This surpassingly unique NFL season is about to commence amid this crazy year. 2020 verily, verily. The Bills open at home against the Jersey Jets in front of zero fans due to the COVID pandemic. Buffalo opened last season against the same team, beating the Jets, except it was in New Jersey. A very rare scenario had the Bills defeating the Jersey Giants in the same stadium a week later.
The 2018 season opener against Baltimore is remembered for Nate Peterman repeating his trending atrocious performance from the previous season. It was a blowout loss for our beloved Bills. That landed Josh Allen in the game in week one as a rookie who was supposedly penciled in to watch and learn from the bench for his rookie season. How that could have possibly been the plan without having a proven starter to be the mentor is beyond me. Injuries are a huge issue in the NFL. Peterman was unproven at anything except being the worst quarterback in history to start a game the prior season. One would think that if Mr.Clean and Mr. Beane really wanted Josh Allen to sit for a year, he would have been the third-string quarterback. With Allen as the number two guy, a young Brett Favre, who never missed games surely would have been needed. He would not miss time due to injuries and certainly would not be benched in favor of Allen. Peterman was not proven to be durable and certainly had no success playing in the NFL.
2017 had the Bills winning the opening game. It was against the Jets. Imagine that.
The team that calls Orchard Park home has played some memorable season openers both in the south towns and on the road.
One recent highlight was the opener in the Windy City in 2014. I had the opportunity to attend. The underdog, Doug Marone, coached the visiting team from Western New York and upset Jay Cutler and “Da Bears”. Keep in mind that Buffalo pulled off the win with none other than former first-round draft pick, E.J. Manuel, behind center.
A favorite home opener I attended with great interest was in the year 2000. It was the rematch against the Titans from the Music City Miracle playoff loss several months earlier. I will not put anyone through the anxiety of walking down memory lane of the home-run throwback debacle. I will go on record saying it was a very good feeling seeing Wade Phillips’ Bills pull off the victory at the “Ralph”. Payback? Retribution? Vengeance? Redemption? Atonement?
None of the above. It was a nice win to start the season. By no means did the win remotely soften the blow of the ridiculous playoff loss which would linger on as the last playoff appearance before the Great Playoff Drought. When the Bills beat the Cowboys with Todd Collins calling the signals, it certainly was a feel-good victory. Do not think for a moment it avenges two SuperBowl losses at the hands of “Americas Team”. That team is Dallas for those that may reference the Bills with a touch of Chris Berman who tried changing that title’s ownership to the Bills. It never really picked up momentum around the league.
I enjoyed watching Drew Bledsoe and the Bills dismantle Tom Brady and the Patriots 31-0 in the 2003 opening contest. Well, as always, the Pats bounced back and put the same beating on the Bills later that season with the same score of 31-0. That topped off a 14 -2 season for the Boston dynasty as they proceeded to win another Super Bowl.
How about the opening game in 1980? The Bills defeated the Miami Dolphins for the first time in a decade. So, week one of that season, Bills fans rushed the field and the goalposts came down. That is some drama and celebrating for week #1. Ralph Wilson was actually alright with this kind of behavior as it was a decade of losing every game to their archrival, the Dolphins. Call him an enabler if you choose. His endorsement aided this act a tradition for huge wins in the Queen City. With all of the big game wins from 1988 through 1999, eventually, police on horseback surrounded the field towards the end of huge impact games in Orchard Park attempting to prevent fans from rushing the field.
We could go on all day with opening week stories and classics. There is nothing quite like a tailgate before a Bills home opener in Orchard Park. It makes all of the better if the sun is shining and the temperature is still in the 80s. It makes it a lifelong memory being a fan there when they win.
No fans will have that story to tell this year. 40 degrees or 80 degrees. Sunshine or rain. Win or lose. No fans in the stands.
Things we know about the Buffalo Bills this week:
The team held quarterback Jake Fromm out of practice due to a previously scheduled practice system in place allowing him the opportunity to socially distance in case Josh Allen or Matt Barkley tests positive for COVID-19.
Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, Dion Dawkins, Jerry Hughes, Reid Ferguson, Andre Roberts, and Jordan Poyer will be the captains heading into this long-awaited season.
The Buffalo Bills have released fullback Patrick DiMarco on an injury settlement. The move ends his season due to a neck injury.