TORONTO - With five minutes left on an unsightly afternoon in the Rogers Centre, an inebriated young man ran across the football field and stripped to his skivvies before being tackled at midfield by security.
It seemed somehow fitting, because the Bills couldn’t have looked any worse on Sunday if they had played the game in their underwear.
Desperate to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, the Bills got exposed by a surging Seattle squad, 50-17. It was an utter humiliation, yet another day when the Bills established records for defensive futility and nudged their head coach a little closer to the unemployment line.
During the week, the Bills players had expressed their devotion to Chan Gailey, defending his record and contending that it would be a step back for the franchise to fire him. You would have expected them to back it up with an inspired, passionate performance in their annual Canadian “home” game.
Instead, they played like a bunch of soft, indifferent losers. The defense was horrible. They acted as if they’d never seen a quarterback option, making Russell Wilson look like a Hall of Famer. Ryan Fitzpatrick misfired on the deep throws, as usual, and threw two demoralizing interceptions.
You know how they played? Like a team that doesn’t give a damn if its coach gets fired.
“I want them to play for themselves, for the fans, for professionalism, for pride,” said Gailey, who is now 15-31 with the Bills. “If you start going out and having too many things that go into your mind about why you’re playing the game, you’ll give it up too easily.”
Pride? It’s gone beyond tiresome, trying to put more than a decade of bad losses into perspective. Where does it rank in the depressing chronicle of dysfunction? Which ones am I overlooking? Is it a candidate for worst road loss of the millennium? Oops, that’s right, it was a home game.
Let me say this: When you consider the circumstances – the tenuous position of the coach and quarterback, the fact that it was in Toronto, having Marshawn Lynch’s team drop 50 points on the defense and its $100 million man, Mario Williams – it might be the most embarrassing loss in team history.
This makes four times they’ve given up 45 points in a game this season. The Bills are the first team to do that since the 1986 Jets. If you go back to the final game of last season, it’s five times in 15 games.
They’ve given up 50 points in a game twice in a season for the first time in franchise history. They’ve allowed 402 points on the year, putting the team record for most points allowed back on the table. The record is 454, set by the 1984 team that finished 2-14.
Can we stop the talk about how much the defense is improving? So they had a few solid games against bad teams. As usual, when a team showed up with a determined power running game and a talented, athletic quarterback – in his case, a rookie – the defense got exposed as a fraud.
How many times have we seen this? Even when the defenses are decent, they melt in the most critical moments – as they did against the Rams a week earlier. So I don’t want to hear about any improvement. Beat someone that matters. Play up to the competition if you want credit.
Gailey said it didn’t matter where they played the game. But this was an advertisement for everything that’s wrong with the Toronto series. When there’s no real home crowd, there’s nothing to lift you in the tough moments. It’s no excuse, but it has to be dispiriting to be in quiet, unfamiliar surroundings when the game is turning against you.
OK, they had a lot of quit in them Sunday. All four of Seattle’s rushing touchdowns – three scrambles by Wilson and one by Lynch – were 10-plus yards on which the runner went into the end zone untouched.
Four years ago, when the Bills lost to Miami in the first installment of the Toronto Series, Ralph Wilson laughed about it. This time, another R. Wilson had to be laughing. Russell became the first player in NFL history to rush for three TDs and pass for another in one half.
Russell Wilson should be relieved that he didn’t wind up playing for Ralph. Buddy Nix said the Bills liked Wilson heading into last year’s draft. But not enough to draft him in the third round. Instead, they moved up to take receiver T.J. Graham, who was terrible on Sunday.
Nix has a heap of trouble on his hands. He believes in Gailey, a failing coach he can’t sell to the public. Fitzpatrick’s days as the starting quarterback have to be numbered. This makes twice in the last month that he’s gone up against a rookie quarterback and come away a loser.
After padding his sack stats against mediocre opposition, Mario Williams disappeared against the Seahawks. Williams was consistently caught out of position on read option runs by Wilson, who had nine carries for 92 yards.
Predictably, Williams pointed the finger elsewhere. The first word out of his mouth was “We.” Sure, there was a lot of blame to go around. But just once, it would be nice to see the new franchise defensive end act like a good teammate and leader by taking responsibility for a poor performance.
“There’s 10 other players on the field,” Williams said. Boy, that’s sure to endear him to the guys in his locker room.
At least Gailey, who is the man on the hot seat, said the buck stops with him. And yes, he takes the brunt of the blame (along with Dave Wannstedt) for having his team terribly unready to play.
There was some muttering about Pete Carroll calling a fake punt early in the fourth quarter with the Bills trailing, 47-17. People felt Seattle rubbed it in by calling a trick play in a blowout. You know, the sort of silliness you get in baseball when teams dare to steal bases with a big lead.
Come on, Gailey had Fitzpatrick on the field with five minutes left. Why can’t Seattle run a fake punt? These are grown men, professionals. Hey, stop the fake if you don’t like it. Show some real passion during the game if you have such an inflated sense of pride.
Really, the Bills had done a great job of humiliating themselves in Toronto. How could a fake punt make it any worse?