SAN FRANCISCO – Bryan Scott couldn’t get through a decent meal last Sunday without being tortured by the embarrassing loss to the Patriots. The defeat chased him around like an unrelenting pest, badgering him all the way to Niagara Fallsview Casino before pulling up a chair and harassing him over dinner.
Scott couldn’t elude the 52-28 blowout at Ralph Wilson Stadium and afterward he couldn’t resist pouring over the gruesome details. He needed to see the humbling experience from the outside. And with that, while waiting for his meal, he reached into his pocket for answers.
“I had access to it on my phone,’’ Scott said. “I was at dinner with my family at a restaurant and I was pulling it up on my phone.”
Roll the tape, and the loss was enough for Bills Nation to lose its collective appetite. The Bills were brutal against the Pats, hardly an anamoly. They had rehearsed their postgame speeches numerous times with a litany of uninspired cliches, how they needed to keep a short memory, learn from their mistakes, put the game behind them and – the mother of them all – step up.
So, yes, it was refreshing to hear Scott confess four days afterward, after sifting through the carnage several times on his iPad, that the loss turned his stomach. The Patriots rolled up 45 points in the final two quarters, the most allowed in any half in Bills’ history. Buffalo surrendered 580 total yards, second-most in franchise history. It was another among many mortifying losses to division rivals at home.
“Yeah, I was sick,” he said. “If you’re not sick to your stomach, what are you doing here? I know most guys were. I thought about it all day when we left. I thought about it all night. I don’t think I went to bed until 5 o’clock in the morning, to be honest. The agony of defeat is what you call it.”
Pardon him for the cliche; applaud his honesty.
No matter how many times they say a loss is a loss, players suffer a little more after getting walloped than if they play well in defeat. No athlete worth his jockstrap forgets humiliation. They remember one-sided losses like the names of their boyhood enemies while forgetting wins like polite, quiet kids who did as they were told.
“The emotions of a loss are stronger than the emotions of a win,” said defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, who was also up half the night reviewing the game. “It shouldn’t be that way. That’s sick. It’s really, really, twisted. It truly is.”
Bet your first-born child that the San Francisco 49ers reviewed videotape of the New England game, too, and enjoyed the show in preparation for today’s matchup at Candlestick Park. The Niners, favored by 9ø points, must be salivating over the opportunity to establish their running game against the Bills’ porous defense.
Alex Smith is no Tom Brady, of course. He’s not even Peter Brady, but he has an accurate arm and plays within a conservative passing game. In simple terms, he’s smart and doesn’t kill his team. He’ll notice when the Bills have their “little guys,” as Brady called the Bills’ nickel defense, lined up against the Niners’ two tight-end scheme.
Last week, the Niners dominated the line of scrimmage while nine ball carriers combined for 245 yards rushing in a 34-0 rout of the Jets. This time, the Bills aren’t going to chasing no-names Brandon Bolden and Stephen Ridley all afternoon but an established star in Frank Gore behind a very good offensive line. Wannstedt counted 14 missed tackles against New England, which he said was more than Buffalo had in the first three games combined.
It looked like 1,400.
“We’re going to find out about the running game this week, I can guarantee you,” Wannstedt said. “We’re ready for the challenge. We’ve had a good week of practice. From a coach’s standpoint, you always base things on how guys practice. Are they preparing? What’s their energy level like?”
Here’s another a valid questions: Is Mario Williams prepared to play with energy?
The Bills raised the standards when they signed Williams, who has underachieved since he arrived. They beefed up their front seven and promoted Wannstedt with the idea they can solidify their defense and help their offense. Buffalo’s defense wasn’t any better through four games than it was last year.
It’s worse.
The Bills were 26th in total defense last season, one spot higher than they were this year at the quarter pole. Only two teams have allowed more points after Buffalo coughed up 100 against the Pats and Jets. New England had 247 yards rushing last week after taking advantage of the mismatch up front. It doesn’t bode well against San Francisco, which averaged 167 yards rushing, most in the NFC and third-most in the NFL.
“The sense of urgency is definitely on us,” linebacker and eternal optimist Nick Barnett said. “Without a good defense, it’s hard to win a championship. It’s hard to get to the playoffs. We know that a lot [falls] on us. We have a lot of pressure, obviously, because of how we look on paper and how we should be.
“I don’t shy away from it. I think we should be better than what people think of us. [But] it’s way too early to be sticking your head in the oven. I’m not happy with the last game, but I definitely feel we’re way better than that.”
It’s time the Bills stop talking and start proving they can compete with good teams. Second-year coach Jim Harbaugh led the Niners to within a whisker of the Super Bowl, losing in overtime to the Giants in the NFC championship game. They’re built to contend. The Bills should have the most charming home on the street considering how many times they’ve attempted to rebuild. They need to clean up the clutter.
Yeah, I know the facts show the Bills are 2-2. They’re tied with the Patriots atop the AFC East. The reality is the Patriots are two plays from being 4-0 while the Bills are two cupcakes – Kansas City and Cleveland – from being 0-4. Despite all the offseason changes, not much has changed.
In the five years since Scott arrived, the Bills have a 4-18 record against AFC teams that made the playoffs the same year. Even that record comes with an asterisk. One victory was over the Colts, who at 14-1 had greater goals in mind in 2009 when they benched Peyton Manning for most of the regular-season finale.
The 2012 Bills aren’t the 2009 Colts, who discarded that loss before boarding the team bus. Buffalo is closer to the 2012 Colts. Still, they can erase the memory of last week with a win today. But it means beating a quality team, on the road, that’s sitting down for a feast.
“We’ve had two bad games, two positive games,” Scott said. “If we string along some victories, where the defense comes out and shows what it’s capable of doing, this will all be forgotten.”