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The Buffalo Bills Outsider: The End of the Road

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This wasn’t how this was supposed to end. It’s a feeling I’m quite familiar with, though, as the Detroit Lions always end their season in massive disappointment. And they always end it well before the conference championship game. The Buffalo Bills had an amazing season and are clearly on an upward trajectory. The future’s still bright, and there is plenty of reason for optimism. But man, this one is going to sting. 

The Chiefs were clearly the better team. Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the NFL, period. Travis Kelce is the game’s best tight end. Tyreek Hill is unguardable. The defense is underrated and can rush the passer with the best of them. Kansas City isn’t a good team…they’re a great team. You don’t hang your head for losing to that team. In the NFL, more often than not, the better team wins. The Chiefs were better.

Still, when it comes to this game, let’s just say I have some thoughts. 

Three Unbiased Opinions

1.) 2019 Josh Allen Showed Up

Josh Allen had a great season, and Bills fans should be extremely grateful to him on their roster. He’s a great kid and a fantastic player. But the MVP level player we saw most of the 2020 season didn’t show up in Kansas City. Allen wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t a difference-maker. All of the bad habits of the past seemed to pop back up. He missed open receivers. He threw off his back foot. He let the pressure rattle him. He held the ball too long. He took bad sacks. He ran backward for huge losses. He made inexcusable turnovers. It was his worst performance of the season, and it came at the worst time.

2.) Aggression Wins

If there is one universal truth across all sports, it’s that the more aggressive team usually wins. This was the most disappointing part of the game for me. The game plan that McDermott and Leslie Frazier came in with was far too passive. The Bills don’t have a dominant front four pass rush, and sitting back, rushing four, and preventing big plays isn’t a recipe for success. It might shorten the game. It might let you hang around for a while, but you aren’t going to win. The key to beating any great quarterback is making him uncomfortable. Josh Allen has been great all year against the blitz, but the Chiefs still brought pressure and picked their spots for heavy blitzes. It kept him off balance, and it makes your job as a play-caller significantly harder when you aren’t sure what the defense is going to do. The Bills’ defensive game plan made Andy Reid and Mahomes’ jobs extremely easy. The Chiefs hadn’t scored 38 points in quite some time. They hadn’t won a game by double digits in nearly three months. They did so on Sunday because the Bills seemed content to let the fight come to them. 

On the offensive side of the ball, it was the same problem. Brain Daboll, what were you doing, man? Where was the creativity we saw all year long? No reverses, no flea flickers, no WR passes. I thought for sure they’d have a couple fancy plays ready for this big stage. I was wrong. 

I’m also going to take exception with McDermott’s decisions to kick FGs near the goal line. Listen, I know what conventional wisdom says. But you’re playing the Chiefs. You aren’t going to win when you settle for three points. This isn’t about making the score respectable. It’s about winning the game. Just before halftime, the Bills had a chance to score a touchdown and cut the lead to 21-16. Kicking the field goal there does very little for you in terms of helping you win the game. After the Chiefs kicked a field goal to go up 24-12 on their first drive of the 2nd half, Josh Allen again led the Bills down the field. Some poor playing calling by Daboll left the Bills in a tough situation, and again, McDermott settled for three from inside the 10-yard line. Your defense wasn’t coming close to stopping the Chiefs, and you absolutely needed touchdowns in the red zone. This was just another example of the passiveness the Bills brought to the game. 

3.) Gotta Keep Your Cool

It was disappointing to see the Bills lose their cool down the stretch. Allen threw the ball at a defender’s head, which set off a bit of a scrum. Multiple Bills players picked up personal fouls in the final minutes of the game. It wasn’t a good look. Win with class; lose with class.

Speaking of finishing well, Sean McDermott, why are you going for two down by 17? I know winning was a long shot at that point, but the only possible shot you have with four minutes left is to get it within two scores. Kick the extra point, cut the lead to 16, and then see what happens. The Bills would recover the onside kick and had it been a two-score lead, they could have made things a little bit interesting. Apparently everyone in red, white, and blue was losing their mind down the stretch. 

One Final Thought…

I was a little disappointed to see the anger and frustration across social media from #BillsMafia. I saw a lot of fans crapping on Allen, McDermott, Diggs, and several others. I get it. It was maddening to watch this effort when you were so close to the promised land. And most fans aren’t the same professional losers that we Lions fans are. But come on, recognize the magnitude of the accomplishments this season. The first AFC division title since 1995. The first playoff win since 1995. The first AFC title game appearance since 1994. Some of us would settle for one playoff win before we die.

You still have Josh Allen who’s only going to get better. Stefon Diggs is only 27 years old. Gabriel Davis looks like a future star at the receiver position. Tre White, Tremaine Edmunds, and Ed Oliver are players you can build around on defense. McDermott and Brandon Beane bring stability and vision to the franchise. Sure, there are areas to improve. The pass rush needs an upgrade. The offense could use a speedy game-breaker. But most of the pieces are in place, and this team should be in the battle for the AFC title most years. Keep your heads up, guys. There are about 30 other NFL fan bases that would trade places with you in a heartbeat.

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