Bills beat themselves again, lose to Broncos 24-22

11/14/2023
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A sloppy game yielded a sloppy ending. The Buffalo Bills lose another game, falling to 5-5 on the season. The Bills deserved a heartbreaking, last-second loss at home to a pretty milquetoast and bland Broncos team. The Bills, as they have for most of the season, have played too close to the margins, and it has, once again, bitten them in the proverbial ass. 

Despite all of that, we are here, late into the cold, late fall evening to present some more analysis as usual. Below we’ll explain some of the inspiring performances (yes, really), inquire about a strange aspect from this game, discuss a part of the team that requires a better performance, and talk about yet another irksome performance from the offense.

Inspire – The Defense:

There can be discussion about that last drive, but the Bills defense deserves all the credit in the world for their performance tonight. There’s no reason for the Bills’ defense to be the part of this team that keeps them in games. Ten weeks into the NFL season, and that’s exactly what’s been happening. This defense is depleted, strung out, and struggles to create turnovers. But they’re often in position on third downs, they make plays on the ball, they create pressure (albeit inconsistently), and rally to the ball. Bills fans may not want to hear this with how the game ended, but Sean McDermott is a very smart, very good defensive coach. That was clearly evidenced tonight when the Bills’ offense continually gave the game away to the Broncos, and the defense continually stood strong in the face of adversity. Did they falter at the end? Yes. Was it entirely the fault of Taron Johnson getting flagged for an underthrown deep pass? That’s up for debate. The point is, this defense continues to play well and give this very talented offense plenty of opportunities. It shouldn’t come down to the last second every time. It shouldn’t have to come down to the thinnest of margins when you no longer have a big margin for error. 

Inquire – Accountability or not?:

The offense started horribly with James Cook fumbling on the first play. He was subsequently benched for a good part of the first half because of that mistake. On the ensuing drive, the Bills got in the red zone and a Gabe Davis drop led directly to a Broncos interception. On the next drive, Gabe Davis was out on the field, and Cook remained on the sideline. This is not meant to be a knock on the idea of accountability, in fact, there was a part of me that felt a bit vindicated at the idea of McDermott (or Dorsey, though likely McDermott has the final say in these matters) benching Cook for a time after that mistake. But if you step back for a second, it doesn’t make sense in context. For one thing, this was Cook’s first fumble all season. Yes, you are reading that correctly, in spite of all the problems the Bills offense has had, Cook fumbles have not been one of them. Yet on his first one in 2023, he was yanked and put on the bench.

One may think that a drop, a drop on a very open route and a very good throw by Josh Allen, in the red zone that leads to an interception would also merit a jog over to the bench. Instead, Davis goes right back out and continues to play. Why is one player being allowed to work through his mistakes immediately, and the other has to sit and watch his team struggle? Now, in fairness, McDermott is the one in charge, and the one who is around these players every day. One would think that this means he understands how to manage and deal with players, and that includes not always having the exact same plan or approach for each player. That’s also giving a pretty generous read on the situation that unfolded. The reality is that from an outsider’s perspective, some players are allowed to make mistakes and others aren’t, which is a pretty frustrating thing to wrap your head around, especially when the player that’s being punished ends up being one of the only reasons the offense stayed in the game late. 

Require – The Special Teams:

For as much money as the Bills set aside for special teams players, they haven’t gotten enough out of them. Sam Martin has had a very forgettable season at punter, and the coverage units have been only okay. But when you’re spending the money on guys to make a top-tier special teams unit, you have to get those results. The rancid, disgusting cherry on top of the horrendous special teams play today, was the absolutely maddening 12 men on the field call that wiped out a missed field goal attempt, giving Broncos kicker Will Lutz another shot to hit the game-winner, which, inevitably, he did. 

Irk – The Offense:

It’s been a problem for more than a month, and it continues to be a problem today. The game started with a James Cook fumble on the first snap (leading to a soft benching for a few drives). But the Bills’ defense holds, keeping the Broncos to three points. The Bills methodically drove down the field on the next drive and, in what has felt like a refrain for the offense this season, Allen threw a pass that was dropped by Gabe Davis and was intercepted on the ricochet. The Bills get a score to get some energy and momentum back and manage to preserve some time to try and get a quick field goal before the end of the half, and on the first play of the drive, Allen throws directly to a Broncos defender for an INT. After a big play to Gabe Davis in the second half, Allen simply drops the ball on a handoff.

The Bills couldn’t stay out of their own way, and it’s no longer just a single-game problem or the result of some fluky plays going the wrong way. The Bills’ offense is bad. They can’t execute consistently, the play calling and design are too disjointed and bland, the players aren’t making plays, and they aren’t even doing the basic things right. There is no reason, outside of their own ineptitude, that the Bills shouldn’t be scoring at least 21 points a game. That should be on a bad week. Instead, their bad weeks look more like this. A colossal failure against an average at-best defense, at home, in prime time. There is simply no reason for this offense to be as bad and as inconsistent as it is. After a certain point, and I believe the Bills have reached that point, you have to start wondering about job security for offensive coordinator, Ken Dorsey. Is Dorsey necessarily a bad coach or a bad coordinator? No, not really. But this offense isn’t working and more specifically, it’s not working for this Bills team. Sure, the Bills defense let the Broncos get in position, sure, an underthrown moon ball shouldn’t be rewarded with pass interference, and sure, 12 men on the field on a missed field goal attempt is a terrible way to lose a game. But no one should question why the Bills were in that position in the first place. The offense sucks. Period, point blank. The Bills need to change something about it, and it may require drastic changes to happen sooner rather than later.

The Bills will stay at home to take on the New York Jets on Sunday at 4:25 PM. At 5-5 the Bills’ chances for the playoffs have become slim, and would require a miraculous run through a gauntlet schedule in order to snag a wild card spot in a hotly contested AFC.

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