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Wow! Johnston strong on game analysis, soft on Ryan, Bills

Fox analyst Daryl Johnston used a few memorable words during the Buffalo Bills embarrassing 35-25 loss to Washington Sunday.

There was “visualization," which he used to describe how Washington Coach Jay Gruden advised his players good things were going to happen.

There was “cusp,” which Johnston used to describe how the Bills were letting the game get away from them in the first half.

But the most memorable word was “WOW.”

It came after Washington took an early 21-0 lead, which also was just about the time Bills fans were finding a few choice words to say about their team’s efforts. It was followed by the line “Washington is just doing anything they want offensively.”

At about that time, I thought there could have been two meanings for “WOW” and Johnston’s follow-up statement.

Johnston’s could have been using it just to mean Washington’s performance was as awesome as the new “Star Wars” movie.

Or he could have meant what many Bills films were undoubtedly thinking: “WOW, the Bills really are pathetic."

I wish Johnston’s play-by-play partner Kenny Albert had asked him for his exact definition.

But I’m not sure it would have mattered since Johnston seemed to be answering a different question about Washington whenever Albert tried to get him to talk about the Bills. A few times, Albert and Johnston seemed to have the same problem as the Bills defense – a failure to communicate.

As usual, Johnston was terrific describing why plays were successful. At games start, he noted that Bills Coach Rex Ryan was concerned about covering Washington tight end Jordan Reed. And sure enough, Reed quickly scored two touchdowns.

But I didn’t visualize the Lewiston-Porter star playing such soft coverage on Ryan. Early in the game, he noted that the Buffalo media “came at” Ryan during the week. By game’s end, Johnston was telling viewers how much he enjoyed talking to Ryan and then he assured Bills fans that Ryan “is going to get this thing figured out.”

If Johnston thinks Ryan was treated a little rough by the media last week, well, as the late Jimmy Durante used to say “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

I visualize things can get much, much worse this week for Ryan and his staff.

More highs and lows:

Paging Jim Mora: Albert built false suspense by frequently saying the Bills needed a win to stay in playoff contention. It was pretty laughable. Playoffs? Playoffs? The way this team was playing? Near the game’s end, Albert conceded the playoffs were unlikely even if the Bills won.

Anger Management: Before the game started, Johnston noted that if the Bills had the same personality of Ryan, this is an “angry and “edgy” team. Actually, they played like they were angry at Ryan.

Stolen Plans: It really had to hurt Bills fans to hear Johnston note that Washington was getting pressure against Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor by rushing only four players and thereby enabling it to cover receivers with seven. After all, that was the Bills plan when everybody in preseason thought the Bills defensive line was great.

Best Stats: Near game’s end, Fox compared the statistics of Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins in the game to those for the entire season. Translation: The Bills made him look like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers rolled into one.

Flat Response: While people on Twitter were calling Bills “quitters,” it wasn’t until the Bills scored a touchdown that made it 28-17 that Johnston said they started the game “as flat as flat can be.” While most Bills fans probably laughed when Johnston said the Bills were on the “cusp” of being out of the game in the first half, I get why an ex-player wouldn’t think they were completely out of it. Johnston knows it is very rare for a team to lose in the first half no matter how poorly they are playing. Witness the New York Giants’ comeback Sunday from 28 points down to tie the game, 35-35, before losing, 38-35.

Medical Report: Well before LeSean McCoy took a hit to his knee that led to his exit from the game. Johnston noted early that players’ knees had to be protected more than they have been under NFL rules that just about prohibit hits up high.

Drop Dead Funny: If any game needed some comedy relief, it was this one. Bills punter Colton Schmidt provided it by dropping a punt and then kicking as it went to the ground. “Did he just miss that?” asked Johnston. “It was bizarre.” On Twitter, Fox’s officiating expert Mike Periera said it could have been called anything from a fumble or a field goal attempt. On TV, he said it was a drop kick and explained why the spot of the ball was made. Later, Pereira explained the Bills caught a break when it was too tough on replay to see whether Bills tight end Nick O’Leary ran out of bounds 25 yards before he was eventually stopped downfield. “Unless you have a shot down the line, they’ll stay with what is called,” Pereira explained. I’m sure some Bills fans were thinking “now, we get calls!”

The Non-Debate: It didn’t matter, but it would have been nice to debate why Ryan decided to kick a field goal in the second half when the Bills were at the Washington 15-yard line and down 21-0 rather than go for it and try to finish a drive with a touchdown.

Hughes Praise: There was a lot of garbage time in the fourth quarter. That gave Johnston time to assess the quarterback situation of both teams. It also allowed him to note that Bills coaches have loved the play of Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes this season. Somehow, it didn’t seem to be the right time or day to praise any Bill. I bet many Bills fans who remembered all of Hughes’ penalties this season were on the cusp of throwing things at their TV screens. Unfortunately, Fox missed most of Hughes' emotional tirade on the bench after Cousins' touchdown run but sideline reporter Laura Okmin described it.

Thank You, NFL: The Bills final two games against Dallas and the New York Jets are at the Ralph. The Bills are fortunate they sold so many tickets for those games before the season when it looked like the games would mean something to them. Of course, it doesn’t matter to armchair fans if the games aren’t sold out anyway because the NFL blackout rule was lifted this season. This will be the first test of how it impacts attendance. Albert and Johnston mentioned they will be back Sunday to call the Bills game against Dallas. But how many Bills fans will join them in front of their TV sets? Sunday’s game had a 34.1 rating. That’s a very healthy number, even if it is the lowest-rated game of the season. I can visualize a lot of empty seats at The Ralph the next two Sundays.


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