November 7th, 2021.
This is the date of the worst game of the Buffalo Bills’ Sean McDermott era.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense gave up, on average, nearly 30 points per game coming into their matchup against the number one scoring offense in the NFL. The Bills scored six points in four quarters against the same defense.
This was a bad showing by the Bills’ offense, and while there can be discussions about how poorly officiated this game was, and it most certainly was, but the Bills continuously shot themselves in the foot at every presentable opportunity. It is hard to win games in the NFL, and it’s rare to have a major talent and/or coaching discrepancy between two teams. But when there is that discrepancy, the better team must take advantage of it, and Buffalo simply could not.
We’ll discuss the few inspiring aspects of this game, inquire about a litany of topics, explore a player that requires a better performance, and dive right into all the irksome aspects of this game for the Bills
Inspire: Tyler Bass and the Bills Defense.
Tyler Bass is going to be a very good kicker for a very long time. He’s simply automatic from anything inside of 50 yards, and has the power to hit those 50+ yarders as well. While no one should advocate kicking a 60+ yard field goal unless absolutely necessary, if Bass was given a shot to try a 61 yarder after a Bills penalty put them in 4th & 7 instead of 4th & 2, I think it would have been good.
Outside of that, the Bills’ defense was quite dominant during the entire game. They gave up nine points through four quarters of play, aided by a missed FG from the Jags, and a turnover at the end of the first half, but they also held the Jags to 2/13 on third-down conversions, a paltry 15.4%. AJ Epenesa logged his first sack of the year, Tre White and Levi Wallace both played well against a good pair of receivers in Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault. The Jaguars only had 218 net yards on offense, because the Bills’ defense knew what they would do, and took advantage of the clear lack of talent and youth on the team.
Inquire: Offensive Identity
Last week it was clear the Bills wanted to run the ball early, set up shorter third-down situations, and try to set up bigger plays down the field. It didn’t work, so the Bills adjusted to the Dolphins, and scored 23 points in the second half, and won the game quite easily. In today’s game against the Jaguars, it’s very unclear as to what the plan was, and what adjustments were or weren’t made after halftime.
Brian Daboll struggled to find answers to the Bills’ struggles on the OL, which played poorly all day. Outside of the OL, receivers not named Stefon Diggs and occasionally Emmanuel Sanders were not getting open, and struggled to make plays. A Zack Moss injury eliminated the rotation in the running game, though Singletary did make some good plays late as a receiver. But as any good football mind will tell you, the offense will only go as far as the OL will take them, and the Bills are struggling largely because of their poor play along the line. But the question should be asked, and likely will be answered but those of us here at Cover 1: what is the identity of this offense? What do you do to help your OL that is clearly out of sorts? How do you protect the football better down the stretch, especially when the defense is creating turnovers consistently?
Require: Josh Allen
As has been said, and will be said likely for the rest of the season, the Bills’ OL played poorly. Regardless of that obvious fact, Josh Allen put up a very inconsistent performance. It is one thing to try and make a play when getting tackled, doing everything you can to will your team to victory, it is another thing entirely when you fumble the ball at the slightest graze or hit.
The Bills were, I suppose, “fortunate” that the game did not end on what would have been Allen’s second fumble of the day, but it still put the Bills in a fourth and impossible situation which they did not convert. This didn’t feel like Allen melted down, but more that he simply could not get away from trying to do too much to keep his team in the game. It is not dissimilar to what the Chiefs are going through with Patrick Mahomes; the biggest difference being that the Bills’ defense is far superior to the Chiefs’ defense in every way possible, and is what’s actually keeping the Bills in their games during the last two weeks. Allen has to play better, and the offense around him has to be better.
Irk: OL and Penalties
It seemed as though the Bills were completely out of sorts on offense, largely because of extremely poor OL play across the board, but especially from both starting guards, Cody Ford and Ike Boettger.
Boettger and Ford gave up constant pressure to a Jags defense that simply isn’t good. Unsure if that’s an accurate assessment? Consider: Taven Bryan had 3.5 career sacks coming into this game against the Bills, and he finished with two and seemed to be in the backfield on a regular basis. The Bills have talked about and demonstrated their high standards before, and it might be time to see if Bobby Johnson is meeting that standard given the poor play of the OL.
Even with injuries factored in, Johnson has shown little in terms of developing the OL. Ike Boettger is a favorite of Johnson’s, and he struggled all day and had the critical false start that moved the Bills out of the aforementioned fourth-and-two situation. Dion Dawkins gave up a sack to Jaguars DE Josh Allen, who also had an INT and a fumble recovered on the day. Daryl Williams seems to be struggling after being swapped back out to RT due to Spencer Brown’s injury. Simply put, the Bills’ OL is a problem, and will continue to be a problem for the rest of the season.
The answers are not on the roster, and with the trade deadline long gone, it seems that no one is coming to save it anytime soon. When the Bills chose to re-sign Williams and Feliciano, and not spend major assets in free agency to provide some measure of security, it seemed like a gamble, but one that would ultimately yield a relatively neutral result. So far, it has been a very bad result, and it’s kept the Bills from pulling away in previous games, and costing them this game in particular against the Jaguars.
Yes, this game was poorly officiated. Look across the NFL, and you’ll find that to be true in any game you watch. The NFL has an officiating problem, but the Bills have a problem with drawing penalties all on their own. Whether it’s holding, taunting, personal fouls, procedural penalties, whatever it is, the Bills found a way to commit those penalties in this game. The Bills had 12 penalties for 118 yards today, and this is not a single game issue either, it’s been a back burner issue during the Sean McDermott era. But when your team is winning games consistently, it seems like not so big of a deal. But when you drop an easily winnable game, it amplifies the issue ten-fold. The Bills need to be more disciplined in the future, putting themselves in bad positions on all three phases is a bad recipe for winning football games.
The Bills will play the New York Jets in Week 10, and while the Jets certainly have a myriad of issues, they are not pushovers. Even if the Bills had found a way to scrape a win out of Jacksonville today, it shouldn’t have made anyone else feel more or less comfortable about their chances against the Jets moving into Week 10. Anything can happen in divisional games, and the Jets have given Allen some issues in the past.
If the Bills want to pull ahead in a chaotic AFC and try to claim a No.1 seed, they need to win the easy games, and they need to win the divisional games. With the Patriots now surging and only half a game behind the Bills for the AFC East lead, the Bills need to get back on track in a hurry. They lost an easy one today, and now they have to go out and claim a win against the Jets next week.