Wow. Where do we even begin? Do we start with Josh Allen’s costly red zone interceptions for the THIRD week in a row? Or the failed QB sneak which saw the Buffalo Bills go from beating the Minnesota Vikings by four points to suddenly losing by three? Or what about the 4th and 18 pass to Justin Jefferson that Cam Lewis failed to bat down with just under two minutes left in regulation?
There are a ton of different routes that we can go down right here. But, rather than choosing a specific play to analyze and deem as the biggest reason why the Bills lost, I’m going to keep it general. The Bills lost because they had the game won multiple times, but yet found multiple ways to lose it. They couldn’t capitalize on opportunities that were right in front of them. You are rarely going to win an NFL game when you turn the ball over four times and continuously shoot yourself in the foot.
The fact that the Buffalo Bills have scored a total of 12 second half points over the last three weeks is a problem… Like a huge problem. Buffalo has not scored a touchdown in the second half since October 16 in Kansas City. That was 30 days ago.
Second Half Woes
So why have the Bills fallen apart after halftime ever since the bye? Again, there is plenty of blame to go around, but I think it falls back on their offensive scheme/play calling from OC Ken Dorsey, and Josh Allen not taking what the defense is giving him. The Bills are relying on the once-MVP front-runner way too much. And now we’re seeing him revert to his old hero ball ways.
Buffalo dressed six running backs Sunday, Allen was coming off of an elbow injury, Devin Singletary had two rushing TDs in the first half, the offense looked very balanced, and the Bills found themselves up by as many as 17 points late in the third quarter. All of those signs would point to running the ball even more so down the stretch, right!?
Wrong. The Buffalo Bills handed the ball off to their running backs just seven times after halftime… SEVEN.
This is totally unacceptable. The fact that the last time a running back touched the ball was with 12:50 left in the fourth quarter is absolutely mind boggling to me. On top of that, Nyheim Hines, the speedy weapon who they just traded for, only saw six offensive snaps with no rushing attempts?? This all HAS to improve moving forward. I’m not saying the Bills have to turn into a ground-and-pound team, but they have to be able to run the ball in certain situations; keep the offense balanced and the opposing defense honest, as well as taking the pressure of off Allen.
That being said, Allen needs to start seeing the field better and stop forcing the ball down the field. A lot of teams will play a two-high safety coverage on the Bills because THEY KNOW that the Bills want to throw the ball. That’s why it’s critical that, in addition to getting a running game going, Allen takes the safe options (check downs, short/intermediate routes over the middle, etc). There’s no need to go for it all every single play.
There are some ways to correct this. First of all, Allen just needs to calm down, get his confidence back, and see the field better. A way to do that and make him feel more comfortable is scheming guys to get open on shorter routes; that will make it easier for him to see the field. Call some more screen passes, dump-offs, out-routes, comebacks, crossers, slants, etc. Just something other than 20+ yard routes.
On that final interception, the Bills ran a double post route where Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and Quintin Morris were all in the end zone. Isaiah McKenzie ran an out to the left side, and Singletary was the only one open over the middle. In the future, I’d like to see AT LEAST one more receiver join Motor over the middle (or at least near the first down line). The Bills didn’t have to go for it all with 1:16 left. They had plenty of time AND two timeouts to work with.
In the run game, I’d like to see them run some more outside zone concepts, some more pin and pull; get their athletic linemen in space and let their running backs use their speed to get to the next level. A big reason why they struggle running the ball is because everything is between the tackles with not a lot of variation.
What the Players Said
So what did the players have to say following one of their worst regular season losses in recent memory?
Josh Allen was totally dejected during his post game press conference, giving a lot of short answers while looking down for the majority of the four and a half minutes he was at the podium.
“Losing sucks. It sucks this way even worse. Horrendous second half… I gotta be better, we gotta be better.”Allen’s first words after the loss
Allen was very definitive when asked if his elbow injury impacted him at all on Sunday, simply saying “no”. Elbow injury or not, this was his third consecutive game in which he threw two interceptions. He now leads the league with 10 INTs.
“The first one was fourth down, no sense in taking a sack or throwing the ball away… second one, just… bad ball, bad decision.”Allen on his two INts
And, as he always does, Josh took all the blame after this crushing defeat.
“It comes down to my shoulders and my shoulders only.”Allen on fixing the turnover issue
Stefon Diggs admitted that the Bills have been playing flat in the second half over the last few weeks.
“I feel like we come out in the first half, minds [are] sharp, getting after it, and then we somewhat hit a little lull and then kinda have to get back in the groove… and it seems like when we gotta get [back] in the groove, it’s always crunch time.”Diggs on second half struggles
As usual, Diggs did his part, catching 12 passes for 128 yards. But again, the Buffalo Bills have to figure out a way to utilize their other weapons behind him. They can’t just rely on him to carry the workload week in and week out.
