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Opinion: This loss hurts so much because the Bills are “in between”

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What doubts you had are only reinforced

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

This loss hurts. Hurts so much that it even caused this opinion piece to be submitted a day later than usual. Hurts so much that a significant portion of the fan base’s simmer of frustration has started to boil over.

Let us count the ways in which this loss hurts.

It’s personal

The fact that the most potent offensive weapon for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday was none other than Buffalo Bills super-villain Jarvis Landry is a tough pill to swallow. What carries an additional bitter sting is that after his superb opening drive touchdown over Levi Wallace he earned a taunting penalty that cost his team points, but the Bills were unable to make that matter at the end of the game. Oh how sweet it would have been to win a close game over a team who literally lost a point because Jarvis Landry lacks discipline.

Bills Mafia showed up

As rather well-documented, Bills Mafia showed up in Cleveland for this game. Several bars all across downtown Cleveland were hitting capacity and turning Bills fans away for fire hazard reasons. It caught the attention of not only Bills fans living vicariously through the experience on twitter, but of local ride-share drivers and media personalities as well.

Considering Cleveland was 30 degrees cooler than Nashville and isn’t a “destination” city in the same way, Bills Mafia did a hell of a job showing up for their team on a different Lake Erie shore on Sunday. An opportunity for the story of how Bills Mafia took over and made a difference in a road stadium win was lost amid the defeat on Sunday. Considering how much fun was had on Saturday and the way Sunday was supposed to continue too, this loss was a true buzzkill.

It was the Browns

All week long (this podcaster included), there had been warning shots that this game may not be so easy. Las Vegas once again proved quite adept as their 2.5-3 point spread was absolutely on the nose.

Bills fans know intimately well what it’s like to be counted out because of reputation rather than actual ability. Bills fans also know that door swings both ways. Not only does it sting to be discounted as a bad team because of legacy, it also stings to lose to that team regardless of how good they really are or are not; the appearance of losing to a “joke” franchise makes your franchise temporarily absorb that stench as well.

The 2019 Browns went from preseason darling to midseason punchline because of their 2-6 start despite a deluge of offensive talent. “How predictable,” the prognosticators have been cackling, “that the Browns could find a way to even screw this talented roster up.”

The Bills, on the other hand, have done well under the Sean McDermott era to buck the notion that this is the “same old Bills.” Well, losing a game to a team with the ratty image of the Cleveland Browns feels like a prominent stain that isn’t going to come out in just one wash cycle.

The game reinforces whatever doubts you already had

Did you believe before this game that Brian Daboll was the problem? Did you believe before this game that Sean McDermott was too conservative? Did you believe before this game that Josh Allen wasn’t the guy? Did you believe before this game that the defense was a poser? Did you believe before this game that Levi Wallace wasn’t the answer at CB2? Did you believe before this game that the Bills desperately need a dominant WR? Did you believe before this game that this team wasn’t for real?

Well, bad news everyone. This game isn’t going to do anything other than give every fear you have the ability to dig its heels in. Nearly every single complaint or concern that fans or analysts alike have rudely shouted or kindly suggested the past two months was given credence on Sunday.

Don’t be mistaken, alternative evidence for each of those complaints was present in this loss as well; but losses typically don’t have the habit of proving anyone wrong in a good way.

The inbetween

We’ve been around and around that this team wasn’t as good as their 6-2 record and some will contest they aren’t as good as their 6-3 record either. No matter your stance on that, here’s what we are all dealing with: We don’t know how near or far away this team is from what we all want them to be. That uncertainty of oscillating between thinking we’re close or we’re not is incredibly uncomfortable.

The only things that soothe the discomfort are the good cosmetics we get from wins—favorable standings, power rankings, win-loss record, statistics. By the same token, that sword cuts through fans’ spirits like a knife when the cosmetics suffer from losses. Whatever confidence that had been cobbled together instantly loses its adhesive and begins to topple if not disintegrate entirely.

The Bills have seven weeks to swing back and forth, hopefully more decisively than they have thus far. Don’t be surprised to see this loss influence opinions perhaps the entire rest of the way.

You can follow me on Twitter @NickBat and look for episodes of “The Nick & Nolan Show” podcast on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network.