No football this weekend, but I’m still thinking 10 Things.
1. It’s been a very unsettling week. If the Bills had beaten the Cards, I would have been completely wired, frustrated that we have to wait an extra week for another game. If they’d lost a close one, I would have been disappointed but still optimistic, glad to have the week off. Instead, I’m worried. I’m filled with unsettling questions. Here are five:
2. Is Trent okay? Is this the beginning of a string of concussions that could end his career much too early? Can he play next week? Is next week too early? I like Trent more and more each week, and the thought that we somehow could find the Bills back in the quarterback market is very disturbing. I think Trent’s a winner. I hope, for his sake and ours, he’s fine, but I can’t stop worrying.
3. Does this defense really have what it takes? That was a pretty ugly showing against the Cards. As I wrote last week, it was a lot like 2006. Could not get off the field. Was it a sign of fundamental problems? Was it just a bad matchup on the road? Would it have been different if Trent had stayed in the game? Would it have been different without the four turnovers? How is Simpson? I think he’s an important part of the package. Is he going to be out long?
4. Should I blame the defensive woes on the coaches? After all, they set up the defense to stop the long ball, and they knew that the Cards couldn’t run, so why were our defenders giving the receivers so much cushion? Second half the defense did better – they got up tight, and they either broke up the pass or made the tackle as the ball arrived. But first half, the Bills simply let the Cards march down the field with short balls. It’s not like the Cards had some rookie at QB who might not have recognized where the opportunities were – they had Kurt Warner, who has killed defenses with his brain and his arm for a long time.
5. Was I premature in deciding during the off-season that our offensive line was set and would continue to improve? Will this offensive line EVER consistently create running room for the backs? Is this line susceptible to stunts, blitzes and exotic games by the defense? A well designed blitz took out Trent. Quality stunts have created several sacks. Is this line still learning how to work together to handle the totality of the rush, wherever it comes from, or are these guys just not good enough?
6. Some of you may have been wondering who I am and why I write 10 Things every week. Who am I? I was born in Buffalo in 1947. I remember looking forward to the very first Buffalo Bills draft. I went to the first Bills game at War Memorial Stadium. I attended the first Bills playoff game there in in 1963 and saw the Bills win the AFL championship there in 1964. I was at the opening of Rich (now Ralph Wilson) Stadium. I went to Super Bowl XXV. I haven’t lived in Buffalo for almost 40 years. I’ve been a season ticket holder for a couple of years and I drive over six hours, one way, to Bills games. What else do you need to know?
7. Why do I write 10 Things? Two reasons: I love the Bills, and I want you to join the Ball Burglar.
I figure about 2000 people read 10 Things every week. Most of of them haven’t joined the Ball Burglar yet. So now I’m going to ask you to do it. I write 10 Things for you; joining the Ball Burglar is what you can do for me. Go to www.Ballburglar.com, click on “Join” and do it. It only takes a minute or two, and it only will cost you a dollar (more if you want) for every takeaway, about $30 on the season. You’ll be glad you did.
Some of you know what the Ball Burglar is; for the rest of you, here’s the short version: The Ball Burglar is gang of Bills fans around the country who pay $1 or more (some pay as much as $5 or $10) for every takeaway the Bills get. We take the money and give it to great Western New York children’s charities like Hunter’s Hope and Carly’s Club. Last season we raised over $10,000; so far this season fans are paying over $300 per takeaway and we’re ahead of last season’s pace.
We’re a legitimate charity; payments to the Ball Burglar are tax deductible. We’re all volunteers; none of us makes any money on this.
Oh, and we wear burglar masks at the Stadium. Why do we wear masks? To encourage the Bills to take the ball from the other team.
But the Ball Burglar is more than another charity. It’s a movement. The point of the Ball Burglar is get thousands of fans to pay a buck a ball, so that every time the Bills get a takeaway, it will mean thousands of dollars to help kids. The point of the Ball Burglar is to get thousands of fans, not just a few loonies, to wear burglar masks in the stadium. When that happens, everyone in the country will see the masks and learn that people in Western New York, and Bills fans in particular, are special. We’re special because this is more than wearing a cheesehead or a hog’s nose, this is Bills fans caring about our team AND helping others. And, when the players know that WE (not McDonalds, not Coca Cola, but WE – ordinary, every day Buffalo Bills fans) are paying thousands of dollars for takeaways, the Bills will get more takeaways. There will be Ball Burglar chants in the Stadium when fans want takeaways, there will be Ball Burglar signs all over, including on the Jumbo-Tron, the Ball Burglar Song will blast from the loudspeakers.
Bills fans say they love being Ball Burglars. Every time the Bills get a takeaway, besides the great joy they already experience, there’s more. They feel pride that they and lots of other Bills fans just ponied up to help sick kids have a better life. It’s hard to imagine being even happier about a Bills takeaway, but it’s true. Try it. You’ll see.
8. I AM worried, but I’m starting to feel better. The Cards looked awfully good against the Cowboys. Warner was outstanding again. The Jags ARE good. The Rams aren’t as bad as everyone thought. And I have a lot of positive thoughts, too. I’m excited about our receivers. It’s not hard to be excited about Lee, of course, and Josh is a stud. What’s new that has me excited is that Hardy came alive, a bit, last week. I noticed that one of the Bills coaches explained that Hardy was never asked to read coverages in college. All he did was hear the play call, run the route and catch the ball. What we’ve seen from him this season is what reasonable people expected – a little growth each week. So it still will take time. As he gets a feel for what’s going on and learns to make his reads, he’s going to create serious problems when packaged with the other receivers. Roscoe should be back in a week or two. And I’m excited to see Fine. He’s supposed to be a smart route runner. Combine him with our wideouts (all of whom know their jobs except Hardy) and a good decision maker with the ball, and I think we’re going to see the passing game come alive.
9. I’m excited about the continuing development of the Bills. We are seeing AT LEAST what I thought we would see this season: a collection of good young players learning the game and learning to play together. It’s a serious team, and every opponent knows it. It’s a team that will be even better next season, after one more year of quality draft picks and a free agent pick up or two. There is a masterful building process underway, and the Bills are approaching the finishing touches. It’s exciting to watch.
10. What I really like about this team is that it’s full of guys who seem to be genuinely nice guys. How can you not like Lee Evans? Upright, supportive team player. How can you not like Trent Edwards? Hardworking, humble. How can you not like Whitner and Stroud and Mitchell and Greer and Walker and Marshawn? It’s a team we can be proud of, and they can play, too.
Okay, it’s time to start preparing for the Chargers. It’s time for this team to show it belongs on the big stage. It’s time for this team to say to me that there’s no need to worry.
Don’t forget – www.Ballburglar.com. It’ll only take a minute. Thanks.