After four wins in a row, Rex Ryan’s employment status had been taken off life support in Buffalo and was -- almost -- good as new.
But a Sunday toe-stub in Miami in which Buffalo suffered a 28-25 loss to the Dolphins set the Bills back a bit. Now, instead of hosting the Patriots this Sunday with a chance to secure a season sweep and move into a first-place tie in the AFC East, Buffalo’s back there at 4-3 just trying to get close.
“Sure we have to learn from things, there’s no question about it, but the more we dwell on (the loss to Miami), it doesn’t help us. We’ve got a bigger task in front of us,” said Ryan.
There is a myriad of differences between Ryan and Bill Belichick but one of the starkest is Ryan’s inability to treat ‘em all the same.
While Belichick will acknowledge that some games carry more import than others -- division games, conference games, etc -- he’s not going to allow his team to poke its head up and look down the road at what’s coming next.
Ryan lets it all hang right out there.
“I don’t know how much more important it could be than this one,” Ryan said when asked about Sunday’s matchup with the 6-1 Pats. “I mean, I could lie to you and say that it’s not important, but yeah, this is a critical game for us. There’s no doubt about it. Does it break your season if you lose? I hope I don’t have to worry about that. We’ve got to find a way to win this game.”
The Bills reveled modestly after their 16-0 win at Foxboro when Jacoby Brissett scuffled in the final week of Tom Brady’s suspension. The gloating was mild. Ryan acknowledged plainly that shutting out the Patriots without Brady wasn’t really shutting out the Patriots.
But there’s no question that game at the start of this month was one the Bills approached with a helluva lot more swagger than normal. The “Where’s your big brother now?” vibe of the pregame scuffle in which the Bills jostled rookies Brissett and Malcolm Mitchell as the two players took the same sideline jog Brady and the Patriots quarterbacks have done at Gillette for a decade set the tone.
And then the Bills went out and had their way. Asked about that scuffle, which resulted in fines for some Jets players, Ryan said, “Well, these two teams don’t like each other. There’s no question about that, but I don’t think there was a real fight, you know? A real fight would be outside in the parking lot. You know what I mean? Then you’ve really got something to write about, but that thing was hardly a fight, I think.”
The blanking and the bullying may be talking points in Foxboro this week but they probably won’t rallying cries. Odd as it sounds, the Patriots don’t merely compete against opponents when they play but measure the day’s success on how well they performed relative to perfection. You could see after the 11-point win in Pittsburgh that there was dissatisfaction on both sides of the ball with how things went.
That fact alone will make it an arduous week of practice as much as the reality that the Patriots are playing the team right behind them in the division.
Ryan knows it’s a much different team he’ll face Sunday.
“It’s not about validating ourselves,” he said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win. In regards to who we’re playing, you know, [Brady] looks great. He’s got those two great tight ends -- they’re big. They’ve still got [Julian] Edelman out there. They’ve got everybody they had out there last time, but they’ve got their player back. So we know the challenge in front of us.”