I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine about the Buffalo Bills' 4-12 season, and was asked in the flow of that conversation what I believed were the five single moments that best defined the Bills' 2010 campaign.
After thinking about it for maybe ten seconds, I told that friend that I'd get back to him on-blog. Hence this series, in which we look at five pivotal, memorable moments from the 2010 season.
We'll start in Week 13, when the Bills traveled to Minneapolis to take on a highly disappointing Minnesota Vikings team. The play referred to in this headline, and my No. 5 moment of the season, happened with just over a minute gone in regulation, on Minnesota's first possession. This is how the moment reads in the NFL.com play-by-play:
3-5-MIN 40 (13:42) (Shotgun) 4-B.Favre pass short right intended for 85-G.Camarillo INTERCEPTED by 29-D.Florence [52-A.Moats] at MIN 45. 29-D.Florence to MIN 45 for no gain (72-C.DeGeare). MIN-4-B.Favre was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.
The words don't do it justice, and the diminished impact of the play, to me, perfectly encapsulates what the 2010 Buffalo Bills were all about.
Buffalo was on the upswing heading into that contest against Minnesota. Yes, they were fresh off of a devastating overtime loss at Ralph Wilson Stadium to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they'd won two games prior to that, and had a lot of NFL experts believing that Chan Gailey had the team going in the right direction. People openly wondered how a young team with very little to play for would respond to a loss like that. When Arthur Moats lit up Brett Favre, it appeared that they'd keep some of their momentum going.
Just like that, the Bills were in business against a beatable team in a very tough environment.
Without getting into detail - it was tough enough to experience once - the Bills were blown out of the water by Tarvaris Jackson and the Vikings, 38-14, in an embarrassing loss that the team never really recovered from. That loss was a precursor to the team's even-more embarrassing final two games of the season, and their overall performance in the game diminished the impact of a very good play by a promising rookie.
But we're talking about Brett Favre here, and when he's involved, the story transcends the boundaries of a typical football game between two teams with losing records.
In the aftermath of the hit, Moats became something of a cult hero not just in Buffalo, but to NFL fans that have grown to despise the circus surrounding Favre over the years. "Don't Cross The Moats" became a hot Twitter meme, and still remains so to some degree this day. The hit prevented Favre from playing in Minnesota's next game, ending his NFL record consecutive games played streak, and Moats' popularity swelled - so much so that his Bills teammates began calling him "Legend Killer".
Two weeks after the hit, however, Favre was making a surprise start in a night game against Chicago, and it was an injury sustained in that loss that officially brought his career to a close. (We think.)
So, to recap: the Bills look like they're about to rebound from a devastating loss by making a big play early, but ultimately play like they lost in devastating fashion the week before. A big play from a rookie is a blip on the radar in a horrific performance by one of the league's worst teams. Any notoriety Moats gained by hitting Favre went out the window when the Bears brought his career to a close. On pretty much every level, the Bills were simply getting their fifteen minutes of seasonal fame in this stretch - and that, more than many moments this year, is a microcosm of what the 2010 Bills were all about.
None of that, by the way, should diminish how awesome that Moats' hit on Favre was. Arthur Moats is the man.