The Buffalo Bills shouldn’t have poked the bear also known as Tom Brady.
Fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium chanted "We Want Brady" last Sunday as their Buffalo Bills dominated Indianapolis in a season-opening win. This created a pregame atmosphere in Western New York usually reserved for the playoffs.
Air pumps were moved to the front of the team’s merchandise store to mock the quarterback’s involvement in the Deflategate scandal. A billboard in Buffalo featured a limerick that read, "Mr. Brady is so shady/Deflated balls and acts like a baby."
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Jim Kelly even got into the act during an NFL Network interview when the legendary Bills quarterback proclaimed, "I’m so glad Tom Brady is gonna be here because I don’t want any excuses when we beat the Patriots."
Kelly and the rest of the Bills mafia were reminded again Sunday to be careful what you wish for.
The only thing that could have stopped Brady from shredding Buffalo’s defense was an NFL suspension. Brady didn’t just lead New England to a wild 40-32 victory. He did it in style against one of the NFL’s best defenses with 466 passing yards, the most ever amassed in one game against the Bills in their 66-season history.
As has happened far too frequently for Rex Ryan-coached teams, the public bluster and braggadocio before playing a big-time opponent like New England proved hot air. All the pent-up emotion from a franchise desperately seeking respect and credibility after 15 seasons without a playoff appearance actually proved a negative. A lack of discipline was evident as the Bills committed 10 penalties in the first 2 1/2 quarters, including one on Ryan and the bench for unsportsmanlike conduct during a Patriots drive.
“We were just so pumped up for this game,” Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore said in the locker room afterward. “Sometimes in these games you’ve got to calm down and play your game, take it one play at a time instead of being so hyped up.”
Schematically, even a brilliant defensive mind like Ryan had no answers for New England’s quick passing game led by Julian Edelman (11 catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (7-113-1). The Patriots didn’t even bother trying to mount a running game — New England only logged 15 carries – but still got a major contribution from a back foolishly disrespected by Ryan last week during a news conference. After saying he "can’t even tell you that kid’s name," Ryan should now remember that Dion Lewis generated 138 total yards (98 receiving, 40 rushing) and scored a touchdown.
Inflammatory and boastful comments from Ryan are great for the media and Bills faithful desperate to recapture the glory years of the early 1990s. They also distract from the fact Ryan has now lost eight of his past nine matchups against Brady and the Patriots dating to his days as New York Jets head coach. Ryan is clearly no longer inside New England’s head like when he enjoyed initial success with the Jets in 2009 and 2010.
The Bills deserve credit for showing heart and making a serious comeback after falling behind 37-13. But that doesn’t erase the fact Buffalo was so outclassed while falling into such a giant hole.
Not that Ryan will follow this advice nor was it solicited. But when these teams meet again Nov. 23 in Foxboro, the pre-game message should be a simple one.
Just shut up and play.
Here’s what else went down around the NFL on Sunday:
Tampa Bay 26, New Orleans 19: Jameis Winston made his ailing grandmother proud. Myrtle Winston, who has health issues that limit her ability to travel, was in attendance as Jameis rebounded from his dreadful NFL debut. The rookie quarterback was efficient while throwing for one touchdown and running for another. New Orleans entered as a 10-point favorite, which was the biggest in the NFL for Week 2. The Saints left 0-2 for the third time in the past four seasons with a sixth consecutive home loss inside an environment where the franchise was once dominant. The Saints are no longer enough of an offensive juggernaut to overcome mistakes that included three turnovers, 10 penalties for 115 yards, and a missed field goal and extra point by rookie kicker Zach Hocker.
Carolina 24, Houston 17: Could Cam Newton really be Superman? His crazy somersault into the end-zone on a two-yard touchdown run highlighted a performance in which Newton also threw two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Philly “Don’t Call me Corey” Brown in the fourth quarter. Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett was more like Clark Kent in his first start replacing Brian Hoyer, who was benched during a Week 1 loss to Kansas City. Mallett began the game 8-for-17 passing and threw incompletions on four of his final passes along with an intentional grounding penalty inside Panthers territory, killing Houston’s chances for a game-tying touchdown in the final seconds.
Arizona 48, Chicago 23: If the first two games are an indication, the Cardinals could have two bona fide Comeback Player of the Year frontrunners as well as an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Carson Palmer’s return from reconstructive knee surgery continued with a four-touchdown effort against an overmatched Bears secondary. Three of the quarterback’s scores went to Fitzgerald, which marked a single-game high for his storied 12-year NFL career. Fitzgerald is on an early pace for a far better statistical season than last year’s 63-catch, 784-yard campaign that marked his lowest receiving numbers since his 2004 rookie season. The offensive youth infusion is being provided by running back David Johnson. The 2015 third-round pick has now scored three touchdowns in different ways after his 108-yard kickoff return to open the game and 14-yard run that clinched the win. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is out indefinitely after suffering a hamstring injury while trying to stop one of his interceptions from getting returned for a touchdown. The last time Bears head coach John Fox was paired with backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen came in 2010 when Carolina finished 1-15. Based upon early returns, the Bears could be headed in that direction whether Cutler or Clausen is under center.
