If you were expecting the Bills game Sunday to be as entertaining as ESPN’s “Four Falls of Buffalo” was Saturday night you most likely were sadly disappointed.
The Bills’ 23-20 loss to Philadelphia was the “Fifth Fall of Buffalo” over the weekend, replete with as many sad moments and (unintentionally) funny moments as the NFL Films celebration of the glory days of the Bills in the 1990s.
CBS announcers Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots were along for the ride for the sixth time this season. They've gotten plenty of criticism here this season. But the time they’ve spent with the Bills made them the proper choice to document the continuation of the season-long mistakes that undoubtedly will prevent the National Football League team from making the playoffs for a 16th straight year.
Dedes and Wilcots have seen the undisciplined Bills commit so many penalties that they appeared to be playing Flag Football all season. They have seen them fail to sack opposing team’s quarterbacks. They knew the Bills offensive line was in deep trouble when its best player this season, guard Richie Incognito, was even dominated. And Wilcots reminded viewers that Philly’s quick offense could be trouble for the Bills since Houston scored a touchdown a week earlier on a quick snap that caught the Bills unprepared.
“The Eagles defensive line is too athletic and too fast for the Buffalo offensive line,” Wilcots said near game’s end as penalty after penalty on the offensive line piled up.
That pretty much summed up the game.
The announcers also knew the Bills would miss tight end Charles Clay after he went out with an early back injury, and that the Eagles would target cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who was playing for the injured Stephon Gilmore.
So it was no surprise that the all the preparation from past Bills games helped Dedes and Wilcots have their best game all season addressing key issues.
This isn’t to suggest they were perfect. Far from it. Wilcots forgot what down it was on one play. But even that could be forgiven. With all the Bills penalties, it was a little hard to keep track of the downs. He also thought that Eagles tackle Allen Barbre was No.76 for the Bills instead of John Miller. It might have been a good idea to make that trade considering the way the Bills line played.
Here are more highs and lows of the “Fifth Fall of Buffalo” – or should I say the “16th Fall of Buffalo.”
Was He Trying to Be Funny? After a first-half replay showed a hands-to-the-face call was accurately made, Wilcots conceded officials were under fire this season before adding “they do a really good job.” Bills Coach Rex Ryan wasn’t buying that one after the game.
Commitment Problems: The officials seemed to have trouble with commitment – to their calls. They kept conferencing. It was hard to tell what the sideline official thought he saw when he briefly suggested Bills receiver Sammy Watkins was out of bounds on his touchdown catch. It wasn’t that close.
That Really Ertz: In the fourth quarter, Wilcots contradicted all the goodwill he threw toward the officials when he played official after the huge 41-yard catch and run by Eagles tight end Zach Ertz that led to the winning field goal. The analyst judged it to be clearly an illegal pick play.
Where’s Mike? Mike Carey, the former NFL referee that CBS uses to discuss key calls, was brought in only after replay rulings were made. He agreed with all the replay calls, which led some people on Twitter to speculate he is told to agree with game officials. That wouldn’t be right. Notably, Carey was nowhere to be found after the disputed pick play to say whether Wilcots' assessment was correct. CBS heads to commercials as soon as replay challenges are made, but it should go to Carey before the official ruling is made. It also would have been nice to hear from Carey when a weak holding call was made against Bills center Eric Wood that negated a long and key LeSean McCoy run in the fourth quarter.
Debate Time: A fourth and 14-yards to go inside your own 25-yard line isn’t the ideal time to go for it when you are down by a field goal with a little more than two minutes left, but it was worthy of a debate. Ryan decided to punt and hope his defense would hold and the Bills would get the ball back. The strategy worked, with the Bills getting the ball back in good field position with plenty of time to score.
Can’t Wait for the Movie: After Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford was rocked by a Bill on one pass attempt, he began to shake his head in obvious pain. I would have thought Bradford would have been forced into concussion protocol. A short time later, an ad for the upcoming Will Smith movie “Concussion” played.
Where’s Kiko? Ex-Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso, who was traded to the Eagles for McCoy in the off-season, wasn't mentioned until he was beaten on a touchdown run.
Define “Only”: At one point midway through the third quarter, Wilcots said that Bills receiver Sammy Watkins “only needs maybe a couple of those catches to turn the game around." Only? There were a lot of “onlys” this season for the Bills.
Truer Words Were Never Spoken: After the officials had another of their filibusters over a review of a call inside two minutes, Dedes said: "An awfully long delay here." Agreed.
Manuel Shift: CBS cameras spotted Bills backup quarterback EJ Manuel in the game before Wilcots for a trick play in which McCoy gained four yards and a first down. I’m guessing half of Buffalo got a little nervous that something might go terribly wrong as soon as they saw EJ.
Missing Jason: Dedes noted that Eagles tackle Jason Peters has made several Pro Bowls without adding the Bills traded him after a contract dispute and have been looking for a lineman as good as he is since he left in 2009. He sure was needed Sunday.
Phantom Hit: Wilcots credited Sammy Watkins’ brother, Jaylen Watkins, for forcing the key fumble by Bills punt returner Marcus Thigpen. But replays showed that Thigpen dropped the punt before Watkins hit him. Watkins was in the vicinity, but his hit didn’t force the fumble.
Another Worthy Debate: Ryan chose to punt rather than allow struggling Dan Carpenter to try a 53-yard field goal in the first half. The punt by Colton Schmidt backed the Eagles deep in their territory so it seemed to be a good decision. However, then Thigpen fumbled the Eagles ensuing punt so the Bills lost decent field position and soon gave up a touchdown. If Rex had allowed Carpenter to try the field goal and he made it, that would have been the three points the Bills needed to tie at the end of the game. If Carpenter missed it, the Eagles would have gotten the ball about 20 yards further from where they got it when Thigpen fumbled.
Some Good and Bad Omens: Wilcots predicted that McCoy was just getting started a few plays before he broke a long 28-yard run. But he also said the Bills were tackling well just before Ertz broke a few tackles to get the Eagles in position for their winning field goal.
Best Picture: McCoy kissing the Eagles logo at midfield before the game when he acted as the Bills only captain.
Worst Picture: McCoy running up the tunnel after the loss without congratulating anyone on his old team. I’m sure he was hurting because the game meant so much to him. But he probably should watch “Four Falls of Buffalo” to see how some players exhibit class even when dealing with devastating losses.