Column as I see ’em, Week 14:
• LeSean McCoy got ripped to pieces nationally, and with good reason, for his petulant performance after the Bills’ 23-20 loss to the Eagles. McCoy embarrassed himself and left Eagles fans giddy and gleeful after seeing Shady shut down and silenced in his return to Philly.
But in retrospect, an equal embarrassment was the behavior of the head coach, Rex Ryan, and his defensive coordinator, Dennis Thurman, who stalked the game officials off the field after the loss, berating them every step of the way.
On a video shot by WKBW’s Joe Buscaglia in the tunnel, you can hear a voice, apparently Thurman’s, calling the officials a “disgrace to the NFL,” a comment that made its way around the NFL media world and was a prominent story on the website Deadspin on Monday.
It’s the coaches who were the real disgrace. McCoy’s emotional, infantile display was predictable. But Ryan is the leader and the face of the organization. He’s supposed to be the voice of reason, an adult example for his players and a pillar of equanimity in difficult times.
But Ryan has too often set the opposite tone in his first season as the Bills coach. He has been undisciplined and volatile, just like his team.
Is it any surprise that they lead the league in penalty yards, and are still playing on the edge 13 games into the season?
True, the NFL officials have not distinguished themselves this season.
But Ryan has made things worse with his tough talk and boorish sideline behavior.
He has made his team a target, and it’s not likely to get better after that ugly scene with the officials in the tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field.
Ryan speaks out of both sides of his mouth on the officials. He admitted after the game that his team can’t afford 15 penalties, but added snide remarks about the Eagles not having the ’85 Bears defense and said that even if Reggie White had played, the Bills couldn’t have held that much.
It’s clear that Ryan and Thurman felt the officials were extra vigilant about their players. Can you blame the refs? They’re only human. Rex put the target on his own back. Of course, he was walking back his comments when he met with the media on Monday.
This is the pact with the devil that Terry Pegula made when he hired Ryan. He got the splash with Rex, the unprecedented surge in season tickets. You also get the clown act, one that wore thin after six years in New York in which he compiled an overall losing record.
People who watched Ryan with the Jets laugh and shrug. They say nothing has changed. Ryan can be a refreshing presence. He’s also the joke of the league when his team plays out of control and he compounds it with his antics and convoluted explanations afterwards.
Why would anyone expect him to change at this point, when Pegula rewarded his mixed performance in New York with a $27.5 million, five-year contract? The even bigger question is how Ryan can last five years in Buffalo if it continues to be a losing act.
At some point, the Pegulas have to start wondering if all the national attention and the spike in ticket sales is worth the embarrassment.
• Ryan elected to punt rather than have Dan Carpenter attempt a 53-yard field goal – or go for the first down – on fourth-and-5 from the Eagles’ 36 early in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss.
Carpenter was several steps onto the field, assuming he would get a shot, when Ryan sent out the punting unit instead. Carpenter is 23-for-39 on field goals from 50-plus in his career – even better with the Bills at 13 of 19 (68.4 percent).
“We hadn’t had a whole lot of field position,” Ryan said. “I felt comfortable and confident in our defense. I thought we’d get a three-and out and have great field position. It worked out just like we wanted to, except we dropped the punt.”
The Bills had two possessions on the day before that decision to punt. They scored a touchdown on the first and punted from their 42 on the second. So I don’t know what Ryan meant about not having a whole lot of field position.
It seemed more evidence of Rex lacking faith in Carpenter, who has struggled at times this season. Still, he should have shown faith in him from that distance – or better yet, done the bold thing and gone for it, something he promised to do when he got here last January.
• In his post-game interview, Eagles coach Chip Kelly denied a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer that said he called McCoy last Tuesday in an attempt to bury the hatchet.
The Inquirer story said McCoy didn’t recognize the number on his cellphone when it rang and answered the call. But when Kelly identified himself, Shady quickly hung up on him.
“A lot of it to me is tabloid journalism,” Kelly said, directing an icy stare at an Inquirer reporter. “They’re just trying to stir things up, but it doesn’t affect us. When people want to make up false stories about me calling people up during the week and them hanging up on me – they’re trying to get Twitter hits and make themselves significant.”
It is hard to fathom why Kelly would attempt to call McCoy days before a game. Maybe it was some prankster pretending to be Kelly. McCoy might have shed some light on the situation if he had bothered to speak with the press afterwards.
• Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who was criticized early in the year for his failure to make big throws from the pocket, has been on one of the hottest streaks of any quarterback in NFL history.
Over his last four games, Wilson has thrown 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions. He had five TDs in Sunday’s 35-6 win over the Ravens.
According to Pro-football-reference.com, Wilson’s 145.9 QB rating is the highest ever for a quarterback over a four-game stretch.
Some are calling it the greatest four-game stretch for a QB in NFL history.
Perhaps, but Tom Brady had 17 TD passes and no interceptions over a four-game stretch in 2007. The only other example I could find of a 16 TD–0 INT run over four games was – surprise! – Peyton Manning, who had 16 TDs and no picks in the first four games of 2013 for Denver.
• With five sacks against the Broncos, Khalil Mack vaulted into the NFL lead with 14, a half-sack ahead of Houston’s J.J. Watt and Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah. Mack, the former UB star, has nine sacks in his last three games and has put himself into the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year. He was taken one pick after Sammy Watkins in the 2014 draft.
• Seattle’s Doug Baldwin has eight TD catches in his last three games – half of Wilson’s total during his streak. Baldwin’s eight TDs came on just 17 catches. He has 61 receptions for 860 yards and 11 TDs, one behind Cincinnati’s Tyler Eifert and Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson for the NFL. Baldwin had his first drop of the year Sunday.
• Steven Means, another former UB defensive star, was inactive Sunday for the Eagles, who signed him off Houston’s practice squad early in the week. Means, a fifth-round pick of the Bucs in 2013, fell out of favor and moved on to the Ravens, who had high hopes for him this year. But he hurt his groin in preseason and reached an injury settlement with Baltimore.