View from Buffalo: Receiver must forget OT drop
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Three plays after the drop, as the Bills prepared to punt the ball back to the Steelers in overtime, Stevie Johnson walked dejectedly to the sideline, took off his helmet and sat down at the far right end of the bench.
Johnson turned sideways, his legs dangling off the end of the bench, and stared at the video screen above the far end zone, where he had let the game slip through his hands moments before. He remained that way until the end, unwilling to look out at the real action unfolding on the field.
Just once, Johnson shifted to his right and toward the field, where the Steelers were moving away from him, toward a winning score. He quickly turned his gaze back toward the video board, as if hoping this surreal scene might reverse itself, and he could run back out and have the play back.
But there were no do-overs. After an excruciating, seven-minute drive, Shaun Suisham booted a 41-yard field goal, giving the Steelers a 19-16 win and sending the Bills to their third overtime loss of the season.
Johnson walked to the wall behind the bench, as if looking for a place to hide. Then he walked straight to the tunnel, without stopping to shake hands with the Steelers. He peeled off his red gloves and tossed them aside. He ripped the tape off his hands. Johnson went into the locker room and wept at his locker.
Johnson couldn't let it go. He told the Bills' PR staff that he wanted to go to the interview room. It was a good thing that he wanted to face the music. He said he was mainly devastated for his teammates. But he also wallowed in self-pity.
"How would you feel?" Johnson said. "You go through that whole game knowing you've got a big team like the Pittsburgh Steelers and you've got this kid coming up in the NFL making plays and all of a sudden when the biggest play needs to be made, you don't make it ... I'll never get over it. Ever."
A year ago, Johnson couldn't get on the field. In a matter of weeks, he's gone from a nobody to a national star to a goat.
Johnson dropped five passes. If he had caught the bomb in OT, it would have given the Bills their biggest win in years. Ryan Fitzpatrick would have gone over 300 yards and had fans clamoring for a statue. But Johnson dropped it. Some perspective is in order here. Luckily, Andre Reed was in the locker room to provide it.
"You're going to drop a few," said Reed, who learned he's again a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame. "The great players drop them. Rice dropped them. Sharpe dropped them. Brown dropped them. Carter dropped them. We all dropped 'em. We're not perfect, man.
"The irony is that it came so fast for him," Reed said. "It's hard to get to that level. He's got to let it go. It's hard to let it go. Believe me!"
You want to talk about getting over failure? Reed and his buddies know a thing or two about it. Try losing four consecutive Super Bowls, Stevie. You think the Bills had to let go of a few personal disappointments along the way?
"Yeah, but you know what?" Reed said. "We came back the next year."
At 0-5, these Bills were the laughingstock of the NFL. They didn't feel sorry for themselves. They got better. No one is too excited about playing them now. They're 2-9. It's not as if Johnson's drop cost them a playoff spot.
It's not what happens to them, it's how they come back from it. That's what keeps Bills fans pulling for this bunch.
No one expects Johnson to forget the drop. But if he wants to be a star, he needs to get over it. He can start by getting over himself.
First Published November 29, 2010 12:00 am