Opening day in the National Football League is a glorious national holiday for both serious and casual fans, or at least it should be. It sure feels like it.
It’s like Fourth of July meets Christmas. Fireworks are expected and often blown off. Tailgates start earlier, and are expensive and expansive, like the best Independence Day blowouts. Family and friends of all ages gather together, and gifts from free agency and the draft are about to be unwrapped for the first time.
The palpable excitement and emotional buildup gives us chills. I don’t know about you, but I cannot get that, “It’s the most wonderful time … of the year” ditty out of my head. Hope springs eternal for all 32 cities and its fans across the country.
Finally! Here we go…
Immediately last Sunday, Buffalo’s national holiday became a national disgrace when the Bills were swarmed by, pecked at, chewed up and spit out by the ravenous team from Baltimore.
“Here we go … ” instantly became, “Here we go again!”
National holidays are also when most everyone gets to take the day off from work and the entire team and coaches did just that, with precious few exceptions. It was a one-horse, open slaying. We got coal in our stockings and the Bills players acted like they had coal in theirs.
Should we have known?
One pregame article said 98 percent of NFL experts predicted the Ravens to beat the Bills. I didn't know there actually were 50 NFL experts, which you would need to get a 98 percent. But all but one of them was spot on.
This particular fan was one of the nonbelievers even before the game.
Opening day is my favorite day of the year, and this one I simply wasn’t nearly as excited as normal. There was something about the feeling of dread and not hope that I felt in my bones just before kickoff.
I favored Josh Allen starting from the day after we drafted him.
I didn’t fall for the "let’s let him sit on the bench and learn" philosophy. It’s a good argument and school of thought, but there are as many examples of players who benefited or were hurt by playing early, as ones that were benefited or were hurt by sitting. There is no clear answer no matter what anyone says.
To me, players who lose confidence by being in there too early and taking a pounding were never going to endure the mental battering to make it in the first place.
AJ McCarron was a decent backup at best. Nathan Peterman had four major issues, none of which were allayed in his brilliant preseason.
The arm strength was only one. He doesn't handle the rush well. He doesn't throw over the middle well. The lack of a downfield game allows teams to always put 8-9 in the box, take away Shady and our run game, and dare Nate to beat them deep, which he can’t.
These were all known before the game and proven during it.
Josh Allen, however, has Risen.
Josh showed great promise, even with a few rookie mistakes. So our very biggest box under the tree — and only true Christmas gift — might still bring us sheer joy, perhaps even this coming week.
Allen had a perfect TD pass dropped by Kelvin “Not Playing For The” Benjamin. Josh escaped the rush, rolled out and threw a beautiful 20-plus yard completion on third-and-18 from his own goal line where every previous Bills QB since Jimbo would have thrown a 16-yard pass on third-and-18. He threw a gorgeous rocket over the middle for a first down that was called back. He threw a timely first-down pass to Jeremy Kerley, who was kerled up on the turf after taking a ferocious hit. He threw an exquisite cross pattern for a first down that was promptly dropped.
See a pattern?
Allen throws the ball down the field. Who knew?
Unfortunately, Sean McDermott’s coach-speak filibustered the inevitable and toyed with our lovely present until Wednesday morning when he finally came to his senses.
It’s not even necessary or worthwhile to rehashmark last Sunday’s folly. Our best player, the punter, had a play where in most games he would have been considered the goat. Tre Edmunds was a shooting star who very well may turn into a shining if not super one, but he also made some noticeable rookie misfires.
Okay, so Christmas in September was a colossal turd. Nathan Peterman was Bad Santa. The roster is the most holey in the league. Shady was left in the dark. Judge Roy Bean made a lot of questionable judgments from behind the bench. Even the best unit on the team, the defensive backfield, got lit up like a Christmas tree.
Our opening day national holiday petered out in historic fashion. But there has been an entire Hanukkah before the next game. And this holiday season is really only about one thing:
Getting Josh Allen, our savior, ready.
Put him in, coach.
Thank God, you did.
Here we go ...
Pete Rosen is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, lifetime Buffalo fan, and may be found blathering daily at twobillsdrive.com.