I'm reflecting on the Bills' 29-24 season-finale home loss to Pittsburgh, which kept Buffalo from the playoffs, and no song is more appropriate than The Hives' Hate to Say I Told You So. Incidentally, this column coincides with The Hives' song, just as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon allegedly coincides with TheWizard of Oz. I believe I'm the only writer in history to have ever tried this, and I'm like so outside the outside of the box right now.
On December 22, I wrote these prophetic sentences: "The day when the special teams and defense stumble and the Bills are playing a high-quality defense --- not the 24th-ranked Rams, the 26th-ranked Seahawks, the 19th-ranked Browns, or the 19th-ranked Bengals --- is when we'll see whether Bledsoe is any good... I doubt Bledsoe can win against a high-quality defense."
"Hate to say I told you sooo, alright... duh-duh... duh-da-da... duh-da-da ... duh-da-da-da."
Against Pittsburgh --- the NFL's No. 1 defense --- Bledsoe was 16-for-30 for 189 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, and a fumble that the Steelers returned for a touchdown. He had a QB rating of 58.9. Pittsburgh sacked him three times. It wasn't a totally disastrous performance, as if he passed for 98-yards and four interceptions. It was just entirely sub-ordinary, when the Bills needed him to step in and command.
Bledsoe is terrible at facing teams that excel at rushing the passer. He must have more time, if he plans to start next season. The arm still looks good. The problem is that in the pocket, he's aloof and unresponsive like I was on New Year's Day. The reality is that Bledsoe needs a Pope-mobile so pass rushers bounce off the vehicle and allow him to adequately survey the field and complete passes.
As for Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe, he must be hurt that the Steelers beat the Bills with reserves that the former Pittsburgh director of football operations can't even take credit for drafting or signing on Pittsburgh's behalf. Donahoe's replacement, Kevin Colbert, has generally been able to maintain a high-level of performance the last five years without the benefit of Donahoe's ingenious player moves. The Steelers finished an NFL-best 15-1 this season.
I'm beginning to conclude that longtime Steelers coach Bill Cowher really molded the team, and Donahoe could just about play Yahtzee to best determine whom to acquire.
Sport is such a fickle and delicate pursuit. We've been convinced winning has everything to do with talent and preparation, but it might have just as much to do with dumb luck, which no NFL coach or general manager making millions of dollars would ever want you to believe.
If Buffalo recovers the onside kick and somehow punches in another touchdown, we're not having this conversation and I'm not playing Hate to Say I Told You So. Take away the Rian Lindell miss in the third quarter and the Bills would have led 20-16, with the team and home crowd fired up beyond belief. Take away Josh Reed's interference penalty two snaps prior, when Bledsoe completed a pass to the Pittsburgh 4 for a first down, and Buffalo might have scored a touchdown for a 24-16 lead. And, of course, take away Bledsoe's fumble for a touchdown --- which the Pope-mobile certainly would have prevented --- and Buffalo wins for sure.
Take away the last-second Jacksonville loss in Week 1 and Buffalo makes the playoffs. Take away home-run throwback and Rob Johnson's a hero who might even have led the Bills to a Super Bowl win. Or take away Scott Norwood's missed 47-yarder in Super Bowl XXV and perhaps the franchise feels no more pressure and goes out and wins a few more Super Bowls just for the heck of it.
See, sport is chance. Don't ever feel bad, because game results are just about out of everyone's control. Just accept that someday, fortunes will change. In the meantime, you should watch The Wizard of Oz with Dark Side of the Moon blasting on your stereo.