OAKLAND -- I was ready to call it the Bills' biggest road win since the Super Bowl era. Really, I have the victory Hot Read here somewhere, which was being put together after they took a 24-9 lead six minutes into the second half.
Of course, I should have known better. Seasoned Bills watchers know better. They have history as a guide. This is what the Bills do. They raise people's hopes, nudge their fans into a state of belief, and then, as always, they come apart at the seams when it truly matters.
The Bills hadn't won a road game in December while still in playoff contention since 2004. They still haven't. They played a terrific game for 36 minutes, dominating the NFL's hottest team in its own home stadium. But they couldn't finish the deal, going to pieces in a 38-24 loss to the Raiders on Sunday.
This loss happened so fast, it's hard to know where to begin. Suffice it to say that Derek Carr and the Oakland offense, which had struggled mightily in the first half, shredded the Bills' defense in the second half.
After falling behind, 24-9, Oakland scored TDs on three straight possessions and put up 29 unanswered points in all. They scored 21 points in a stretch when the Bills ran just six plays. Tyrod Taylor and the Bills had no answers, as has often been the case when circumstances went against them in second halves on the road over the last two seasons. Taylor, after a fast start, ended 18 of 35 passing for 191 yards.
So they're 6-6, once again validating them as an average team with an average head coach and average starting quarterback. They have only one win this season against a team with a winning record -- and that was against the Patriots with third-stringer Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.
They're still alive. They have three straight games at home, starting with Sunday against the Steelers. They have a chance if they can run the table. Raise your hand if you have confidence they can accomplish that.
They don't have a win against a team with a quarterback who entered the weekend rated higher than 19th in the NFL. Carr struggled at times, but threw for 260 yards and didn't harm his MVP chances with another comeback win.
The Bills didn't have wideout Robert Woods or tight end Charles Clay, who missed the game for the birth of his first child. They were without Ronald Darby or, in case you've forgotten, center Eric Wood. Various other players were compromised by the nagging injuries so commonplace at this stage of an NFL season.
Still, there were no excuses for this loss, or for the complete unraveling of Rex Ryan's defense for the second time this season. Remember, they had a 17-6 lead in Miami late in the third quarter before going to pieces and losing.
The fact is, they're a flawed team, lacking the depth and toughness to finish road games against playoff contenders. That has been the case for, oh, the last 17 years. This loss simply adds to the long, sorry chronicle of regret.