It’s awfully quiet out there in Bills Nation, I must say. Not nervous quiet or angry quiet, mind you, but definitely quiet. For all the euphoria after the opener and all the outrage a week later, there’s a sense Bills fans found a comfortable altitude and cruising speed over the weekend.
Not in recent memory has Buffalo’s decibel level flat-lined after a blowout victory on the road in a meaningful game over an AFC East opponent. The Patriots have a way of ruining the party and tempering enthusiasm about the following one, of course, but nothing builds confidence in these parts like a convincing win on Sunday.
And yet, after the Bills’ inspiring 41-14 rout over a Dolphins team that once stood as their fiercest rival, victory was greeted by mostly applause that sounded like a bogey clap. It was a good sign for Buffalo, a sign that the Bills winning signaled relief and no longer was grounds for jubilation.
Just like that, peace. No complaints about coaching. No whining about the quarterback or the defense or the lack of discipline. No mouthing off about the Bills mouthing off. It’s no wonder why the region uncharacteristically fell silent. There was nothing to gripe about.
The game Sunday was so lopsided, the outcome determined so early, the Bills so impressive while the Dolphins were so dreadful, that perhaps emotions were placed back in reserve for future use. There’s no reason to overreact to a blowout over a terrible team. The scores will get tighter as stakes climb higher.
Plus, the Bills’ win was expected. The response would have been much louder had they won in dramatic fashion or lost a close game. But there was nothing surprising about the Miami game other than the halftime score. Their calm demeanor afterward spilled onto a fan base needing to regain its balance.
Sad but true, how the Bills perform on Sundays sets the tone on Mondays in Western New York. Blame them for pervasive mood swings every autumn, which explains the anger sweeping across town when Gregg Williams was coaching, for example, and indifference during forgettable seasons under Dick Jauron.
Not since Marv Levy roamed the sidelines has Buffalo had a coach who had greater influence over so many people than Rex Ryan has since his arrival. Ryan, perhaps, more than anyone, identifies with the people sitting at home. For now, anyway, they’re smitten with one another and blind to their warts.
While the temperament inside One Bills Drive matters more than the attitude elsewhere, the two have a history of running parallel. And really, whether it was in the Bills’ meeting room or a South Buffalo barroom, the shellacking Buffalo unloaded on Miami came across as no big deal.
That was mostly Rex, who showed restraint after the game Sunday and again Monday. He could have stirred the masses and reinforced his bravado with braggadocio. Instead, he took the microphone with measured tones, hushed his supporters and critics alike, and made sure his team maintained proper footing.
Ryan understands defenses as well as anybody. He’s a great communicator and motivator. He certainly would have had Miami’s sloths ready to play Sunday. He makes people around him feel a little tougher and a little taller. His greatest gift, however, is taking the pulse of his team and the people behind it.
Sure, he was confident. But by his standards, he was quiet. The region continued following his lead. That, too, is the Rex Effect.
An optimist would argue the loss to the Patriots was necessary to put everyone back in their places, including the Bills and their coach. A pessimist would say Buffalo still needs to beat New England, the next time on the road, if they’re to be taken seriously as playoff contenders. The games will play out.
The next order of business is beating the New York Giants on Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium. For what it’s worth, the Bills are 5½-point favorites. In other years, with another coach, it would have passed for breaking news from Vegas. But that’s no longer the case with this team and this coach.
It might begin with Rex, but it does not end with Rex.
Tyrod Taylor restored confidence lost in the New England debacle and tightened his grip on the quarterback position. Stats can be deceiving, but there’s no ignoring his aggregate numbers after three games: He has completed 74 percent of his passes and seven touchdowns with three interceptions and a 116.1 passer rating.
Taylor through three games was on pace for 3,800 yards passing, fourth-most in team history, and a Bills-record 37 touchdowns. The mere threat of him taking off keeps defenses honest and opens up running lanes. Rookie Karlos Williams has outplayed hamstrung star LeSean McCoy and emerged as a very good back.
Buffalo’s defense was soft against Tom Brady, but it dominated the other two games. The Bills showed they can be dangerous on both sides of the ball when they’re aggressive and disciplined. But when they’re passive or lack composure, they’re no better than any team on the schedule and capable of spiraling out of control.
Where is this going?
Buffalo fans learned long ago to not take anything for granted, especially after three games. Still, the Bills look like a safe bet to beat the Giants this weekend. Their remaining nondivision opponents were a combined 8-13 through three games. New England is a persistent problem. The Jets are beatable. Miami is a mess.
The Bills should be confident. It’s not because of what Rex said but what they did in the first three weeks. They had a nice takeoff against Indy to start the season, ran into a little turbulence against New England, collected themselves against Miami and spent the second half immersed in the joys of autopilot.
It’s sure to be bumpy along the way, as Buffalo fans know all too well. They would be wise to fasten their seatbelts, enjoy the flight and hope for a smooth landing.