In which we dream up an alternate reality for our favorite football team.
Since Buffalo Bills GM Tom Donahoe hired Mike Mularkey and drafted franchise quarterback J.P. Losman, the Buffalo Bills have entered a third period of dominance, appearing in Super Bowl XLIII and last February in XLVI.
In total, the Bills have appeared in six Super Bowls, which ties them for second along with New England and Pittsburgh underneath Dallas. So the Bills are in pretty heady company when it comes down to their legacy of winning. Of course, until they win the big one, their legacy for general fans remains one of the loser - or, at least, the team that can't close the deal.
I'd argue for a third possible legacy for the Bills, one of losing creatively, one of making an art out of losing altogether. It's like a Greek tragedy, where you know by the first lines of the play that the characters are doomed to their paltry fates, you know beforehand that the Bills will lose, it's just matter of when and how. The 'how' is where the Bills are unparalleled artists.
In Super Bowl XLIII, the Bills were a five-point favorite over the Arizona Cardinals. Losman led the Bills to a stirring come-from-behind victory in Pittsburgh for the AFC crown, converting three third-and-longs and a six-yard fourth down scramble on the final drive. Defensively, Tim Anderson, Kyle Williams, Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay controlled the line of scrimmage all day.
Against the Cardinals' Kurt Warner and his vaunted passing attack, the Bills were expected to counter with All-Pro safety Donte Whitner - who in a matchup of the best was a far bigger difference-maker than Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu in the AFC title game - and with cornerbacks Nate Clements and Terrence McGee in their prime.
The Bills, along with the oddsmakers in Vegas, expected to have their best advantage with the ball in their possession, with the three-pronged running attack of Willis McGahee, Fred Jackson, and the fullback/h-back/tight end hybrid standout, Jason Peters, and receivers Lee Evans and Wes Welker.
But on the Bills' third play of the game, Peters missed an assignment on a safety blitz and allowed safety Adrian Wilson an open shot to the backside Losman, causing Losman to lose the ball deep in their own terriotry and knocking him out of the game. Kelly Holcomb performed admirably in relief, but the Bills never recovered and lost by ten points.
On the Bills' latest Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, I fear the wounds might still be too fresh for Bills fans who feel they may never know what a catch is or isn't. With the Bills trailing by four points in the final seconds of the game, Lee Evans appeared to catch a touchdown ball near the pylon. He appeared to catch the ball and break the plane of the goalline with the ball before inexplicably dropping it about a yard deep into the endzone.
Upon review, the referee, Ed Hochuli, ruled that Evans never had possession of the ball and the pass was therefore incomplete.
These Bills are officially on the clock. The team's most important cog, Losman, isn't getting any younger, and neither are the rest of the Bills' offensive core, like McGahee, Evans, and left tackle Mike Williams.
After landing several talented young players in the last three drafts, however - a group consisting (in the order they were picked) of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Navorro Bowman, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, wide receiver Antonio Brown, linebacker Brooks Reed, wide receiver Torrey Smith, defensive end Sam Acho, massive athlete (and believed eventual Peters successor) Michael Jasper, and a slew of strong incoming rookies headlined by running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Rueben Randle, among others - most league experts believed that not only are the Bills poised to perennially contend for a championship, but that this year could finally be "their" year.