ORCHARD PARK - Seems like forever ago, doesn't it, since people Bill-lieved in Fitz-Magic, Steady Freddy, Stevie Wonder and the Senator and thought this cast of likeable overachievers was about to end the franchise's playoff famine?
In reality, forever was only five weeks ago.
Since that time these Bills have been branded counterfeit.
Since that time a fantastical 5-2 start has devolved into a 5-7 reality.
With Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans in a contest that was one of the most blas six-point games you'll ever witness, Buffalo has all but mathematically assured itself of a 12th consecutive year without the playoffs.
After a tease reminiscent of that torrid start in 2008, the Bills have sunk back into the abyss.
Another football December in western New York has been rendered irrelevant.
Those of you who didn't see the game because it was blacked out - only 56,463 tickets were sold - consider yourself fortunate, because for the most part this was more of the same.
Yeah, there were some positives.
C.J. Spiller showed the burst we hadn't seen since he was a Clemson All-American, rushing for a career-high 83 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown dash that was restored by a replay official and a 41-yard touchdown burst that was nullified by a phantom holding call.
Stevie Johnson put a lid on his touchdown celebration histrionics and actually handed the football to an official after his two-yard scoring reception with just under three minutes remaining.
Linebacker Nick Barnett, a true gamer, had a sack and two other pull-downs for losses among his 11 tackles.
Brad Smith continued to be a solid receiver, catching seven passes for 72 yards, giving him 11 receptions for 149 yards the past two games.
And it was a balmy 57 degrees at the Ralph for a December game, which is pretty much unheard of in this wintry wonderland not far from the shores of Lake Erie.
But despite the closeness of the score - the Bills actually had the ball and a final shot at the win with 62 seconds remaining - the status woe continued.
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 29-of-46 passes for 288 yards and one score, but he was off target on numerous occasions, and continues to make one wonder how much better the Bills receivers might be if they had a quarterback who could consistently hit them in stride. Fitz's first series was one of the most bizarre I've seen. On first down, his pass was nearly picked off. On second down, his throw was batted down and almost intercepted. And on third down, his pass was intercepted, then dropped. By that point, Bills fans welcomed the sight of Brian Moorman coming on to punt.
It's pretty clear that opponents no longer fear the beard.
The defense couldn't contain Chris Johnson, who continued to find his stride Sunday with 153 yards in 23 carries, which included touchdown sprints from 48 and four yards that gave the Titans an early lead they never relinquished.
And Chan Gailey out-thought himself with his play-calling, mysteriously going away from Spiller in the second half after the second-year running back had torched the Titans for 80 yards on 11 carries in the first half, a total that would have been even more impressive had it not been for that holding call.
"I think the reason we lost was fundamentals,'' Gailey said afterward. "You've got to block, you've got to tackle and you've got to take care of the football."
Twelve games into the season and you're still struggling with fundamentals? Not good.
"That's a reflection on me that they're not getting better,'' the always candid Gailey continued.
It will be interesting to see how this team responds, now that the playoff carrot has all but been removed.
"It's not easy," Gailey said. "You can say you're playing for pride. You can say you're playing for jobs. You can say you're playing for the future, and all those are partially true in