Bills season opening loss could sting for a long time

Buffalo Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — The Bills spent all postgame telling us that this was just one game. It was the first game, it was not the last game. There’s no need to panic.

And they’re right. Every NFL team will have a bad game here or there. Even the great ones. Even ones that win Super Bowls. Feel free to re-visit how Tampa Tom began his run to last year’s title.

It’s also very possible this Steelers team might turn out to be pretty good. It’s probably safe to believe their defense is really good. There is no shame in this one loss as stunning and gut punching and hype train stopping is it may be.

This was kind of a screwy game. The Bills offense, that’s usually among the best at finishing, had four drives crossed midfield that netted a punt, a fumble and two fourth-down fails.

There was a punt block for a touchdown. Sure, that’s a play that still counts and football is three phases and you can stop quoting me NFL cliches. Those are points you just don’t count on and won’t see in almost every other game this year, so we’ll cut the Bills some slack in our long term analysis of this loss.

The fans weren’t nearly as loud and crazy as I expected. Don’t for one second take this as placing any sort of blame on Billsmafia, but I was jacked up to be at this game. I thought the fans would use it as a celebration of last year and just go bananas from 1pm on. I was wrong. Maybe all those punts in the first half took the edge off. Maybe everyone was exhausted from sitting in the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced in Orchard Park for a game (I heard multiple stories about the last two miles taking well over an hour). It was still loud, but it was run-of-the-mill loud.

And then, there were the two calls by the officials that I’m sure have Bills fans banging away at their Twitter machines. I thought both were very questionable. I’ll put both in the category of ‘I wish they weren’t called but I do understand what the ref is looking at to feel a flag is required’.

You can holster any complaining about officials, however. Screwy or not, this is a game where the Bills had no excuses. When you’re a Super Bowl f̶a̶v̶o̶r̶i̶t̶e̶ contender and you’re up 10… at home… at the half… you’ve got to finish the game.

Problem A-1 for the Bills going forward is the offensive line. When Sean McDermott was asked after the game but how successfully Pittsburgh got pressure by only rushing their front four, his first response was “Sometimes it was just three”. The chill in those words and the stare that followed made a Buffalo winter seem cozy. The only other thing he could really add was “Adjustments need to be made”.

I thought it was a bit hilarious that Bills fans talked themselves into believing T.J. Watt’s one quiet game against Buffalo last year was an indication that Buffalo and Daryl Williams owned him. As if Williams was Buffalo’s personal Incredible Hulk and not simply an above-average offensive tackle who received a good amount of help as part of a very smart game plan. The game plan this year was much less smart and Watt spent the afternoon proving he was way worth $112 million.

The good news for the Bills fans is that Watt will not be on the other side every week. Neither will the rest of this nasty and dangerous Steelers front four. But, the Bills will face other good pass rushing groups and some will be paired with an offense that has a lot more pop. If there’s anything that might derail this Super hopeful Buffalo season, it’s Josh Allen running for his life every week.

The damage to the Bills season from this loss might already be done. In the perceived race for the one-seed against the Chiefs, Buffalo is already one game behind. The Bills can, of course, make up any deficit by beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead in four weeks.

Let’s say Buffalo can’t win that game in Kansas City (most teams don’t). That would leave the Bills trying to make up three games on the Chiefs over the other 15 games on the schedule. How many of those games do you think the Chiefs will lose? Is it even three?

That’s why this game mattered so much. That’s why every game will matter so much for the Bills this year. They believe they need the one-seed and homefield in the AFC title game to make the Super Bowl. This loss against the Steelers might have erased a big chunk of Buffalo’s margin for error to earn that one seed.

No one can win a Super Bowl after just one game, but it’s very possible we may look back and see just one game as a big reason why the Bills lost a chance reach the Super Bowl.

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