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Vic Carucci's Bills Wake-Up Call: Crisis alarms sound, but will anyone listen?

When the mind-boggling events at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum were over and another classically Buffalo outcome was still making stomachs churn throughout Western New York, Rex Ryan made certain to let the record show that the Bills weren't dealing with any ordinary offense Sunday.

In his weak explanation for why the Bills weren't more aggressive when they had the ball late in the first half, he wanted it known that the reason he didn't use any of his timeouts was "because I know what's on the other side."

We all knew what was on the "other side." A really good quarterback with really good receivers, none of which (with the exception of gimpy Sammy Watkins) can be found on the Bills roster. Got it.

The problem with that mindset – beyond the fact the Bills ran twice and threw incomplete before punting with 30 seconds left and allowing the Raiders to drive for a field goal as time expired in the half – is that it completely contradicted everything else the Bills were thinking and saying internally and externally in the days leading up to the game.

To the Bills, this wasn't one they would be "stealing" if they won, a common outsiders' take in sizing up their hopes for a playoff run through the final five weeks of the schedule. Steal one at Oakland, take advantage of three straight at home against beatable opponents, knock off the sorry Jets on New Year's Day and, voila! Maybe sneak in with a wild-card spot.

No, the Bills fully believed they would conquer the big, bad Raiders. LeSean McCoy, firmly convinced he would have the big rushing day he did against one of the NFL's weaker run defenses, had even stuck his head in the media room on Friday – something he has never done since joining the Bills last year – to take a fast poll of reporters' predictions for the game. He wanted to know just how big of an upset we all thought it was going to be when the Bills walked off the field triumphantly. (The fact was, a couple of us, me included, expected a Bills win as well).

Even with Ronald Darby out with a concussion, the rest of the Bills' defensive backs were certain they could hold their own against Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

There was nothing timid about how the Bills felt about their chances going into the game.

And losing it the way they did, by blowing a 15-point lead in the third quarter as they allowed the Raiders to score 29 unanswered points, makes it the sort of game that should have team owners Terry and Kim Pegula doing something other than saying, "Well, they did have Derek Carr and Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree ... and we did have some key injuries ... and it was a long trip to the West Coast ... and we were playing in the Black Hole, where the franchise had never won in 50 years."


There is no rationalizing this one.

And the day-after analysis isn't cutting it, either. The talk among players about a lack of "mental toughness" might very well be accurate, but it doesn't address much larger and deeper issues.

On Sunday, the Bills were failed by poor coaching, both in terms of strategy and leadership. They were failed by poor quarterbacking, both in terms of execution and leadership. They were failed by poor roster assembly, both in terms of talent and character.

This was a loss that should be sounding extremely loud alarms throughout One Bills Drive and the Pegula Sports and Entertainment offices and in Boca Raton, Fla., and wherever else Terry and Kim can hear them.

It's a problem when players, such as veteran outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, come away from a game like Sunday's and say it reveals the Bills as "average" and reinforces the need for "changing the culture around here," a familiar take at which he arrived in less than a full season in Buffalo.

It's a problem when the head coach goes on the radio to explain that the only thing he told offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn before that final drive in the first half was that he wasn't going to call any timeouts and whatever plays he wanted to call were up to him (the throwing-him-under-the-bus translation: "I didn't tell the guy to run it when we should have been throwing it. That's his fault").

It's a problem when the head coach is apparently unaware that tight end Charles Clay was going to miss the trip to Oakland because of the birth of his baby and explaining to the media "the communication could have been better throughout, but I'm not going to get into specifics."

It's a problem when Watkins is unable to conceal his frustration when a Taylor throw allegedly intended for him is way off the mark, and when McCoy is similarly demonstrative by slamming the ball into the ground.

It's a problem when Tyrod Taylor offers terse one-, two- and three-word answers when meeting with reporters after a game in which he unraveled through the final three quarters.

Sure, Taylor understood how damaging that game was to his chances of convincing the Bills to pick up the rest of his lucrative option, which is another reason the Pegulas need to hear that alarm.

Not only are they likely going to have to find another long-term quarterbacking answer after the season, but the one they have in place has no sense of accountability or awareness that his role requires him to stand up and act the part of a leader rather than another piece of the puzzle just doing his job.

Things are looking pretty disjointed, from top to bottom, raising legitimate questions about exactly how and when there will be improvement after this season.

That Oakland game shouldn't be something the Pegulas dismiss as their team coming up short under long-shot circumstances. It was a real shot.

And the bullet hit the Bills where so many others have through the soon-to-be-17-year playoff drought: right in their collective foot.

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