You could kind of feel the lug nuts coming loose over the back half of the third quarter and into the fourth. A 24-9 lead for the Bills in Oakland was starting to get away. A touchdown drive for Oakland followed by a three-and-out for the Bills offense and a bad punt. Touchdown Oakland and the lead is down to one. Rinse, repeat on the Bills next possession, including the bad punt if you want it and goodbye lead. A 15-point lead became a six-point deficit just like that. A third straight three-and-out followed and you had to wonder if the Bills defense had a stop in them.
They did, but the Raiders punt landed at the Buffalo 4-yard line. That's when whatever was left of the roof fell in on the Bills. Tyrod Taylor dropped back into his own end zone and was looking for Marquise Goodwin long down the left sideline. Khalil Mack, who had been pretty quiet most of the day, got around Jordan Mills, got a hand on the ball or Taylor's arm, and we had a pop fly interception for the Raiders.
Now I'm not exactly the guy to break down flaws in offensive play design, but single blocking Mack in your own end zone doesn't seem like a great idea. Especially when your fullback is right there to provide the double team on Mack when the ball is snapped. But rather than do that, this play called for Felton to drift out to the right flat as a safety valve. Never mind that the play was going far downfield to the other side. You never know, maybe Felton catching the ball for no gain would've been a desirable outcome. What do I know?
So that's how it turned around. A 24-9 lead turned into 38-24 loss. If you were watching this game with friends and one of them said something about being uneasy when the Bills had their third quarter lead, tip your hat and keep moving. Because it is days like this one over the course of 16 straight non playoff seasons that causes a fan to feel uneasy ahead by 15 points and seemingly in great shape.
Such is living with the longest playoff drought in North American team sports. Wanting the Bills to come through in a game like this is in part about ending the drought, not that a win in Oakland would have cemented that at all. To me, it is also about allowing your fans to actually feel good when things are going well instead of bracing for the inevitable collapse. I despise this existence and often try to fight against it. What happens then is you end up feeling like a chump for actually believing the Bills wouldn't blow it. And nobody likes being a chump.
So here we sit. 6-6, still, perpetually, annoyingly, annually, "In The Hunt". We'll continue to debate the future of the quarterback. Some fans will start to come looking for Rex Ryan. It's the NFL's circle of life in Buffalo. There is still a quarter of the season to go. They could run the table and end up with the most wins since 1999. They could completely unravel and a housecleaning that includes the quarterback being kicked to the curb could really gain some traction. They could, and most likely I'd say, will spilt those four games and finish 8-8.
I'd say anything but the complete collapse brings more talk of continuity, the kicking in of Taylor's contract extension, and a fan base that will be more challenged than ever to figure out when this drought will ever end.