Cleveland 28, Tennessee 14: Johnny Manziel can feel Marcus Mariota’s pain. Mariota suffered some of the lumps that Manziel did during his disastrous rookie season. In this case, it was Mariota getting sacked seven times, hit 11 times overall and losing two fumbles. Mariota coming back down to earth after last Sunday’s fantastic debut against Tampa Bay wasn’t a complete shock as young quarterbacks often struggle against the style of 3-4 defense Cleveland deploys. Manziel is far from a finished product himself. Ball security remains an issue as Manziel fumbled twice (his teammates bailed him out with recoveries). Manziel, though, continues to show the same penchant for big plays that led to his college success at Texas A&M. Wide receiver Travis Benjamin snared touchdown catches of 60 and 50 yards in addition to his 78-yard punt return for a third score. Although head coach Mike Pettine was non-committal when asked whether Josh McCown would regain his starting spot once cleared under the NFL’s concussion protocol, the decision to keep Manziel with the first-team offense should be clearer than ever because of his potential upside and the spark he provides.
Cincinnati 24, San Diego 19: The team that knocks the Bengals (2-0) from the ranks of the undefeated will be the one that can stop their ground game. Neither the Chargers nor Oakland in the season-opener could accomplish that feat. Even when Jeremy Hill was benched Sunday following his second fumble, backup Gio Bernard picked up the slack with 123 rushing yards. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers reached two major milestones. He set the franchise’s all-time touchdown record with his 256th career scoring throw. Plus, Rivers’ consecutive completions streak that carried over from the season-opening win over Detroit reached 22, which tied for the third-longest in NFL history. Rivers, though, will most remember the interception he threw in the final minute that secured the Bengals win.
Pittsburgh 43, San Francisco 18: This game encapsulated how quickly a team’s fortunes can change from the season-opener. The Steelers rebounded from their Week 1 loss to New England behind more magic from quarterback Ben Roethilisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Roethisliberger was just a few ticks away from a perfect quarterback rating in a three-touchdown, 369-yard effort. He didn’t throw an interception and wasn’t sacked. The time Roethlisberger enjoyed in the pocket allowed him to find Brown nine times for 195 yards. San Francisco’s offense was equally unimpressive. Colin Kaepernick was sacked five times and running back Carlos Hyde didn’t come close to duplicating his 168-yard outing last Monday against Minnesota. Hyde gained 43 yards on 14 carries before being knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Atlanta 24, New York Giants 20: The Giants were good enough to stake double-digit leads in their first two games and bad enough to lose both. The inability to close continued against Atlanta. New York’s offense went three-and-out late in the fourth quarter, opening the door for the Falcons to pull ahead, and then petered out on its final possession. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones remained on fire with a 13-catch, 135-yard showing that tied the franchise’s single-game record for receptions.
Washington 24, St. Louis 10: Time to put the brakes on the Rams being called an elite defense after the headaches St. Louis gave Seattle in Week 1. While the talent is there for such standing performances like the one against Washington show there’s plenty of room for improvement. The Redskins drummed Washington on the ground with a 182-yard, two-touchdown showing from the combination of Matt Jones and Alfred Morris. That success helped make things easier for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw incompletions on only four of his 27 pass attempts.
Minnesota 26, Detroit 16: Adrian Peterson enjoyed the type of outing the Vikings had hoped when returning from his year-long exodus last Monday against San Francisco. Peterson churned for 134 yards on 29 carries and added a 49-yard reception. The Lions had a stunningly poor rushing attack, especially considering how badly Minnesota was gouged by 49ers running back Carlos Hyde. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford led the way with (ouch) four carries for 20 yards.
Dallas 20, Philadelphia 10: This matchup was as ugly as the fractured left clavicle suffered by Tony Romo that will sideline the Cowboys quarterback indefinitely. Philadelphia’s inability to take advantage — especially with Dallas missing star wide receiver Dez Bryant (foot) and setting a franchise record for penalties (18 for 142 yards) – reflects how out of sorts the Eagles are amid their first 0-2 start since 2007. The problems are especially pronounced offensively. FOX Sports analyst Troy Aikman said the unit had “about as poor a performance that I can ever recall seeing in this league.” The running game once again couldn’t get going with DeMarco Murray held to two yards on 13 carries. Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford also is struggling to get traction with another two-interception game.
Oakland 37, Baltimore 33: Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio had nothing positive to say publicly about his team following last Sunday’s thumping by Cincinnati. There will be plaudits this week after Oakland bounced back with its highest scoring output since Week 15 of the 2010 season. Derek Carr passed for a career-high 351 yards, including the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute that marked Seth Roberts’ first NFL reception. The win ends Oakland’s seven-game September losing streak. Baltimore is now 0-2 for the first time since John Harbaugh became head coach in 2008.
Jacksonville 23, Miami 20: Jacksonville’s string of 10 consecutive September losses dating back to the 2012 season came to an end thanks to a strong defensive finish. With three upcoming road games against Indianapolis, New England and Tampa Bay, the Jaguars needed a win Sunday or would have risked falling into NFL irrelevance again. Miami’s offense is becoming too pass-reliant, which contributed to an offensive line missing left tackle Branden Albert (hamstring) struggling to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins failed to score on their final six possessions when the Jaguars were on the ropes. Thirteen penalties didn’t help matters for Miami, either.