NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After a bye weekend, the Titans return to action on Sunday at Nissan Stadium against the Buffalo Bills.
The Titans (1-2) will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak, while the Bills (2-2) will be looking to bounce back after a 24-10 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday.
This week I caught up with Vic Carucci, Bills/NFL writer for the Buffalo News. He's also a radio host with SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Carucci on Twitter at @viccarucci.
Wyatt: Hey Vic. The Bills have been a tough team to figure out this season. They've looked really good in wins over Indianapolis and Miami, and not so good in losses to the Patriots and Giants. Which is closer to the real Bills team?
Carucci: I think they are talented enough to be in the conversation for a Wild Card spot, but they are missing some pieces that could get you there, and the biggest is an overall lack of poise. There's still a little bit of a disconnect between the systems of head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman and their players. The coaches still don't know these guys well enough yet to implement game plans that suit them. I think they are kind of still feeling their way, especially with Rex, who in two out of the four games has gone against his nature and his signature style of playing defense, which is blitzing. They sat back in coverage against Tom Brady and he picked them apart for 466 yards and three touchdowns and they did the same thing against Eli Manning and he had three touchdowns, too. And Roman doesn't quite know yet what he has in a first-time starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor because he is not giving him a tremendous license to make a lot of plays with his arm. He sort of has him in that in between era of being a runner and a thrower. So the Bills have some things to get sorted out.
Wyatt: It was an odd offseason in Buffalo. Doug Marrone abruptly stepped down as head coach, and Rex Ryan stepped in to replace him. From afar, it looks like the fans have embraced Ryan. Is that the case?
Carucci: Absolutely. The enthusiasm level has been off the charts. Fans have bought in to Rex in a big way. That is reflected in the 60,000-plus season tickets that have been sold and the fact they had to actually put a cap on sales, on tickets. Anybody who wants season tickets, they are buying them for next year, and that has never happened. That didn't even happen in the Super Bowl era for this team. They have sold more tickets after a 15-year playoff drought than they did when they were annually going to the Super Bowl. So that tells you how much, No.1, they believe in ownership with the Pegulas taking over and easing the fears of the team leaving town and No.2, Rex and his larger than life personality. He speaks the language of the fans. He is witty, and he always has something to say and he does the tough talk thing which goes over big in a blue collar town like Buffalo."
Titans Online looks back at the all-time series against the Buffalo Bills. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
Wyatt:** The Bills made a big move this offseason when they traded for former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. But McCoy has dealt with a hamstring injury, and he sat out of Sunday's game against the Giants. What's his status for Sunday's game against the Titans?
Carucci: * I'm doubting (he plays). I think his hamstring issue is lingering and it could keep him out for multiple games. That was reported by FOX, and even though Rex challenged the validity of that report, my own research is telling me that it's possible that it could be a prolonged absence. This is something that's bothered him since training camp. He missed three preseason games and his style of running – he is a darter and it's open field quickness and elusiveness as opposed to power and if that is compromised by a hamstring injury, there is no way he wants to be out there when he can't be himself and he's said that. He's said he won't play until he's 100 percent. Karlos Williams (who is in the concussion protocol) wasn't the factor against the Giants that he was through the first three games, but I think that had a lot to do with (Giants defensive coordinator) Steve Spagnuolo and the (No.1) rushing defense in the league being stout and clogging the middle, because that is where this guy is going to run. He is going to run at you right up the gut. He is a powerful, forward lean runner and he didn't have that room to do what he normally does. He also didn't get as good a blocking as he did in those first games either. But again I think the Giants had something to do with that. But I think Williams is a talented guy who maybe gave this team as a fifth round pick more than they thought they'd get from him as a rookie. But he convinced them to cut Fred Jackson, which makes a heck of a statement.*
Wyatt: The penalties have been a killer for the Bills. They racked up 17 for 135 yards against the Giants, and on the season they've been flagged 47 times for 428 yards. What's going on with all the laundry on the field?
Carucci: It's ridiculous. It's a joke. You cannot be as undisciplined as this team has been and expect to be good, expect to have success. They are out of control in this area. In their minds, it's as much about the officiating being too tight or being overly aggressive around the league and that maybe they're being more victimized by it than other teams, but I think that thinking and that mindset tells you everything you need to know about what is happening with them. If you are going to blame someone other than yourself, then it is only going to perpetuate. And that is what I think is happening. They are not being accountable. I don't sense an accountability and I'm not sure if their coaching is preaching enough accountability in this area.
Wyatt:** It's been a long time since the Music City Miracle. Still, every time the Titans play the Bills it's impossible not to think about the famous play from the 1999 season. How much of a sore subject is the Frank Wycheck-to-Kevin Dyson lateral in Buffalo?
Carucci: I was there that day, and I do remember it distinctly. And I can tell you it definitely still lingers as a sore spot with Bills fans who believe they were screwed. I mean, to hear the extent that some smart engineers and scientists, and the studies that people did to look at the video and concluded that it was absolutely a forward lateral, it just tells you what it did to people in Buffalo. The general fan base just feels like it's just what happens to the Bills – they lose four Super Bowls in a row, and have that field goal missed in the first one by Scott Norwood. With the Sabres losing in the NHL finals to the Dallas Stars the way they did … the sports fans in Buffalo have this feeling that everyone has it in for them and there was an agenda and conspiracy and the Music City Miracle fit that. With the organization and the players, to be honest with you, it has to be noted that there is no one on this team that was a part of that and maybe only some older guys who pay attention are the only ones who are aware of it. So there is no one with the team now that would relate to it. But the fans, there will be fans who watch Sunday's game and think about it. I'm sure it will be in the back of their minds as they watch the game. That was so painful for so many people. If the Bills come down there and win the game, I don't think it will make up for it in their minds at all. Let's put it this way: I don't think Bills fans would take an ounce of satisfaction that they got retribution or anything if they should win the game on Sunday. In the minds of the fans, nothing's going to make that go away.