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Stranded in Boston

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  1. I watched that Pittsburgh game at the old Bills fan club at The Fours Bar in Boston, across from the old Boston Garden. The place was absolutely packed with Bills fans; it would violate fire codes nowadays. I was crammed up against the front plate glass window. When Beebe scored one of his touchdowns, we screamed so loud I swear the glass buckled; I thought I was going to end up bleeding on the sidewalk on Canal Street ... good times!
  2. I don't believe in conspiracies or rigged games, and I think the refs are doing the best job they can do as humans observing a very fast, chaotic game. But there is *implicit* bias in sensory perception (it's my line of work -- don't ask!). Lots of experimental evidence suggests that our perceptual interpretations are influenced not only by the objective sensory information entering our brains (visual, auditory, etc.), but also by our *expectation* of what should happen/usually happens. For any experts out there, this falls under the rubric of Bayesian inference, in which the perceptual decision -- the "posterior probability" -- is a computed (according to Bayes' theorem) from incoming information AND a "prior probability" encapsulating bias, expectation, etc. Just like us fans, refs undoubtedly have priors about which teams are "better", "more disciplined", etc., that tip the balance in interpreting virtually identical plays. Unfortunately, the Bills have a reputation of being a mediocre, undisciplined team for some 20 years, which impacts referees' decisions on a moment-by-moment basis. Stephon Gilmore is a good example: you can see how confidently he interferes with receivers now, since he left the Bills for the Pats (I've heard claims that he is flagged as much in NE as he is with the Bills, but to my eye he also engages in much more contact with receivers.) Another example is the Cowboys only getting a sideline warning for spearing Josh on his slide rather than a flag (see the Cowboys' mic'd up highlights), whereas the current Bills would be penalized 100% for that infraction. I also remember the Bills getting away with a lot of calls in the early 90s, when they were usually considered the more "disciplined" team on the field. Implicit bias is a tough problem in refereeing, but what to do about it? I imagine that refs discuss this a lot in training, but it's pretty hard to resist something that's been burned into our brain circuits over eons of evolution! Maybe we'll have real-time machine-vision/AI solutions in the future. I have colleagues working on this now, LOL.
  3. I think we're seeing a bit of generation divide here. To you young guys -- everybody in Bills-land loves Singletary; he could really develop into a special back. But Joe Cribbs was absolute dynamite. To my mind, he was the original dual-threat running back, presaging by a decade the Thurmon Thomas/Marshall Faulk hybrid backs. Cribbs was a shifty-smooth-strong runner with amazing hands and superb route-running skills. If a defense was foolish enough to try to cover him with a linebacker, Cribbs would absolutely kill them. The Bills had a lot of great offensive weapons in the early 80s, but Cribbs was the original "motor". That said, keep it rolling, Devin!! 😀 Quick edit -- lest anybody think I was shortchanging Singletary -- check highlights for his fantastic blitz-pickup block on Josh's TD pass to Cole Beasley last Sunday. Singletary totally stones the full-tilt linebacker to give Josh the clean pocket; a real veteran-looking play there.
  4. What a great game that was! I dimly recalled that OJ was out injured that day, and "Bubby" Braxton carried the load, but OJ apparently did play (thanks for setting that straight, PUNT750). But I remember clear as day the headline of the Buffalo Evening News sports page the next day -- "Bills Dine on Red Birds". 😀
  5. You young guys out there might not realize that we lost 21 games straight to Miami -- the entire 1970s. You know how much you hate NE? That's how we felt about Miami; maybe even worse. We still owe those SOBs bigtime. So as for today, all I can say is ... NO MERCY. 😆
  6. Thanks for the careful write-up, JohnnyG -- but did the Titans really play a THAT much (much) better of a game? I was (ahem) a little older than you at the time, and I remember the game differently. Certainly the numbers don't lie: Notwithstanding the Offside calls, the Bills D completely stifled Tennessee's prolific O that day, holding them to <200 total yards while toying with McNair and limiting star Eddie George to a pedestrian 3.5 yards/carry. Those stats alone negate the "much" better game argument, IMO. But I agree about Rob Johnson; my god, he was terrible -- and terrified. Tennessee had a great pass rush, and Johnson acted like a frozen deer in the headlights. What an amazingly stupid decision to start Johnson over Flutie under those conditions; for sure Flutie would have taken better advantage of Tenn's overly aggressive edge rushers, with his ability to make plays on the run. Also the Bills criminally underused Antowain Smith, who I always thought was underrated. Smith only had 14 carries in that game (at almost 6 yards a pop!), but ripped off some big runs, and got stronger as the game wore on. But in the end the only difference that mattered was that %$#@ forward lateral. Whatever one thinks of that play, the simple truth is this -- if the Bills had been at home, they would have gotten that call!
  7. Hell yeah, Ethan ...The Bills had already dominated Oakland in the '80 regular season, holding them to zero points on offense, IIRC. In that game, Oakland also had no answer for Joe Cribbs, one of the best rookie backs I've ever seen before or since. Throw in WRs Frank Lewis and Jerry Butler and that tough offensive line, and we had a great O to match that stifling D. Good lord ... almost 40 years ago now -- where'd the time go? Now we look forward. For you youngins', I found a Youtube link to that 1980 Bills-Oakland game. Enjoy!
