Some observations from a rare free Sunday to take full advantage of the NFL Ticket:
— BUT BEFORE addressing those visuals, how about a quick trip back to Thursday night in Cleveland and the Bills’ 37-24 loss to the Browns that opened up my yesterday.
One key reason for Buffalo’s defeat was the horrendous effort of punter Shawn Powell, whose erratic boots led to a franchise-record 179 return yards by the Browns’ Travis Benjamin who scored on a 79-yard return added a 57-yarder that led directly to a TD and averaged nearly 26 yards on the seven punts he fielded.
Afterward, coach Doug Marrone put the blame for the Bills’ horrendous coverage on the punter.
“It starts at the beginning,” he maintained, “... hang time and direction.”
That sounded ominous and, sure enough, the next morning Powell was an ex-Bill.
And on Sunday, with apologies to The Who, the team’s mantra had become, “Meet the new punter ... same as the old punter.”
Yup, Brian Moorman, who held that job in Buffalo for 11 1/2 years, was re-signed. And, after a stint with Dallas last season, and a near-miss in this year’s training camp for Pittsburgh, there’s no reason to think he won’t out-kick his predecessor.
— MEANWHILE, the Bills’ desperation at quarterback won’t be solved by signing a familiar face.
There’s not much out there ... and you can stop with the Josh Freeman and Tim Tebow chants.
The two names that have come up as having drawn interest from Buffalo are former West Virginia QB Pat White, drafted in 2009 by Miami and cut the following year, then given a shot by Washington this summer with the uncertainty about RGIII. He was waived by the Redskins in September.
Reportedly, the other possibility is former Steelers’ backup Dennis Dixon.
On Thursday night, Marrone indicated if the Bills signed the right veteran, he well might start on Sunday against Cincinnati at “The Ralph.”
But he and his staff were the ones who decided to go with only two quarterbacks ... both rookies.
EJ Manuel, Buffalo’s first-round draft choice, was a no-brainer, but veteran Kevin Kolb went on injured reserve at a point in preseason that the Bills could have signed an experienced QB immediately. Instead, they went with undrafted Jeff Tuel.
He’s been learning the offense since mini-camp and played well in his preseason stints. Against the Browns, Tuel was inserted after Manuel’s knee injury and faced an impossible situation ... coming in cold, in a short-week game, when he got virtually no reps in practice.
Doesn’t it make more sense to let Tuel have a full week of preparation and see how he performs against the Bengals with that benefit, rather than throw in some carpetbagger who got a crash course in Buffalo’s scheme?
— ANYWAY, back to Sunday TV.
He’s won two Super Bowls and though his sideline countenance is that of a man who just bit into a lemon, his credentials as an NFL head coach are well in place.
Good thing, too. If not, Giants’ fans would be calling for Tom Coughlin’s scalp.
After watching bits of New York’s 36-21 loss to the Eagles, it could be argued that after Jacksonville, the Giants are the NFL’s second-worst team ... worse even than Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
As for the Eagles, Michael Vick continued to pile up injuries, this time a pulled hamstring. Given the way back-up Nick Foles played, Philadelphia fans could be forgiven for wondering why he isn’t already the starting QB.
— THE Broncos and Cowboys played a classic ... a 51-48 shootout that was one of the most entertaining games in NFL history. Unless, of course, 12 touchdowns don’t stimulate your interest.
Denver’s Peyton Manning provided even more sleepless night’s for the league’s defensive coordinators and Dallas’ Tony Romo has to wonder how much more he has to do.
Never in pro football archives has a quarterback boasted over 500 passing yards and five TD tosses ... and lost.
— WHILE that fantastic matchup played out, due to habit and courtesy of the Sunday Ticket, during commercials I switched over to the Panthers-Cardinals, game, becoming one of its three dozen viewers nationally.
Watching the Carolina/Arizona mistake-fest, contrasted to what was happening in Dallas, left me wondering if those league lesser lights were playing the same game.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)