What did you do when Steve Johnson dropped the game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010?
I have seats in the front row of the upper deck at Ralph Wilson Stadium. I jumped so high and in such an uncontrollable manner that I nearly fell over the guard rail into the lower bowl.
Actually, that may have been been better than landing in front of my seat.
I screamed in elation to my buddy who was still seated to my left, which took my head away from the Jumbrotron.
“He dropped it,” my friend proclaimed in total disbelief.
My world came crashing down. Then, Stevie Johnson’s did. Chances are, your’s did too. Beating the Steelers, in Buffalo, with all those overbearing black and yellow clad fans in the crowd, with the Bills rockin’ the throwback jerseys, would have been the crowning moment of another depressing season in Western New York.
That catch, that win, that entire afternoon would have been a fond moment Bills fans could have re-lived in their minds and on their DVRs for a long time.
But, it wasn’t meant to be.
Or was it a blessing in disguise for the Bills future?
What would not have happened if Johnson caught that touchdown and Buffalo beat Pittsburgh on that fateful Sunday in November of 2010?
The Bills wouldn’t have held the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and Marcell Dareus would likely have been unavailable.
There’s no telling which prospects would have gone to which teams if the Bills didn’t hold the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft, but chances are, Buffalo wouldn’t have had a shot to select Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.
After watching him last year, I’m happy the Bills drafted him—aren’t you?
His size, strength, lateral agility, football intelligence and collegiate experience make him an exquisite NFL interior defensive tackle prospect. He had 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks in a stellar rookie campaign, the majority of which was played without Kyle Williams.
Dareus is a Buffalo kind of guy, a diligent worker who loves the game of football. All signs are pointing to him having a bright future with the Bills.
Which means…the Bills may not have defeated the New England Patriots in Week 3.
For as crippling as the loss to the Steelers was, the win over the Patriots was even more satisfying. A game is not decided by one particular play, but it was the head/shoulder of the 6’3”, 340-pound Dareus that caused the deflection that gracefully fell into the hands of Drayton Florence who then took the gift-wrapped interception to the house to give Buffalo its first lead against New England.
It was a glorious moment forever immortalized by the goosebump-generating Sports Illustrated cover.
The Bills defensive line may not have been enticing enough for free agent Mario Williams.
Sure, the $100 million the Bills offered Mario Williams this March probably had the most profound affect on the stud defensive end’s decision to ultimately sign with Buffalo, but be mindful of the little tidbit of information that came from Kyle Williams and his dinner with Super Mario on the eve of his signing.
This, from ProFootballTalk.com:
“Kyle said he told Mario that if he joins the Bills they’ll have the best defensive line in the NFL, and that Mario seemed to agree with that assessment.”
You’d be surprised at the seemingly minuscule details that can play a major role in a free agent’s choice to join one team or another.
Kyle Williams was a nice bargaining chip for the Bills, but the presence of the youthful and promising Dareus next to him could have been essential to what was a meticulously contemplated decision for Mario.
Also, are the Bills playing a 4-3 this year without Dareus? The defensive alignment was a major factor in Mario’s decision.
Imagine the heartbreak in Buffalo had Williams left without a contract.
Who knows what would have happened to Steve Johnson.
Sure, the confidence that would have undoubtedly come from the catch could have placed Johnson on the fast track to superstardom. But he could have also become too confident. He was already one of the most talked about players in the league, as the Steelers game was the week after his famed three-touchdown performance against the Cincinnati Bengals that featured the “Why So Serious?” T-shirt unveiling.
I love that Johnson embraces Twitter and isn’t afraid to be himself—I really mean that—but don’t you think the abundance of attention could have become overwhelming and simply too much for Johnson? Too much publicity, too fast. The tremendously humbling experience helped Johnson grow as a player and a man.
Heck, who knows how well Stevie would have finished the 2010 season and played in 2011. Yes, a more productive Johnson would have been welcomed, but on two losing teams, would it have mattered? What if it all would have cost Buffalo the financial ability to re-sign Johnson in free agency this year?
There wouldn’t be nearly as much enthusiasm and anticipation heading into the Bills 2012 season.
No Marcell Dareus, no 2011 win over the wicked Patriots and (potentially) no Mario Williams, and you have just another lifeless lead into another Bills season.
Instead, the Bills have all three and, for once, excitement is warranted in Buffalo.