Week 8 has concluded, and the Bills are 6-2 and 4-0 in their division. I’ll take it, but I still await to see a statement game from them where they look like they belong in the conversation with Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Tennessee. Can we call the Bills a “good team”? The record would say so. However, this team allowed a now 0-8 Jets team to hang around. They were 30 seconds away from losing at home to a severely banged up and underachieving 2-5 Patriots team. The offense has been mediocre, and the defense has been comically bad. Up next is Seattle, and that’s terrifying.
Before I dive into the true subject of this blog, I want to talk about my main problem with this defense. The NFL has catered to offenses and scoring. High powered offenses and high scoring games draw ratings; they draw in fantasy football interests and gambling interests. The NFL thrives off this new era of football. So, it’s okay to not expect defenses to mirror the 1985 Bears or 2000 Ravens. The 2017 Jaguars defense was awesome, but that’s not sustainable anymore since that defense was loaded with pro bowlers. However, my problem with this Bills defense is the lack of physicality, toughness, fire, etc.
Last season’s 49ers team had a great defense because they played with energy and passion. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was very energetic on the sideline and constantly firing the team up and having them play aggressive. This season’s Steelers defense plays hard, physical, and energetic. Mike Tomlin is on the sideline fired up and looks like he’s always ready to suit up and lay someone out. The Bills don’t have anyone like this on the roster or coaching staff. McDermott and Frazier are the heads of this defense. This duo is very conservative and calm on the sidelines. Leslie Frazier is a good football coach but his defenses tend to go stale and predictable, which led to his demise and firing from his HC position in Minnesota. I believe this is a major reason for the Bills’ defensive regression this season, especially since they have returned so many starters from previous years.
How can a defense go 8 weeks straight of being physically bullied in the trenches? Where is the drive and passion to “punch someone in the chin?” On the play where Zimmer punches the ball out of Newton’s hands to seal the game, that’s playing with heart. But go back and watch that play again after reading this. Tremaine Edmunds gets lifted off the ground and driven back 8 yards, like an older brother picking on the younger brother. I like Tremaine Edmunds a lot. He’s young and has all the tools to put it together, and I think he’ll be just fine. But that play has been a microcosm of this season. The defense just being bullied, physically abused, and outplayed. For a team that preaches “mental toughness” so often, I haven’t seen it. I have barely seen any physical toughness either. Someone on this roster needs to show some passion and fire the boys up.
Concussions, Mitch Morse, and his personal history:
Let’s talk about Mitch Morse because I’m concerned. He left early in the 1st quarter with a concussion and was ruled “out” rather quickly. On replay, it looked like it was a regular play you see from the trenches. It’s clear to see the Patriot’s DT does make contact to Morse’s facemask, but it didn’t appear to be a huge blow to his head. However, after the contact is initiated, Morse appears dazed during the play and goes to the ground. Remember, any amount of contact to the head is enough to cause a concussion. The fact that Morse was ruled out so quickly is worrisome, though. Did the staff rule him out so quickly because of the severity of his symptoms? Or did they rule him out so quickly to be conservative and cautious? Only time will tell, and how the week unfolds will be telling. This Bills staff tends to be conservative with injuries and cautious to not force guys back into action too quickly, which is smart.
Let me say, as a medical professional, I am not in the camp of forcing guys back into action after taking a hit to the head or experiencing symptoms of a concussion. So, I hope that Morse is feeling well, and the team was just being cautious and protective. Unfortunately, we see it happen all the time in the NFL, where guys are allowed to return back to action too quickly. Guys will take a shot to the head and return a few series later. So kudos to the Bills’ medical staff for following protocol and keeping guys safe.
A concussion is serious no matter how minimal the presenting symptoms are. A concussion is considered a traumatic brain injury and can have horrible lingering effects. What a concussion does is disrupt brain function and can cause a loss of consciousness, memory loss, and can cause changes in baseline personality and mental states. I always think back to a few seasons ago watching a Carolina Panther game in prime time, and Luke Keuchly took a huge blow to the head. He was taken off on a cart and seen visibly crying while being carted off. When he returned, he talked about the hit and what happened. He said he had no idea why he was crying but that he couldn’t control it. Our brain has many functions, and one of the structures is called our limbic system, and it is the part of our brain that controls emotions and memory. Keuchly was hit so hard that his limbic system was affected, causing him to cry and not be able to control it or even understand why he was crying. Concussions are scary and are not something to mess around with. I was very happy that the coaching and medical staff handled it correctly with Micah Hyde last week and again with Morse during the game.
Mitch Morse has a significant concussion history, which is why I’m worried about him. If you remember, he missed the majority of training camp and all of the preseason in 2019 due to a concussion after signing in Buffalo as a free agent. When he returned to the lineup after missing the entire preseason, he was faced with many questions from the local media. Morse is a tough guy and promised Bills fans he’d be fine and that he has no concerns, even if sustaining another concussion in his career moving forward. However, Morse did deliver this passage to Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News: “It’s one of those things that you wonder, ‘Why is this happening to me? Am I damaged goods? What’s happening?'” He then followed up that quote with this one: “In the back of your mind, you always wonder.” Sunday was Mitch Morse’s 5th documented concussion since entering the NFL in 2015 and his 2nd as a Buffalo Bill. He’s averaging almost 1 concussion for every season he’s played in, and this was a key factor in why Kansas City let him walk after his rookie contract expired. I’m not saying Morse will hang up his cleats now because of this. I think Morse will be back and playing like a top 5 center as he has been since arriving in Buffalo. But you have to wonder what he’s thinking. If he did have a change of heart and decided to retire early because of his concussion history, could you blame him? 5 concussions in his young career already is scary.
Timeline for return:
It will be something all of Bills Mafia is watching for this week, and I am eager to hear from coach McDermott about any sort of update. As I always say, though, everyone is different. We all heal and return to baseline from illness or injuries differently than others. Is it possible Morse can be back for next week? Yes. Is it possible Morse can be out for a significant amount of time? Absolutely. This Bills staff will not rush him back too soon and will adhere to the NFL’s protocols. My gut tells me with his history, he will be out for multiple weeks. Bills fans disagree on many things but I think it’s safe to say we all agree here, we wish nothing but the best for Morse and his recovery. Until then, it’s next man up. Get well soon, Mitch!
Thanks for reading everyone!