Much like the Titanic’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic ocean, the Buffalo Bills’ trip across the pond ended in disaster. The Bills could not avoid making mistakes, could not create yards or big plays offensively, could not overcome the plethora of injuries, and ultimately emerged from the game with a tough loss to add to their record.
Below we’ll discuss the one side of the ball that delivered a truly inspired performance, a part of the game that needs some inquiries, a part of the game that requires a better performance (from more than just the Bills), and the most irksome performance for Buffalo in this game (it’s the offense, it literally cannot be anything other than the offense).
Inspire – A.J. Epenesa (and the defense):
To put it simply, the defense did not lose this game for the Bills. The Buffalo defense was on the field for 70+ plays, nearly two-thirds of game time. By the end of the day, the unit was clearly gassed, worn out, and tired of trying to win this game for an anemic offense. A.J. Epenesa, in particular, was shown sucking down oxygen on the sideline, and deservedly so after his best performance in a Bills uniform, racking up four combined tackles, two sacks (including a strip sack of Trevor Lawrence to end the first half), and three passes defensed. Epenesa put together a truly inspired performance, with players like Ed Oliver, who is continuing his hot start to the 2023 season with a sack and three tackles for loss in today’s game, Taron Johnson, and Von Miller making their presence felt.
Unfortunately, injuries and penalties continuously piled up for the Bills as they continued to fight not only the Jaguars, but also suspect officiating, and a terrible turf field at Tottenham Hotspur stadium. Lawrence, Calvin Ridley, and Travis Etienne certainly played great games but struggled to finish drives as the Bills’ defense clamped down more in the red zone throughout the game. All in all, the defense should not be the side of the ball that shoulders this loss; they put together a fairly impressive performance despite being short-handed coming into this game, and getting thinned out even more during the game itself.
Inquire – Timeout usage:
This issue started last week and continued to this week, and that is timeout usage. The Bills had to spend two timeouts against Miami in the first half last week to avoid penalties on offense. This week Sean McDermott was forced to take a timeout after a third-and-one stop by the defense on the first drive of the game in order to get the special teams unit in order, an inexcusable mistake that early in the game. In the second half, the Bills used a timeout before a critical third-and-long in the third quarter, and Allen was promptly intercepted on a deep shot to Stefon Diggs. Timeouts are a valuable resource to have for a coach, especially in a tight game where you’re trying to make a comeback. To burn timeouts to avoid procedural penalties is a difficult pill to swallow when the results aren’t showing up, either.
Require – Penalties:
The Bills were one of the least penalized teams in the NFL coming into Week 5. This makes their 11 penalties for 109 yards today all the more frustrating. While some of these penalties are certainly the result of an overzealous and overinvolved officiating crew led by Shawn Smith, the Bills couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot with mistakes, and penalties were a big part of it. They consistently set themselves up for failure, and the Jaguars were more than happy to take advantage of those mistakes. Against worse teams, the Bills could probably overcome those mistakes and come out with a win. But good teams take advantage when mistakes are made, and the Jaguars made sure to make the Bills pay for all of their mistakes.
Irk – Bills’ offense:
There is no reason why the Bills offense played as poorly as it did today. The Jacksonville defense is certainly better than most people seem to think, but if the Bills want to maintain their reputation as one of the league’s best offenses, it has to play well against good defenses as well. The Bills’ drives in the first half ended as follows: punt, punt, punt, punt, touchdown, end of half. The second half wasn’t much better, as they started with two punts, followed by an Allen interception, continuing with two straight touchdown drives when the Jaguars were playing prevent defense, before finally, mercifully, ending on the final fumble trying a lateral play to gain yards for a hail mary attempt. T
he Bills’ offensive line couldn’t set anything up in the run game, and it showed on the stat sheet with James Cook finishing the game with five attempts for negative four yards rushing. The lack of a run game led Ken Dorsey to rely almost exclusively on the passing game, which could not catch any sort of break and felt out of sync from the start. It was an abysmal performance, despite the fact that the Bills had two 100-yard receivers on the day with Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis eclipsing the mark. But few are making consistently good plays outside of them; Dalton Kincaid is still working to earn the trust of Allen, and Deonte Harty is being utilized by Dorsey to set things up for others and has been reliable when thrown to, but it feels like for the bounty of options the Bills have on offense, the production and targets end up going to two guys in any given game. This is not a problem that can be easily isolated to either Allen or Dorsey, but overall, if this is going to be a spread offense that attacks every area of the field, it needs to do just that with the plethora of weapons they’ve acquired.
The Bills will play the New York Giants in Orchard Park on Sunday Night Football (8:20 P.M.) next week. The Giants are off to an inauspicious start in former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s second season, but as the Bills found out today, no game is a gimme in the NFL. The trip back home to Buffalo is much needed as injuries on defense loom large and struggles offensively leave a lot to be desired. A win is needed to get the Bills back on track.