Stevie Johnson’s frustration Sunday was clear to see.
It was right on his face. Johnson bolted from the Bills’ locker room shortly after the 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots in the season opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium without so much as washing the sweat and eyeblack from his face.
Another crushing loss against New England — the Bills’ third straight — had gotten to him.
“It was just something personal against that team, I guess,” Johnson explained Monday of his hasty exit. “It ended in the same way. That was my frustration. Nothing with anybody, nothing with any play.
“We know that you can’t have a great game every week,” Johnson continued. “Every play isn’t going to be perfect. The game, it can go either way, and I felt like we’ve been to this point with this team too many times.”
One of the most talked-about plays from Sunday’s loss was Johnson’s drop in the fourth quarter. Facing a third-and-1 from midfield, Johnson shook Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington from his position in the slot on the left side of the formation. He was wide open, but the pass from quarterback EJ Manuel fell off his fingertips.
“It looked like the play should have been made, but with my extending how I did, it was like my length just got my hands on the ball,” Johnson said. “Looking at the film, yeah, I was wide open. I beat the guy. It was tougher than what it looked.
“At the end of the day, it’s a drop.”
Johnson proclaimed last week there was no one on the Patriots who could guard him. Not surprisingly, he’s gotten some backlash after Sunday’s result.
“The reaction is as expected: Everybody placing blame on me. It’s OK, you know? I felt like I put myself in that position,” he said. “But that’s not me putting on a front for anybody … pretty much being who they’ve grown to love. I feel like there’s no one who can guard me. Obviously it showed, but when you don’t win a game, that’s when you get that negative attention, and I deserve it.”
When the ball hit the turf, an exasperated coach Doug Marrone put both hands on his head and started walking in the other direction.
Johnson, though, said he and the coach had not had any discussions about the drop.
“None at all,” he said. “We looked at it. Just a football play, man.”
Marrone said he felt bad for Johnson.
“He’s a guy that comes out here every day and works extremely hard. I know how much that weighs on him,” the coach said. “My philosophy has always been, when you have a player that every single day comes out here and works – a player like Stevie and all the things that he’s done – you have to come back to that player. That’s the one thing. We have a lot of faith in him.”
Johnson was charged with five drops last season by the website Pro Football Focus, which charts every play of the NFL season. That’s an improvement from 2011, when he was charged with 13 drops by the site. Most famously, he dropped a potential game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime of a game in 2010.
“There is not a player in this league that hasn’t dropped a football. If you haven’t, that means you haven’t gotten a lot of balls thrown to you. So, I have the utmost confidence in Stevie,” Marrone said. “He takes those things hard. What he has to do is, and he knows this, is you have to shake it off and come back and make a play. And he will.”
Marrone was asked whether he had discussed Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ inability to guard him.
“People have to be who they are. You guys are going to ask tough questions, and you want them to answer it,” Marrone said. “You want people to be who they are and what they do. As long as it’s not a standpoint of giving away any strategic information, I think that’s where I would have a problem with it.”
Johnson finished Sunday’s game with three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown.
He vowed Monday to put the loss behind him and focus on the rest of the season.
“It is what it is. They came in and took one from us. We’ll be ready for them next time,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever grow accustomed to losing games.”