Bills’ exhibition finale proves at least half-bad - The Buffalo News

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Bills’ exhibition finale proves at least half-bad

Jim Irsay, the combative Colts owner, recently sent out a series of tweets defending the NFL’s policy of charging full price for preseason games. Yes, Irsay is still tweeting away. Apparently, he didn’t learn anything from the Peyton Manning fiasco two years ago.

Irsay felt the need to lecture misguided fans who believe the preseason games are a blatant rip-off. Sure, you have to pay for 10 games in a season-ticket package. But paying full price for a brutal August exhibition is the price you pay to see a great NFL team or superstar in the fall.

It all evens out. So Bills fans should look at the home opener against New England as their payback for Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Lions. Think of Tom Brady as a gold game. Now, don’t you feel better?

Sorry, but Irsay’s tweets are a bunch of rationalizing drivel. I’ll bet if he was forced to sit through Bills-Lions, he’d be singing a different tune. Making season-ticket holders buy two preseason games is akin to extortion. If Irsay thinks the real games are such a bargain, he should urge the league to bump up regular-season prices a notch and cut preseason prices in half.

No, it doesn’t even out. It’s even worse for Buffalo fans, who don’t get the annual Toronto travesty as part of their season package.

Based on the crowd – actually, more of a modest gathering – at Thursday’s game, most fans don’t bother showing up. Their ticket is essentially a donation to the NFL. And who could blame them? Why waste a gorgeous summer night watching a bunch of no-names run around The Ralph?

You wonder how the NFL owners can sleep at night, knowing fans pay good money for these games. The annual Bills-Lions practice game was a joke even by the usual preseason standards. There was exactly one regular – linebacker Nigel Bradham – among the Bills’ offensive and defensive starters.

Years from now, some lifelong Bills fan will look back fondly on the night his father took him to his first NFL game and he saw Jarron Gilbert, Corbin Bryant, Alan Branch and Jamie Blatnick starting on the defensive line.

I know this is heresy among the pigskin zealots, but I have a hard time getting worked up over the battle for sixth wideout and sixth cornerback, or whether the Bills keep a fullback. I know it matters. But I’m a lot more interested in, say, when “Game of Thrones” comes back on the air.

This game went beyond meaningless. It was so irrelevant, the Bills wouldn’t allow Jeff Tuel to play in it. Things are so desperate at quarterback right now, they were scared to death that Tuel might get hurt and be unavailable as a human sacrifice for Bill Belichick on Sept. 8.

One national NFL writer, Bill Barnwell, said Tuel, an undrafted free agent rookie, could be the least qualified quarterback ever to start an NFL game in the modern era if he gets the call here against New England.

But rookie coach Doug Marrone feels Tuel will be more qualified than either of the emergency QBs the Bills hired this week. Former Heisman winner Matt Leinart didn’t distinguish himself against the Lions.

It was a tough spot for poor Leinart. He didn’t have much preparation time. That wasn’t the 1989 Niners offense around him, either. But when he threw the ball directly into the arms of a Lions linebacker in the first quarter, you got a sense for why he was out of a job last week.

Oh, the game. You figured it would be mercifully quick, but it seemed to take forever. The first quarter was longer than a filibuster, and twice as tedious. Three minutes into the second quarter, after Leinart threw another interception, the Lions were leading, 21-0.

At that point, the Bills had been outscored, 51-7, in a little more than five quarters since the start of the Washington game. But there’s no need to overreact. It’s only preseason. No one got hurt, which is the most important thing. I might have tweaked something going through the dinner line, but I’ll be at 100 percent for New England.

Full disclosure: I was not paying very close attention to the, um, action on the field. I was informed that the Bills had two first downs late in the opening half, which is two more than they had in the entire second half in Washington last Saturday. Tell me that’s not progress!

Someone named Izaan Cross recovered a fumble for the Bills midway through the second quarter. I’ll confess. I had never heard of Cross. Irv Cross, yes. Izaan Cross is so obscure he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Of course, he could say the same thing about me.

Thaddeus Lewis came in to play quarterback for the Bills after the turnover. Hey, wasn’t he the abolitionist congressman that Tommie Lee Jones played in “Lincoln?” No, that was Thaddeus Stevens, who has to be the most famous Thaddeus of them all.

Lewis completed one pass and rookie Dustin Hopkins kicked a field goal. Nothing like hearing the “Shout” song after a field goal in a meaningless preseason game. Moments later, the Lions made it 28-3. It was 35-3 at the half. The defensive backs probably got burned running to the locker room at halftime.

Suffice it to say, the Bills really miss Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd. Their secondary has all the depth of the women on those Housewives shows. The sad thing is, most of them will actually make the team.

It’s almost halftime. I’ve lost interest. You know what they should do? Take all the starters who didn’t play and send them up into the stands to mingle with the fans.

If the people are going to pay good money, the regulars should have to contribute in some fashion.

I feel a little guilty myself. I covered half a game, but they still charged full price for the paper. Don’t worry. Jim Irsay says it’ll all even out in the end.


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