Last week, I wrote at length concerning the Buffalo Bills’ recent inability to win a coin toss. They had come up losers four weeks in a row, dating back to last year’s playoffs. (I neglected to mention they also lost a certain flip of the coin in overtime. But we all remember what happened after that moment.) This past Sunday in Maryland against the Baltimore Ravens, the Bills finally got it right. The flip went their way, and the captains were ready to choose their destiny.
To my surprise, Buffalo put its offense on the field first. I’d like to think that’s because someone important at One Bills Drive read my prior opinion on the matter and convinced those who needed convincing on the subject.
I’m sure that didn’t happen. The Bills have a very smart, dialed-in team, as we know. None of that’s important, and I’m getting away from business at hand. Buffalo finally won the toss, and they were ready to pound the Ravens into submission. Oh, well...
Instead, on Sunday, the team’s seven-game opening-drive touchdown streak ended. If you stop to think about things, most of that streak had been “handed” to them by their opponent—either by way of coin or lack of sound defense. Buffalo finally wins the toss and takes the ball—and their franchise quarterback throws an uncharacteristic interception on the opening drive.
In an instant, gone was any advantage provided by scoring first. In its place was an assured hole, and the proposition of playing defense right out of the tunnel at halftime against one of the game’s most talented quarterbacks. The deficit became large, with the Bills down 20-3 against the Ravens for most of the first half. Everything that could go wrong seemed to be in play, and bounces favored Baltimore.
Then suddenly, something clicked. Allen found his groove, and the offense lit up as it marched down the field to their first touchdown near the end of the second quarter. “The Will of Allen.” “Allen’s World.” “My Quarterback.” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Whatever you want to name what it is about Allen—it’s real.
So, was it a mistake for the Buffalo to elect receiving the opening kickoff? Clearly it wasn’t great that they turned the ball over, but recent history tells the story of a team that didn’t give the ball back before they punched it in the end zone. I believe it was the right move, even accounting for the turnover. When the Bills scored before the half, it left the Ravens with no time to execute the first stanza of a double-dip before halftime—instead choosing to kneel out the final seconds of the half. Even more satisfying was how Buffalo forced Baltimore to punt away their first possession after intermission.
Baltimore’s pair of possessions framing the half totaled eight plays for -1 yard while using just 1:20 of game clock. The perceived advantage a team gets by deferring? Completely wiped away by these Bills, even when spotting them 17 points.
So yes, that TD streak ended, as did the team’s streak of 20 consecutive victories by double-digit margins. Sunday’s game also marked Allen’s first career comeback from a deficit as large as 17 points. In its place was a team that found a way to win when everything was stacked against them, odds and all.
What I’m hearing within these facts and figures is the following: Statement game.
So, my hope is that the next time the Bills win a coin toss, they let their offense take the field first. Just don’t give the football to the defense.