My Buffalo Blues: Week 9

The Bills went into Jacksonville with a ton of hype as predictive model favorites to make it to the Super Bowl, but they left with some serious questions about whether or not they will even win their division after a stunning loss.

While the final score was only 9-6, in reality, the Jaguars kicked the Bills’ asses when it came to effort and energy. Buffalo seemingly played like they were eventually going to win because they are the better team, but they didn’t earn it on the field and the results speak for themselves.

On Sunday Nov. 7th, it was the Jags’ Josh Allen that looked like the star as he recorded a sack, a pick, and a fumble recovery.

There are a lot of things that went wrong and I would like to think that the Bills just weren’t properly prepared, didn’t play with enough effort, and didn’t make the right adjustments down the stretch. Credit to the Jaguars though. I saw a Jacksonville team that wanted it much, much more, and an officiating crew that was more than willing to assist the Jags in their quest to knock off a heavy favorite. However, if you were to take the pulse on social media, the sheer amount of panic and number of supposed Bills “fans” who either jumped ship or reveled in the loss as some kind of “told you so” moment was alarming. At least the phonies revealed themselves sooner rather than later and, yes, I kept the receipts.

Moving on, despite a terrible performance, this was still a winnable game when the Bills had the ball with about 3-minutes left, needing a TD to win or a FG to tie. Had Buffalo pulled it off, there would be a lot of concern still but I don’t think things would have gone nuclear. There were a number of problems that were apparent during and after the game and the road to recovery starts in the mirror.

Sean McDermott had plenty to talk to the refs about as the Bills were flagged 12-times for 118-yards

I believe in top-down leadership and that’s a big part of the reason why the Bills got to where they were at the end of last season and why the expectations were so high this year. I know Sean McDermott is a very good coach but, that being said, it starts with him and he clearly didn’t have his team ready. Even Jags’ cornerback Shaquille Griffin talked about it in the post-game, saying the body language and the energy wasn’t there for Buffalo. To me, that’s a leadership thing and it’s not just McDermott but he’s the guy at the top and hopefully, this game will be a reminder that you’ve gotta find the right motivation for each week.

Maybe I’m old-school but the game begins and ends at the line of scrimmage and the Bills’ offensive line lost that battle all game long. John Feliciano and Spencer Brown were both out, but Cody Ford was getting beaten relentlessly. Most concerning is that the O-line play has been substandard for most of the year. It has been one of the biggest issue in each of their losses and very little has been done to address it. The four sacks given up was their most of the season but, even when it wasn’t a sack, the franchise player was under fire.

This was the bad INT, but it’s hard to be effective with three defenders in your face.

That player is Josh Allen and he’s next biggest leader on the team. I’m glad to hear him acknowledge that he “played like shit” because he did and accountability is important for course correction. However, it’s certainly not all on him. The constant pressure resulted a pair of pretty bad interceptions trying to force the ball into some spots, the second of them being much worse as he was essentially in the grasp and making a desperation throw. He also fumbled twice, under seige, although one of those plays was blown dead before the fumble. The combination of constant pressure, thanks to a porous O-line, and the way he responded to it are worrisome. Deer, meet headlights. I am not saying he won’t bounce back but we’ve seen what a bad O-line can do to a good QB league-wide and it’s not pretty. Unfortunately, both the line and Allen looked more like the 2019 product on Sunday. If the Bills are really going to try and win a Super Bowl, addressing that O-line is going to be one of, if not, the top priority.

Next, I’m looking at offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. I know he’s been going through a lot lately in his personal life and that takes a toll, so I’m not trying to shit on him personally and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s trying to use work as a distraction, but he didn’t adjust his approach. His playcalling has gone dry over the past three weeks, especially in the red zone, and that has lined up with Dawson Knox’s absence. Your QB is out there under fire because the O-line is getting worked over, you can’t line up and run from run formations and your answer was to just throw it even more? How’d that work out? You slow down a pass rush by running draws, delays, and screens, not by dropping back and throwing 88% of the time (2nd half).

When you drop back 54 times, you’re bound to give up some piggy back rides

It has become an every-week thing now, but we’ve arrived back at the chasm that divides reality from perception when it comes to the offensive philosophy. The Bills are 0-3 in games where they attempt at least 50 passing plays. Just to be clear, because I had to explain this to someone on Twitter yesterday 47-attempts + 4-sacks + plus 3-scrambles = 54 called pass plays (scrambles and sacks count as passing plays). They called 10-runs the whole game and, yeah, they didn’t get much so I understand the frustration to a degree. However, the Bills scored 6-points against the Jags while throwing it 84% of the time so why would anyone think throwing it more is the answer.

Imagine the narrative if the playcalling was the opposite…if they ran the ball 84% of the time with only 6-points to show for it. Everyone would be screaming for them to throw the ball more and they’d be right! They barely got away with a 70% pass approach against Miami and that game was tied 3-3 at the half before the Bills increased their run volume in the 2nd half and, low and behold, wound up finding success. The league is too good to just line up an throw on almost every play ESPECIALLY when so much blame is already being placed on the O-line. There was no deception, no wiggle, to the Bills offensive strategy on Sunday and the Jags keyed in on that early and often. Honestly, it’s no surprise they kept getting whooped when they leaned heavier into the pass in the second half.

The Bills’ defense played really but more of this would be nice.

Ultimately, I feel worst for the Bills defense because they gave up 9-points, gave the offense countless opportunities, and had to keep doing that while the offense kept going through the same predictable bullshit. They didn’t give up a touchdown, only gave up 218-yards, had 6-tackles for loss, and held the Jags to 2-for-13 on 3rd down. The only thing they didn’t do exceedingly well was get Trevor Lawrence to the ground. This was an on brand defensive performance and they deserve credit, but I’d still like to see the QB pressure be a bit better at this stage of the season, especially against a team that was 1-7.

Performance Grade: C-

There is probably a lot more I could say, but it’s time to move on to focusing on the Jets. It’s not looking like it’s going to be the walk in the park many were anticipating just a few weeks ago. Mike White was cleared from his injury and even without him, the Jets managed to get a lot of points on the board against the Colts. They showed that they can beat a good young team in the Bengals as well and let’s not forget the Jets have a win over the Titans too. It’s safe to say the idea that the Jets are going to hand over an easy W is squashed. Buffalo has a lot of soul searching to do and it’s going to start with a more mature and serious demeanor in practice. Go Bills!

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