Diggs expanded on his “hitting a lull” comment, saying that the Bills are starting to “blink” more in these times of adversity.
“Von always says ‘don’t blink’ and I feel like we might be blinking a little bit.”Diggs on facing the adversity
Meanwhile, Von Miller was totally upbeat in his presser, saying that this is just one game and there’s a lot of season left in front of them.
“I’ve been here before. There’s definitely not any panic from me. If anything, I like the position that we’re in… you want to be tested going into December and the later months and the beginning of the playoffs.”Miller on being battle-tested
The two-time Super Bowl champ went on to say that he had “fun” playing in the “crazy” game. As much as you might’ve been confused by what Miller said, he does have a point. It is important to flip the script and not let it get you down as you prepare for the next opponent.
“I’m not gonna let a team beat me twice. I’m not gonna let a team beat me in the game and then go into the week and I’m still letting the loss drag me down.”Miller on why he’s upbeat
Someone who was not upbeat was Cam Lewis, who made his first career start at safety on Sunday. Lewis, a former undrafted free agent cornerback from UB, has taken practice reps at safety ever since the summer for situations like this. With Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer out, and newly-acquired Dean Marlowe not fully up to speed yet, he got his opportunity.
What the Coaches Said
Unfortunately, Sean McDermott’s opening remarks were very similar to how he started last week’s.
“We had opportunities to win the game and we have to do a better job of taking care of the football. I know I keep saying that, we talk about it every week… it makes it awfully hard to win a football game when you turn the ball over four times.”McDermott on the loss
When asked about finding the balance between letting Allen be the fierce competitor that he is and keeping him composed, McDermott said it’s a work in progress.
“Yeah, it is a balance. He makes plays, he makes spectacular plays, he’s a special player, and I believe in him as well. We just have to do a better job of taking care of the football and taking what the defense gives us at times, and that’s an adjustment we have to continue to make.”McDermott on Allen
McDermott expanded on some of those statements at his Monday afternoon press conference, particularly on the second half offense. He said that he was, ironically, right in the middle of examining what’s going wrong in the third and fourth quarters, and pointed to a few reasons for their struggles.
”Turnovers have played a big part in that. Turnovers in our red zone have played a big part in that. And then some run defense, and some style of offense as well in terms of different looks, different complexions of the offense, so to speak.”McDermott on the second half struggles
The “style of offense” part stuck out to me. You have to wonder what McDermott, who doesn’t give much when he talks to the media, thinks about running the ball (with the RBs) only seven times while leading by 17 points and trying to kill the clock.
As for offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, he also didn’t provide too many “juicy” answers; he answered with the stereotypical coach talk. He said that they need to look at the tape, learn from this game, and execute better. However, he did say that they have to look at the consistency of the rushing attack.
“We definitely gotta just look for the consistency of not only when we’re calling it, but also the execution of when we do call it.”Dorsey on the run game
There was one quote that I specifically took note of that Dorsey kept referencing; one that could be pretty telling of what to expect from this offense moving forward.
”I think the biggest thing is, we just gotta make sure we’re staying ourselves… playing Buffalo Bills offensive football. We’re playing smart, not conservative… playing fast, physical, and disciplined ball… we’re executing our assignment, we’re doing our jobs.”Dorsey on fixing the Buffalo Bills offense
The part of that quote he kept referencing was “smart, not conservative”. Take that for what you will. My interpretation is that the Bills are not going to change their offense just because of their recent struggles. They will continue to be aggressive and run the same plays, but try to be smarter on how they execute them. Dorsey did say they have to make sure they put their players in positions to be successful. However, he never came out and said whether they’ll change concepts or formations in order to make Allen more comfortable and get the wheels rolling again.
If I am reading this correctly, that can be good and bad. It’s good because, as I previously mentioned, the Bills don’t need to be a run-heavy team; they have arguably the best quarterback in the league. You have to trust that he will get out of this funk. But they must establish some sort of running game as we get closer to the playoffs and as the weather gets worse.
That being said, it can also be bad. Allen is not playing like the best QB in the league right now; he is struggling. So, if they don’t want to play conservative at times, we could see the same mistakes occur in the future – turnovers, taking too many deep shots, not taking what the defense is giving them, not utilizing the short-to-intermediate passing game, playing over-confident, going for it all at once, etc.
Finally, McDermott finished his presser by saying that they do plan on giving Nyheim Hines a bigger role in the offense.
“I’m sure, over time, he will continue to get more and more comfortable and his playing time will increase with that… it is our intention to have him in the game plan.”McDermott on Hines’ future role in the Bills offense
I guess time will tell if I am interpreting this correctly. Time will also tell whether the Buffalo Bills make any adjustments to get their offense back on track, or if history will rear its ugly head, as it has so many times over the years with this franchise.
*All player quotes come from the postgame and/or Monday afternoon press conferences (via the Buffalo Bills YouTube channel).
Featured Image: Jamie Germano/Democrat & Chronicle