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To Whom It May Concern
Re: The recent Bills slump
From: A concerned Bills Fan
A recent series of events has led me to compose this letter to you, as it seems you may be in need of some outside guidance. I have been a fan and long-time supporter of your organization, dating back a couple decades now, and though I concede that you have more knowledge and experience in the proverbial “Xs” and “Os” of your profession, I do have a few recommendations that might be worth your consideration, and perhaps would improve the results of your weekly efforts.
First, congratulations on the fantastic beginning to this season. 4-0 is nothing to sneeze at, nor is 5-1 following a superb, complete victory over a very fine football team in the San Diego Chargers. In the first six games, and perhaps that game in particular, what I saw as an outside onlooker seemed to be a never-say-die attitude, and a strong desire (and confidence) on every play and on every series and in every quarter. You looked like winners.
The same can not be said of the past two games.
Every team experiences “slumps.” That is the nature of sport. One team wins, and another loses. The difference between the two is minor in detail, but feels much more “major” on the scoreboard and in the standings. Lately, besides poor execution on a handful of plays (which may or may not have impacted the final score of those games) there has been – to me – a significant shift in attitude.
Mind you, I am not talking about work-ethic or effort put forth on the field each play. I am only talking about the mindset, the “aura”… that apparent confidence and swagger that this team had early in the 2008 season that they were not only good enough to win, and that they could win, but that they were going to win. After a sloppy start in Miami (coupled with a tremendous start by their team) your team – the Bills – seemed to be hesitant, tentative, pushing, and … playing not to lose.
Sometimes, in a slump, no matter how hard you try not to lose, you still lose. In hockey, you can generate all the chances you used to have, but they ring off the goal post, or the goalie stands on his head to make a save he wouldn’t normally make. In baseball, your best hitters grip the bat a little tighter, and end up with stats worse than the guys who are usually at the bottom of your stat sheet. In basketball, even for your best player, the hoop can seemingly shrink to one size smaller than the ball itself.
But every team breaks out of a slump. It usually takes one thing going your way. I honestly thought it might be that ill-advised pass by Brett Favre yesterday. After so many things not going your way, I thought that might turn it around. But, giving credit to them, they put together a drive that finished off the game.
Slumps are very difficult to work yourself out of. Often, that makes it worse. In playing to break out of the slump (read: to not lose) your game gets tighter, your attitude shifts to a negative rather than a confident, positive swagger… and in tightening up, you lose.
This week, please remember that you are basically the same team that started this season. Every team deals with injuries, bad calls (both by your staff and the officiating crew) and other “breaks” that eventually balance out. But you can only control yourself. And mainly, you can only control your attitude. That attitude needs to be shifted back to the quiet confidence that you can – and will – win the game.
We’re back to one game at a time (not three division games, not five crucial conference games, just the game in front of you). There is a big game in six days and you all know you can win it. At least, you used to know that.
This week, work on fundamentals to be sure. Work hard in practice and work to correct mistakes from the past two games. Come up with a great game plan that uses your strengths and exploits their weaknesses. Those things all must be done. But most of all, as a team, remember that you can – and will – win the game when you take the field.
Next chance, 1:00pm on Sunday, November 9th.