Playing is fun. Losing is not.
In the simplest terms, this is what New England quarterback Michael Bishop has learned after three games with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe. Bishop and his mates are now 0-3 following Saturday's 28-14 loss to Amsterdam.
The starter for Frankfurt, Bishop played the whole game for the first time in Week Three. He had been platooning with Cleveland-allocated Kevin Thompson, but Thompson's struggles cost him playing time. Unfortunately, the increased time for Bishop didn't change Frankfurt's fortunes.
"In the first three games, we beat ourselves," Bishop said. "We had turnovers, special teams didn't play well and the defense was giving up points. You have to expect that to happen sometimes, but we can't let that happen too many times, and right now that is what's bothering us. We're making mistakes when we don't need them, and it's happening in crucial situations."
Through three games, Bishop has decent numbers. He has completed 37-of-73 passes (50.7%) for 557 yards and five touchdowns. His only interception came over the weekend.
Still, it has not been all good for Bishop. He has started fast each week, and then struggled to bring Frankfurt back late in the game. In Week Two, Bishop and the Galaxy jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead against Berlin. Later in the game they led 17-14 briefly in the third quarter. Other than that, Frankfurt has not held a lead. Bishop's numbers in the fourth quarter this season are 14-of-32 for 158 yards, two touchdowns and a fumble.
In the most recent loss, Bishop did well to lead a touchdown drive after an Amsterdam score put the Galaxy down 14-7 in the third quarter. Starting from his own 31-yard line, Bishop orchestrated a six-play, 69-yard drive that was capped with a 31-yard touchdown pass to French-national Marc Soumah that tied the game.
From that point on, Bishop was just 1-of-10 for 7 yards as the Frankfurt offense stalled. Amsterdam scored to go up 21-14, and a costly fumble by Bishop put the game away. Bishop had the ball at his own 30 with less than two minutes to go. He scrambled for 6 yards before getting stripped of the ball. The fumble was recovered for a 35-yard touchdown return by the Admirals.
"We were down by 14 with about 1:15 to go in the game," said Bishop, who was actually trailing by seven at the time. "Everybody is trying to make plays. They blitzed us, but we didn't have it picked up. I avoided the rush and got outside, but I think two guys hit me and I spun. When I spun, another guy came up and just punched the ball. I made a move on the left side of the field and I was trying to get out of bounds to save us some time. When I spun, there was a guy there. He didn't even hit me, but he came in and punched the ball out."
It has been a familiar situation for Bishop. He has rushed for a team-high 153 yards on 17 carries, while the rest of the team has run for 263 yards. Many of his completions have come after he has avoided a heavy defensive rush, forcing him to be a playmaker on the fly.
"I don't feel any pressure," Bishop said. "I've been making plays all my life. So that's not different for me right now. Sometimes in a game maybe I'll wind up doing something because I'm trying to put numbers on the board, but it's just natural for me to go out and play like that. It would help if we had more people out there making plays and more people getting the ball into the end zone. If we could get everybody to contribute, I think we can be a good team."
One player Bishop said has stepped up is fellow Patriot Tony George. George, who starts at safety for the Galaxy, has 12 tackles, two sacks, four passes defensed and an interception. However, Bishop said the rest of the defense, which has allowed 73 points, has to pick it up.
"Tony's doing good, but one guy can't win the game on defense," Bishop said. "We definitely need more guys to step up and make more plays. Tony has been making a lot of plays and getting a lot of tackles. He's got the interception and a couple of sacks, but we need some of the other guys to step up and make plays at that same level."
As far as his own play, Bishop feels he is doing his part.
"I'm just doing the same thing (I've always done)," Bishop said. "This is just an opportunity for me to go out and play football. I feel like I'm doing a good job right now. I'm putting points on the board and I'm moving the ball up and down the field. It just so happens that we are 0-3 right now."
After three weeks in Europe, Bishop does not have a better idea of the plans the Patriots have for him. He has not spoken with anyone from the organization since the 2000 season ended, though he did say the Patriots should not be surprised with his play thus far.
"I haven't talked to anybody in New England," Bishop said. "I don't know what's going on in their minds. I haven't talked to anybody since I left New England for the offseason.
"They knew I was going to go over, make plays and put points on the board. They're not getting anything they didn't expect. It's up to them whether or not they make a decision to keep me, release me, trade me or whatever. I'm going to live with that decision and make the best of that decision, whether or not that is in New England or with another organization."