dig our Travis Henry jerseys out of the closet, and tell ourselves, "This year could be our year."
I don't know how to say this, but I don't think this is the Bills' year.
The best 53 man roster that the Buffalo Bills could assemble walked onto the field in Baltimore on Sunday and got absolutely embarrassed to the tune of a 47-3 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens. As bad as that result looks, it was not remotely as close as that score indicates. Joe Flacco had Elite truthers everywhere rejoicing, watching their golden boy from Delaware shred the Bills defense like cheese at a restaurant. And by the time he said, "That's good," and looked up from his soda, it was 40-0.
I joined the 716 Sports Podcast three years ago, writing these columns on and off since then. Usually, when I sit down to put words to keyboard, I have a few launching points, because typically when a professional team loses a game, you can look at one or two areas that really set them back. The problem with that this week, is that everything was awful. Out of the 53 rostered players, maybe 3-5 showed up. The punter was one of them. I never want to notice the punter being good.
The Bills have hit another in a series of new lows at the quarterback position with their insistence that Nathan Peterman has the talent to be a professional quarterback. He is now 0-2 – not just in record, but in his attempts to finish a game when he starts. There are other factors that did contribute, and we'll get there, but if you watched the throws that Peterman did get off - man oh man were they ever off. Two more interceptions to add to his ledger, one which he airmailed to a safety who was not covering anyone at all, and one that Kelvin Benjamin got outmuscled on (and how do you outmuscle tall Eddie Lacy is beyond me). The rest were behind, in front, below, and above. Everywhere but in the window they were designed to be in. Somehow he left yesterday's game with a worse passer rating (an immaculate 0.0) than his infamous five pick game from last year.
I don't know why we're surprised. This is a man who couldn't stand out enough to take the job at Tennessee. Tennessee has been arguably to worst managed college program over the last ten years. They gave so many unworthy people chances that Alvin Kamara was a relative unknown before the Saints showed he's an elite talent. And still, Peterman couldn't hack it. If Pitt doesn't beat Clemson his senior year and shoots his name into the discussion, he's as much of a keyboard warrior as I am.
The Peterman experiment is dead on arrival. They may go to him again at points this season - either because they don't see it that way or because Josh Allen goes in and gets torn limb from limb while the offensive line circles up for their Sunday book club - but it's true. There's nothing you can look to that shows he has the arm talent or playmaking ability to turn this around. McDermott will say that he needs to evaluate the game tape more (which is baffling by the by) and that he's impressed with Nate's ‘mental toughness,’ but mental toughness by itself is worth absolutely nothing. Mental toughness means something when you're Aaron Rodgers playing hurt on Sunday night, because it's paired with generational talent. Being mentally tough when you have a pool noodle attached to your shoulder isn't worth a damn. My grandma is mentally tough. It doesn't make her qualified to start.
It is fascinating that a professional football organization can miss on so many quarterback prospects in a row, spanning multiple owners, general managers, coaches, etc. It feels like Marv Levy found a genie in the late 80s, and asked him for four Superbowls in exchange for never having a talented QB once Kelly retired. The evil genie, with a twinkle in his eye, said "Sure Marv, you can go to four straight Super Bowls." And so it was written. This curse can end when the quarterbacks leave Buffalo. Just ask Ryan Fitzpatrick, who just put up 400 plus and 5 TDs on the Saints. Nothing like flipping away from the Bills game and seeing that.
I don't know how to say this, but I don't think this is the Bills' year.
Does this mean it's time to hand the reigns over to Josh Allen, the shorts wearing rocket-armed Wyoming product? Yes. It's just up to Beane and McDermott to get together and admit it. He will have growing pains, and it will be rough. The season will feel long. But growing with Allen is better than stagnating with Peterman.
The running game gets a bit of a pass because they never had a chance. Everyone knows LeSean McCoy is the most talented man on the offense. Until there's a threat of a passing game, it's eight man boxes all the way down the next 16 weeks. Marcus Murphy looks to have some promise, and it will be interesting to see what the share of touches will be between he and Chris Ivory as the season carries on. Also, I found it amusing that, when asked about his running back depth on the pregame show, McDermott said "Don't forget about Pat DiMarco." DiMarco was on the field for one play on Sunday. He's an offensive captain. These are symptoms of a larger disease.
The receivers are a complete joke. Kelvin Benjamin put in less effort on the field than I did into this sentence. It felt like he was just trying to post up every defensive back, and kept forgetting Cam wasn't there slinging the ball to him anymore. Remember the time he tried to blame Cam for his poor play? What a jabroni. Jones and Kerley may not be completely lost causes, but it's hard to make open field moves when the ball is five yards behind you. Clay continues to be a non factor.
The lack of receiving threats makes the quarterback question seem hollow. Even if Allen goes out there and slings it around, will his good decisions and throws be rewarded with good catches and efforts? Will there be players committing to and getting open when he unleashes that arm 50 yards downfield? Daboll can't rely on 25 swing passes to Shady if he wants to win games this season.
The defense doesn't get a free pass either. The secondary, which many would say was the strongest point of this team last year, got shredded for a half by gummi bear enthusiast Joe Flacco and his island of misfit receviers. The day didn't get a good start when it was revealed that new starter Vontae Davis was not active for the game. As good as Tre White is, he can't cover both sides of the field, and Phillip Gaines was not great. Linebackers and safeties couldn't shut down the tight ends, play-calling was odd, and Flacco had one of his easier professional days.
The run defense was solid if nothing else. For as many shots as the Ravens got to take running the clock down, they never really got gashed badly. The scores they allowed on the ground were due to sheer force and numbers
This season feels like it's already time to say "There's always next year (tm)," dust off a bottle of beer from the cellar, and find a love for a good novel. But I'll be back in my place by the TV Sunday, as I know many of you will as well. Maybe it will get better. Maybe we just like watching disasters. Maybe we hate ourselves. Maybe it's all of them
Some Quick hitters
Bils MVP: Corey Bojorquez. The newest Bill didn't make things any worse for the defense as he did his job in some wet conditions. He also held for the only Bills score of the day, as the Bills were the only team to play Sunday and not score a touchdown
Ravens MVP: Maxx Williams, for leading the league in consecutive X's per first name
Stat of the Day: The Ravens held a team without a first down in the first half for the first time in team history, a feat they didn't even accomplish when they had the best defense in the NFL in the early 2000s, in a division where they play Cleveland twice a year
Former Bill of the Week: Ryan Fitzpatrick is such a conundrum. Once a year he puts up a game like he did Sunday (400+ yards and 5 TDs) before he goes back to having the arm talent of a Harvard vaedictorian
Future Bill of the Week: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State. Turns out Herm Edwards going back to coaching isn't as bad as we thought. Harry has looked great so far this season, showcasing great route running and excellent hands, something the Bills lack in spades.
Next Opponent: The Los Angeles Chargers of San Diego. Joey Bosa is hurt maybe. Other than that, the Chargers will be out for blood after getting carved by Bills "What if" Patrick Mahomes. This does not look good on paper