Bills eliminated in AFC Divisional Round again, lose 27-10 vs. Bengals

01/22/2023
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The Buffalo Bills lost handily to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-10, ending their 2022 season. The Bills got punched in the mouth early on by the Bengals’ offense, and it set the tone for the entire game. Buffalo couldn’t get stops on defense early, the offense stalled out too often, and there was a severe lack of energy throughout this whole game from a Bills team that left a lot to be desired. 

Below we’ll scrape the bottom of the barrel to find nothing inspiring, inquire about the Bills’ offseason plans, dig into a coaching staff that required a better performance, and describe in detail the problems of this irksome defensive line. 

Inspire-?

There’s not really a good standout performance for the Bills today. Maybe Josh Allen for continuing to fight? Maybe Tyler Bass for making his kicks? Maybe Matt Milano for having a bunch of tackles and breaking up the Ja’Marr Chase TD in the 2nd quarter? Outside of that, frankly, there was no one who played inspired ball for the Bills today. They looked lost, confused, in a haze, and borderline unprepared. There was no one who stepped up when they needed to, no one who could make a big enough play to overcome the Bengals’ stellar performances today. There is no “inspire”, because the Bills simply limped to the end of their season.

Inquire-What’s the plan for the offseason?

This team won 13 games because they’re a good team. They also have some very clear needs, and they can’t all be solved in a single offseason. Jordan Poyer is almost certainly gone now, the OL continues to be a problem, the DL has been disappointing, and slot WR was so bad that they brought back Cole Beasley from retirement just to find some sort of consistent production there.

The Bills cannot approach this offseason as though things are fine, and they’ll be healthier next year and just make a run. There are clear holes on this roster and it’s going to take some creative cap maneuvering to fill those gaps on the roster. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have done a very good job in building this roster up to this point, but this is a critical point in their tenures where they have to be very honest with themselves and find new solutions to problems.

Require-Coaching: 

This was a poorly coached game for the Bills from start to finish. The Bengals deserve a ton of credit. The Bills didn’t hand the game to the Bengals, the Bengals outcoached them, and executed at such a high level throughout the entire game. Despite that, the Bills simply couldn’t adjust or do anything to stop what the Bengals were doing.

The defensive play calling was bizarre, from blitzing, to playing soft coverages on 3rd-and-medium, to dialing up deep shots on 3rd and long, but not going for it on 4th down after the incompletion, and of course, the tried and true McDermott defensive timeout in the second half.

Dorsey showed his inexperience as a play-caller, Frazier showed his stubbornness by not adjusting to what the Bengals were doing, and McDermott couldn’t pull the team together in this particular moment. This is not to say that any of these coaches are really on the hot seat, though. McDermott and Dorsey in particular are certainly not.

While I don’t think firing a genuinely smart, experienced leader like Leslie Fraizer isn’t the fix most Bills fans would think it would be… I’m not going to say that I would be totally against it at this time. It’s not really about the bad performance of this one game, it’s about needing a new person who can inject some more variation into how the defense is called and schemed.

Really, the only concern would be that if Frazier gets fired (which seems unlikely) that McDermott would simply replace him with someone who would do largely the same things as Frazier. Regardless, it’s not actually about Frazier’s job security, it’s about what the team as a whole did, or didn’t do today. The players and coaches absolutely failed today, on every level, and it simply has to get better if they want to get to the Super Bowl.

Irk-Defensive line:

The Bills have put far too much capital into a defensive line that cannot take advantage of an offensive line missing the majority of its starters.

Von Miller’s absence was certainly felt, but beyond that, guys like AJ Epenesa, Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, Ed Oliver, Tim Settle, Shaq Lawson, Jordan Phillips, absolutely no one was able to create any sort of disruption, havoc, or even simply disengage from their blocks. The Bengals’ backups absolutely took them to task in both the run game and in pass protection.

There has been far too much money put into this defensive line for that kind of performance in the playoffs. It was a concern last week against the Dolphins, but that concern grew into something ugly this week against the Bengals. Blaming the players exclusively, however, doesn’t get to the root of the problem, and that is how the Bills evaluate defensive ends as a whole. The Bills seem to be fairly old-fashioned with their approach to the defensive end position; they want big, long guys who can hold up in the run game.

Part of that is because they play almost exclusively in Nickel and simply need the size to hold up when they’re in 7-man boxes. But the downside to that is that guys like Boogie Basham and AJ Epenesa simply don’t have the athletic upside to be coached up as anything more than halfway decent rotational pieces. And frankly, I’m not entirely convinced that either of those players are at that ceiling as it is. Von Miller coming back in 2023 will obviously help, but that overshadows the bigger issue at play here. Changes need to be made in evaluation, coaching, and scheme to help this defensive line, or the Bills will have largely similar results in big moments like this.

The Bills now move into the 2023 offseason with plenty of questions and concerns moving forward. There is a lot of greatness on this team, of that there is no doubt. But this team resides in an ultra-competitive conference, with a division that seems to get better every season. There is no rest on the road to winning a super bowl; the Bills have to start finding solutions starting now.

Just want to take a brief moment and thank all of you for reading these recaps, especially after losses like this. It means the world to me that y’all would read what I have to say about this wonderful, stupid game we all love. Your support does not go unnoticed, and I am so glad and privileged to be able to do these every week for the last two seasons. 

God bless, and Go Bills.

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