The Buffalo Bills lose (another) heartbreaker in overtime, falling to the Philadelphia Eagles 37-34 in a Week 12 affair. It was a back-and-forth game, coming down to the end of overtime to clinch it for the Eagles, and Buffalo gave them as many opportunities as possible to do so. Despite a 10-point halftime lead and a late go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, the Bills gave the Eagles chances, and the Eagles did what they have done throughout the season and found a way to win. The Bills also did what they have done throughout the season and found a way to lose.
Below we’ll take a look at the most inspiring performance, a part of the offense that leaves us inquiring more, a part of the team that requires a better performance, and about five weeks of irks all rolled into one.
Inspire – Josh Allen:
Last week, Josh Allen channeled John Wick and said “I’m back”. Yes, an untimely interception in the fourth quarter is a tough pill to swallow, but the Bills have lived with it in the past, and they’ll continue to live with it because of what Allen can do in between all of that. In the fourth quarter and in overtime, Allen was on fire running, and passing; he put this game on his arm and his legs and did everything he could to win it for his team. He proved again this week that he is the face of this franchise for a reason, carrying the Bills offense throughout this entire game. Allen scored twice on the ground and twice in the air with a laser to Stefon Diggs right before halftime, and a rocket to Gabe Davis for the go-ahead score inside two minutes. An unfortunate error at the end is the only thing that kept Allen from storming the gates into the NFL MVP race. Instead, another great Allen performance is overshadowed by a Bills loss.
Inquire – Run Game:
For three and a half quarters, the Bills were unable to run the ball against the Eagles defense. It’s not that surprising, as the Eagles are the best run defense in the NFL with a defensive line that can dominate anyone they go against. What became frustrating was offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s commitment to the run game when it simply wasn’t working against this defense. That is, of course, until it actually did work on the last offensive drive in regulation. They hit outside, inside, ripping off chunks of yardage in a critical moment, with James Cook, Latavius Murray, and Ty Johnson all contributing on the last drive. So what changed? Was it the play calls? The designs? The execution? It’s hard to say in the direct aftermath of the game, but it’s worth investigating further during the week in the film room (hey, that’s the name of one of our shows, where Erik and Anthony break down tape, what a coincidence!).
Require – Defense:
Another game, another opportunity squandered by a depleted defense that’s put in bad positions. Completely outmatched and outcoached in the second half and overtime, this defense has tried its best to stay in games and simply survive all the injuries they’ve sustained, but it simply cannot. They give up seemingly impossible catches, they miss critical stops, they get too aggressive when they should fall back, and fall back when they should get more aggressive. It’s been the story for the last two months for the Bills defense. Will anything change? No. This is Sean McDermott’s defense, and McDermott isn’t firing himself. The most anyone can expect to happen, and I doubt this will, is for McDermott to hand over play-calling to someone else, be it defensive assistant Al Holcomb, linebackers coach Bobby Babich, or defensive backs coach John Butler. If there was a point in time when it would happen, it would be during the bye week. Will it? That seems very unlikely at this point in the season.
Irk – Unforced Errors:
There can be a lot made about the abysmal state of officiating in today’s NFL, and there should be. With that said, the Bills did the thing they’re best at, and have been the best at all season: they beat themselves. A missed field goal with another blocked. Dropped passes. Bad angles on plays, miscommunication on routes, untimely turnovers. More than anything else they’ve done this year, the Bills have made mistakes in moments they truly could not afford to do so. It’s cost them in games, Denver and New England come to mind as the most egregious examples of this. Today they managed to do enough to offset those problems, but they can’t hope for that to happen every time. McDermott using a timeout just before the Eagles set up a 59-yard field goal attempt, and then kneeling with a timeout in their pocket and 20 seconds left was an asinine, overly conservative decision that simply did not make sense in the moment, and looks even worse in hindsight. When you’re on the road, against the team with the best record in the NFL, trying desperately to get your season back on track, you have to take some chances. In overtime, his defense was worked over, and he was either too aggressive or too soft and made the wrong calls each time. Whatever the issues are in this area, McDermott (and this is largely a McDermott problem) has to be able to figure out what to do to get them to stay disciplined, focused, and on track.
The Bills head into their bye week at 6-6, with a dwindling playoff window, coming off what somehow feels like their most devastating loss this season, which almost feels impossible to say given how many devastating losses they’ve had. Their chances for the postseason are becoming increasingly low and increasingly dependent on forces outside of their control. After looking like the hottest, most talented, and complete team in the NFL after Week 4, the Bills have plummeted into the depths of the NFL doldrums.