Some leftover observations from the broadcast booth after Sunday's heartbreaking two point loss to the Patriots:
--Some Bills fans are feeling good about a two point loss to New England, but that's not a sentiment shared by those in the locker room. I asked Kyle Williams about the close loss and if that makes it a bit easier to go down, after the franchise has had so many problems with the Patriots in recent years.
"No," he answered quickly. "This year started in March, and you go through a lot to get ready to play. Just because y'all said we're going to get beat by 50 and we get beat by three, that doesn't make me feel any better. I'm here to win. I've been around a long time. I just want to freakin' win. We gotta find a way to make the plays at the end of the game. "
--The two point loss magnifies the one or two plays that would have made a difference in the outcome. And when the Bills have ten penalties enforced against them, you've got to wonder how things might have been different with half that many.
Some examples of critical Buffalo penalties:
-The 15-yard face mask call on Arthur Moats midway through the first quarter on punt coverage. The penalty gave New England a drive start at the 50-yard line. They only had to go 20-yards to get into position for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
-Later in the second quarter, Cordy Glenn picked up a ten yard penalty for illegal use of hands. It wiped out a 15-yard pass over the middle from EJ Manuel to Robert Woods. Glenn's penalty made it 1st –and-20, and three plays later the Bills had to punt.
-In the third quarter, on third and one, Kraig Urbik picked up an illegal use of hands penalty that cancelled a 15-yard first down pass form Manuel to Fred Jackson. The next play, 3rd-and-11, resulted in an incomplete pass and the Bills were forced to punt.
After reviewing the game video Monday, Head Coach Doug Marrone talked about the opportunities his team lost due to penalties.
"You have two penalties that negate about 55 yards of offense in critical situations where you're going to get the ball on the other team's side of the 50," he said.
-While we're talking about penalties and officiating, did anyone else get tired of all the replay reviews conducted by referee Walt Anderson? I understand that all scoring plays and turnovers are now subject to replay review, but that doesn't mean the on-field official has to go under the hood to take a look. The replay official upstairs in the press box (Mike Wimmer in Sunday's game) has the authority to take a look at the scoring play or turnover and decide himself whether to initiate a review by the on-field referee. Some of Sunday's turnovers and scoring plays were not even close to being overturned, and there was no need for Anderson to go under the hood for a second look.
-Longtime Bills fans had to reflect on EJ Manuel's first NFL start and the obvious comparisons to Jim Kelly's first start in 1986. Both QBs began their Bills career on a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon, in the season opener. Both QBs battled a division rival right down to the wire. Kelly threw three touchdown passes and saw the Bills lead 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter, only to have the Jets score late to win it, 28-24. Manuel's Bills team had a one-point 4th quarter lead that got away to the Patriots.
-In all, it was a very strong debut for Manuel, Buffalo's first round draft pick. "I thought he was pretty phenomenal," veteran Tight End Scott Chandler told reporters Monday. "Protected the ball, threw the ball well."
Manuel's best throw was the 18-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson in the third quarter, when he lofted it over a couple of defensive backs right into Stevie's arm. It was a throw that had Johnson in awe 24-hours later.
"The pass was unbelievable," Stevie told me Monday afternoon. "I went back and I told him, he's going to be the difference in this team. After that pass, I went back and told him again, 'Bro, believe it—you're going to be the difference.' The placement was perfect. It was perfect. That's pretty much what we have to do. He called that on his own; he called that play on his own. I let him know he got the keys to the car—let's roll."