  8. Oh no!! Ben Williams was a key DE in Chuck Knox's innovative 3-4 defensive scheme in the early 80s. Most folks remember the "Bermuda Triangle" from that time, with Fred Smerlas at nose tackle and Jim Haslett & (highly underrated) Shane Nelson at ILB, but Williams and Sherm White were the standout DE bookends to the triangle. Both DEs were tough against the run, great pass rushers and super steady/durable. Adding clever vet Butch Robertson and vicious hitter Lucius Sanford at OLB, and that front seven was just lethal ... I still think Bills would have won the 1980 Super Bowl if Fergy hadn't sprained his ankle.
  9. Hey dma, your comment reminds me to ask you guys something. On that goal line play with John Brown, in real time I could have sworn Brown was down at the 1 or so. He must have been that close, because I also thought he could have reached for the endzone. But then the ball ended up set back to the 2-1/2, for sure at least on the 4th down play. What the happened to the ball placement after Brown's catch? Did his knee touch down further back? Or did the Bills lose yardage on 3rd down? I can't find a replay of that (ill-fated) series. Or maybe I was so desperate for a TD that Brown just seemed closer ...
  10. Dude, you are cherry picking the ONE camera angle that is parallel to Jones' trajectory, making it impossible to judge his velocity. Again, simple physics. All other camera angles show Jones in motion, launching himself. But I am wasting my time with you. Go back to your "50 years" of Pats fandom, LOL.
  11. Total fantasy. There is a still picture showing Allen's image clear (i.e., stationary) just at the point of contact, with Jones' blurred imaged entering from the side. This is simple physics, dude. Jones' image is blurred because he is in motion, launching himself into the side of Allen's helmet. Jones then stood over an injured player celebrating like a moron while other players are frantically waving for a trainer; that alone should have merited an ejection. But like I said, let's hear your opinion when this happens to #12 ... It's coming.
  12. Jones launched himself at Allen's head, period; the rest is your dithering fantasy. Jones then stood there pounding his chest and celebrating over an injured player; f'ing revolting. I've lived in Boston for 34 years, and I know the timbre of Pats fans very well. Had Brady received the same hit with no ejection, you'd be absolutely losing your s*** right now ... But here's a problem you should consider: if the players feels that the refs and league will not protect their QB, then this may lead to retaliation against the other team's QB, as in baseball beanings. And frankly it might be hard to discourage in the case of Bills-Pats, because the Pats have gotten away with some really dirty play against the Bills in recent years (a *one-game* suspension for Gronk's elbow drop on Tre White's neck? Seriously??). Do you want a similar dirty hit, potentially career-ending, against your 42-year old QB? I'm not condoning it, but it is going to happen. So stop excusing dirty play; it's going to end badly.
  13. Ryan, I completely agree about Pats' dirty play (think Gronk on Tre, Wilfork on Losman, etc.). But it's chicken and egg: the Pats may play dirty precisely because they've learned there are few consequences from the referees. The disgusting part is that there are also few consequences from the league, which has time to carefully review plays and avoid potential bias. That is the business side of things, which I am definitely not qualified to address! But I would argue that referees' perceptual biases are super hard to overcome, because that bias is essentially built into our brains.
  14. Wow, Fixxxer, you are dead on. I was also wondering about that holding call (and of course freaking CBS didn't show a replay). But your comment reminded me to watch the o-line carefully on that play, keying on Dawkins (the call was against Dawkins, correct?). It was absolute textbook pass blocking -- hands in tight -- and DE just falls on his face. In what parallel universe could that be construed as holding?? "Preposterous" indeed ... The call was especially galling given how many times Hughes was obviously held yesterday. And now for something a little wonkish ... Look, I think the refs try to do their job in a chaotic environment, and I don't believe in conspiracies, etc. But the referees' decisions all come down to perceptual psychology -- how one interprets what ones sees (it's my line of work -- don't ask!). A school of thought in perceptual psychophysics derives from Bayesian statistics, which holds that our percepts -- for example, a referee's decision about what he just saw (the "posterior probability") -- is a combination of what we actually saw (the visual evidence) combined with our prior expectation ("prior distribution"). Prior expectation is essentially bias -- not in an intentional, conspiratorial sense, but in the implicit perceptual sense. The "prior" in this case is that the refs implicitly expect the "well-coached" teams, like NE, to not commit penalties, while "undisciplined" teams, like the Bills, to commit penalties. Thus a clean pass block is perceived as holding because the edge-rusher fell; a young QB can take a vicious hit to the head without the offender being ejected; an experienced future HOF QB can get away with obvious grounding; or a call for defensive holding can actually be *reversed* (the latter is a perfect example of perceptual bias: there is no way in hell Gilmore would have escaped that same call when he was a Bill). Likewise, I remember the Bills getting away with a lot of calls back in the early 90s when they were considered to be a "disciplined" team. By definition, perceptual bias is unfair, but I'm not sure what one can do about it in refereeing. Maybe we'll replace refs with unbiased machine-vision-based systems in the future!
  15. Mosley is a very good linebacker, but let's not overdo it. First, Mosley WAS on the field for Singletary's first long run, during which he took an initial bad angle, was bullied by a pulling Mitch Morse and got away with a late hit out of bounds (I don't imagine Jerry Hughes would have dodged that!). Also, Mosley had his fair share of fortuitous bounces during the game. His pick-6 was a physics-defying gift -- and on the play he deflected the ball away from John Brown in the end zone, the ball somewhat miraculously hit his outstretched left hand (he never looked back on that play). So sure, Mosley played well, but it's a game of inches. Tre Edmunds had at least as good a game, but the talking heads ignore anybody whose name doesn't appear on the score sheet ...
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