Against New England on Saturday, the Buffalo Bills and its beloved brethren had all the joys and humility, highs and lows, of Christmases past. The blessed Bills of old were seemingly always in the Christmas spirit, forever willing to give back to others.
The axis of evil, Scrooge (Robert Kraft), the Grinch, (Bill Belichick), and Hans Gruber (Tom Brady) tried to ruin if not steal Christmas again, with their twisted, sinful combination of greatness, gall and grift. But the wicked empire is crumbling like an old gingerbread house. We see the cracks. It is just a matter of time. Santa Claus is finally coming to town.
Maybe next year has become maybe next month; in this season’s playoffs.
The referees appeared to be in the Patriots’ back pocket once more, looking like the escaped convicts in A Christmas Story’s cowboy scene. But let’s not even go there.
Patriots runners and receivers ripped through Bills’ arm tacklers like a 4-year-old rips through giftwrap. The Bills were wrapping up with tape that New England discarded as if a nuisance. Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano and Lorenzo Alexander had tough sledding all day. Buffalo’s tackling was dreadful.
There was seemingly no reason to not have Tre’Davious White (wet) blanket Julian Edelman, the lone Patriot able to hurt the Bills. Especially since Levi Wallace and Kevin Johnson were capable of limiting N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu. Taron Johnson could not stay with Edelman, and should not have been asked to. It was poor game-planning by Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott.
Edelman admitted he faked getting his Christmas bell wrung; although who didn’t immediately know it was a sham? Practically Brazil’s Erika in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, unstrapping herself and jumping off the stretcher they carried her away on, only to try to run back on the field.
Tom Thumb was back to his dinky-dunky self, and had just enough left in his leaky tank to take advantage of Bills’ mistakes, atrocious fundamentals and tactical coaching errors.
On special teams, Stephen Hauschka has seemingly got his mistletoe back. Corey Bojorquez’s kicking leg was a stocking stuffer full of goodies. Andre Roberts is about to break one and take it to the house any time now.
On offense, Josh Allen must have the reins taken off. Brian Daboll was and is too often Bad Santa; he giveth and taketh away. Too much eggnog has got him groggy, and running Devin Singletary on first down is not only predictable, it is all but inevitable.
Granted, Singletary hates to be tackled, and is going to be a star. But Allen is a playmaker, not a game manager, and must be set free, mistakes be damned.
Our Clydesdales up front couldn’t pull the sled most of the chilly afternoon, and had one of their worst outings.
But the big-ticket gifts were sheer joy.
Somehow, Dawson Knox made a miraculous catch of a lofty pass down to the one yard-line with seconds left in the first half. One of our little elves disguised as wide receivers, Josh Brown, made the play on everyone’s Christmas wish list; leaving Stephon Gilmore in the dust on a bomb TD, another improbable but glorious pass from Allen as he was hit.
We could have used Duke Williams on the last play mini-Hail Mary when a harried Allen threw a nice 50-50 ball to our other lovable little elf, Cole Beasley. But it was not meant to be.
Allen missed a few throws, including two to Knox in the end zone, although neither was an easy toss on second look. That said, you’d like him to hit at least one of the two and he didn’t.
But the league, national media, and fans everywhere are finally taking notice. I have friends that are, unfortunately, Jets fans, but who are now officially worried the Bills have that stud quarterback who will kill them for the next decade or two. They couldn’t stop praising Allen, which was mind-numbing, because as Jet fans, they hate everything.
The last toy drive with five minutes to go was set up to make every Bills fan, 8-80, overcome with Christmas joy and cheer, but came up just short. An indelible, delicious, delightful, unmistakable thrill you could taste, and smell, just out of grasp.
But Christmas, not winter, is coming for our Bills.
It’s right around the bend. We can all feel it. This was no moral victory, it was proof of concept. We no longer need letters to Santa for all of our best wishes to come true; or NORAD to track our holiday journey. We know where we are going, and mostly how to get there.
The Bills are back to relevance and on the brink of greatness. The holiday season again includes playoff football games. The ESPN Playoff Machine is a gimmicky toy you could spend hours playing with on the floor early Christmas morning.
"It’s a Wonderful Life." "A Christmas Story." "Die Hard." And no longer "Home Alone."
Pete Rosen is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, lifetime Buffalo fan, and may be found blathering daily at twobillsdrive.com.