After an incredible comeback in the 2nd half, the Bills lost in OT to the reigning super bowl champion Buccaneers, 33-27. A blowout seemed to be in the works after a 24-3 first half from the Bills. But an unbelievable performance from Josh Allen put the Bills in position to win in OT, but ultimately fell short.
It’s tough, and likely no one really wants to think about this game this close to its ending, but below we’ll explore the inspiring, inquiring, requiring, and the most irksome parts of the game.
Inspire: Josh Allen
Josh Allen is a franchise QB, and he deserves better. The offensive line is inconsistent, the running backs largely unhelpful, but Josh Allen? Josh Allen is that guy. He’s the guy that you win because of, not just with, not in spite of, he is the face of this franchise. Josh Allen earned his contract extension, every single penny of it, and he’s more than earned it with his play this year. This game was why you draft, develop, and pay someone like Josh Allen. The physical talent is greater than anyone else on the field. The development is unprecedented. The competitive nature and toughness is off the charts. Josh Allen is everything the Bills wanted him to be in the NFL, and that alone will keep the Bills in every game he plays for the rest of his time in Buffalo.
Inquire: Bills defense
What to make of the defense after this game. Giving up 24 points in the first half is pretty bad, and it required the Bills to make a furious comeback on the road. But the Bills offense didn’t exactly do anything until the 2nd half either. The Bills defense was put in some tough spots after an ill-advised fake punt gone awry, and still held the Bucs to 3 points until OT. The Bills seemed to play pretty good coverage all game, requiring Brady to make perfect passes; an impressive feat given the Bucs have incredible players at receiver, and this the Bills’ first game without Tre White that required pass coverage. Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson weren’t perfect, but they fought all game, and didn’t make mistakes in terms of passing off coverages or losing their man downfield, until the very last play where it appeared the both Wallace and Jackson converged on Mike Evans, leaving Tremaine Edmunds by himself on Breshad Perriman on a drag route. They looked prepared, even if they were outmatched. As a sidenote, Jordan Poyer continues to have the best year of his career, and deserves at least a pro bowl nod, if not an all-pro selection.
The big concern is that despite a ton of investments in the last two offseasons into fixing the pass rush, it is still a problem. Veterans aren’t winning their one-on-ones, and the young EDGE players are flashing, but not getting home consistently. There’s a lot of money that’s in this defensive line, and one has to wonder how much of it needs to be redistributed elsewhere.
Require: The Offensive Line
Another week, another game wondering what the Bills’ plan for the OL was coming into the season. The interior players on the OL were solid, but nothing special. Dion Dawkins was good, and has been up and down throughout the year. Spencer Brown has had the ups and downs expected of a 3rd round rookie from Northern Iowa. Extensions were given to Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams, and Mitch Morse’s contract was re-worked. Feliciano has been injured, and not all that effective when he’s played. Williams has been worked over at Right Tackle, but passable at Right Guard. Mitch Morse is a solid pass protector, but struggles against strength in the run game (though he excels when he pulls to the perimeter). Overall, the Bills had chances in the offseason, and in particular in the draft to upgrade the interior, and chose not to. Perhaps the picks they made will pay off down the road, but at the moment, it is costing the Bills games, and creating massive problems for their franchise QB.
Irk: Sean McDermott and 4th Down
Was it Sean McDermott or Doug Marrone coaching in Tampa today? Former Bills head coach Doug Marrone was notorious for being far too conservative when it came to 4th down decision making, punting and taking FGs far too often. When Sean McDermott became the Bills’ HC in 2017, there were concerns that he might be too conservative in that same regard. In 2019 and 2020, Sean McDermott was easily one of the best and most aggressive HC’s in the NFL when it came to 4th down decision making. Given that Sean McDermott is pretty well known for being an open-minded person as a HC, it was very encouraging to see how aggressive he became during his time as a HC, and the start of the 2021 season seemed to be more of the same. In fact, after the Bills’ tough loss against the Titans in week 6, it seemed that after a semi-controversial 4th down decision to try and win the game in regulation instead of kicking the FG to go to OT, McDermott still believed in that philosophy, and was going to continue to be aggressive. It’s not that they haven’t gone for those plays since then, but the decision making has been far more conservative than what we’ve seen from McDermott the last two years, and doesn’t seem to have any particularly discernable reasoning behind it either.
The Bills return home to face a floundering Carolina Panthers team next week, but that is certainly no guarantee of a win. It was good to see the Bills fight back against the Bucs, especially on the road, but the Bills now fall to 0-5 in one-score games this year. A brutal stat that has likely contributed a lot to Bills’ fans frustrations this season. The Bills have a path to the playoffs, and a chaotic AFC provides them with a fairly open door. But they have left themselves with no margin for error moving forward. The Bills can’t wait to figure it out, or have space for a “get right” game. It’s do or die for the Buffalo Bills’ 2021 season.