As Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers once said to calm the nerves on Green Bay fans: “R-E-L-A-X”.
I’m not angry.
I wasn’t angry when DeAndre Hopkins caught the touchdown pass to win Sunday’s game for the Arizona Cardinals. I wasn’t angry the rest of the night as the highlight was played endlessly on ESPN and NBC. I wasn’t angry Monday morning when they showed a thousand different angles of the play on SportsCenter.
There are a number of reasons as to why and I’ll explain them to you in no particular order.
In terms of the big picture, the Buffalo Bills are still 7-3, atop the AFC East, the third seed in the AFC and control their own destiny, as far as a third playoff berth in four years and a division title for the first time since 1995.
Arizona is a good team. In fact, the Cardinals now lead, what many people will say is, the best division in the National Football League this season.
As opposed to the previous week against the Seattle Seahawks in Orchard Park, the Bills did not play a great game. The offense went into a deep freeze for much of the second half. The Bills run game, at least rushers not named Josh Allen, produced next to nothing. There were some ill-timed and ill-advised penalties. The defense was shredded by the Cardinals’ run game and the punter had a 12-yard punt, giving Arizona a drive start at the Bills’ 30-yard line.
Despite all of that, the Bills put together, what appeared to be, a game-winning touchdown drive culminating with a great catch by Stefon Diggs on a nicely thrown 21-yard pass from Allen with 34 seconds remaining.
It would have been a heck of a win and made everyone feel great at the bye week.
Perhaps you were angry about that final play, or the Bills defensive approach on that last Cardinals drive. I don’t have a bone to pick there either.
The Bills were playing to prevent a touchdown, not a field goal. They were going to stay back, give up underneath passes, try to keep the plays in bounds and make Arizona burn their remaining timeouts. They did all of that leaving, the Cardinals at the Bills’ 43-yard line with no timeouts and only 11 seconds to play.
The Cardinals needed a miracle, and they got it.
The Bills did everything right on that final play, except break up the pass. They pressured Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and almost got a sack from Mario Addison. They flushed Murray to his left so he’d have to turn and set himself for a throw to the end zone. They put multiple defenders on the Cardinals’ best target. Not only that, but the Bills had their three best players in the secondary on or near Hopkins.
What are you going to do?
Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due. Murray made a great throw, and Hopkins made a fantastic high-point catch in traffic. As Hopkins said after the game, the Bills defended the play well, but he made a better catch.
According to the NFL’s Next Gen stats, there was a 16% probability of a catch on that play. There is a reason why its called a “Hail Mary”. There hadn’t been a game-winning Hail Mary pass like that in the NFL since 2015.
Unfortunately, the odds went against the Bills in this one.
The Bills were oh-so close from sweeping the Cardinals, Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams, all of whom are 6-3 in that super competitive NFC West.
If it makes you feel better, the Bills are now 4-2 against teams that are currently in a playoff spot. They have wins over the Rams, Seahawks, Las Vegas Raider and Miami Dolphins, who are a combined 24-12. They have losses to the Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs (8-1).
Don’t let this ruin your bye week as a fan.