The days leading up to the game, Terrell Owens called it “The Battle of the Worst”. The 1-8 Buffalo Bills traveled to the 2-7 Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11 for the “Who Cares? Bowl”. Two perennial losers facing off in an epic battle mid-season with no chance of playoff ramifications? Sign me up!
For months, we had to hear everyone around the league peg our team as the worst of the worst. Even after close and overtime losses to eventual playoff teams, we were the unanimous choice to hold the #1 draft pick in 2011. Barely beating the Lions the week before did nothing to curb the discussion in our favor, and no one except Bills fans were defending their team, with nothing other than “we are NOT the worst” as our argument. We just knew.
But what nobody in the NFL cared about outside of Cincinnati and Buffalo, was a game that showed what the rag-tag group of nobodies we call the 2010 Buffalo Bills could do, even after getting their faces rubbed in the dirt for the first 30 minutes. I won’t rehash the first half, but needless to say it was ugly. Two Interceptions, one a pick-six, and a home referee advantage that handed the Bengals an extra 3 points as time had expired, let to a 31-14 deficit entering the second half.
What happened next was a team that looked like they were sick of hearing it. They were mad, and they were going to prove to everyone that they belonged, starting with Steve Johnson. He became a star by catching his first of three TDs and flashing his “Why So Serious?” to the world. Drayton Florence snagged a ball off the ground and returned it for a TD. Fred Jackson ran for 116 yards. Even undrafted rookie Donald Jones was a factor in this game, snagging 5 catches for 70 yards and a TD. Fitz with a 107.0 QB rating.
But for me, the best moment was when Carson Palmer was benched in the 4th quarter after his team completely imploded. Ladies and gentlemen, we had found a team that was worse off than the Buffalo Bills. And that’s not an easy task.
While the win was meaningless in the grand scheme of things, it was nice to see things go our way for once. Overtime losses against the Ravens and Chiefs had broken a lot of spirits, as would the following week’s overtime loss to the Steelers. But for a few hours, or days, after this win, I know that I was walking on air. It was the first glimpse of what a low-talent team could do with guts and determination that tops any other team in the league.
The Bengals haven’t beaten the Bills in 22 years, and 10 consecutive games. I’ve said it before…with the Bills, it’s about the little things.