Four takeaways from a disappointing 27-23 Bills loss to the Jets

12/10/2018
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After losing a close one versus the Dolphins in Miami, the Buffalo Bills were back on the field Sunday and suffered another disappointing loss against the Jets at New Era Field, 27-23. It marked the first Allen versus Darnold matchup, and the rookies showed why it may well become one of the most exciting QB matchups in the league for years to come. Here are my four takeaways from the game:

Up and down game for Allen

After being exceptional for two consecutive weeks, the rookie started this game hot again, leading the Bills to two touchdowns in the first three drives. He again showcased his arm and especially his legs, breaking Michael Vick’s record of most rushing yards by a QB in a three-game span in the Super Bowl era, with 335.

On the other hand, between those two scoring drives, Allen fumbled the ball on a scramble attempt, giving the Jets great field position. The defense did their job and limited the opponent to a field goal, but it was a mistake he needs to learn from and avoid. He also insisted on the head-scratching decision of refusing to throw the ball away in really difficult situations. This resulted in another interception in the same mold as the first one he threw in Green Bay. He tried it two more times on the afternoon without success. Allen needs to learn to cut his losses; those are really low percentage throws and not worth the risk.

Another problem was the number of hits he took during the first half. Allen is a tough kid, but no QB can survive for long playing this way. Better OL play will surely help but, for this game, OC Brian Daboll was forced to change the play-calling for the rest of the contest.

Some of those mistakes are just the best player on the Bills’ offense trying to do too much and refusing to leave the field without first downs. He can and should learn from it in time. A better offensive line will also improve his protection and the running game, making his life easier. Overall, Allen continued to show positive traits and a lot of promise. He wasn’t the reason the Bills couldn’t win this game.

The OL needs to be addressed ASAP

The only reason the Bills have been able to put points on the board in the last three games is because of their QB’s otherworldly playmaking skills. Any regular QB would be killed behind the awful protection offered by the unit. They allowed three sacks and 10 QB hits on the afternoon, but they aren’t just struggling in the pass blocking department. The running game, other than Allen’s scrambles, has been pathetic in the last three weeks.

LeSean McCoy may have lost a step, and Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy aren’t pro-bowl caliber, but they are way better than what they produced when on the field today. The OL simply can’t open up holes or sustain blocks long enough, and every gain depends on the yards after contact capabilities of the running backs. Yesterday, they allowed three tackles for loss, and the running backs were able to gain just 53 yards on 16 attempts.

This is, by far, the team’s most glaring need going forward; more talent is needed in this OL group. They’re not producing and are killing drives with penalties. It needs to be GM Brandon Beane’s number one priority in the next offseason, or Buffalo’s offense will continue to be overly dependent on their rookie QB’s running ability.

WRs stepping up

If the OL continues to be a problem, the same can’t be said about the wide receiver group. What previously was a collection of big targets who lacked speed and agility to create separation became a young up-and-coming group with a lot of speed to burn.

Zay Jones, in his first game as the official number one target on the team, did not a great game, finishing with just three receptions on nine targets for 22 yards and a bad drop. On the other hand, Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie continued to take advantage of the increased playing time to establish themselves as interesting options moving forward.

Foster clearly earned the respect of the Jets’ cornerbacks after their last meeting a few weeks ago. He was able to create separation on curl/hitch routes because of the threat of beating the CBs over the top, and he finished the game with seven receptions on eight targets for 104 yards. It was his second consecutive 100-yard game.

McKenzie continued to emerge as a Swiss Army Knife-type of WR. He lined up outside and in the slot, causing problems for the Jets’ defense every time he touched the ball. The diminutive WR finished the afternoon with four receptions on seven targets for 47 yards. He added 22 more yards and one score on four carries and 100 yards on five returns. The WR position continues to be a need going forward, but it’s a way better situation now, having three young guys showing they can contribute on a fairly consistent basis.

Special teams cost the game, yet again

One week after having an extremely negative impact in a close loss to Miami, the special teams cost the Bills another game. Stephen Hauschka had a 48-yard field goal attempt blocked on the last play of the first half, and to make things worse, he took a cheap shot and injured his lower back. It obviously was a factor when he missed his second FG attempt later in the game, a 54-yard try in the fourth quarter. Another tough day for the veteran.

Despite the kicker’s struggles, he was far from the biggest problem on special teams. They allowed Andre Roberts to gain 176 yards on five returns. The Jets were able to start a lot of drives in the Bills’ territory, which facilitated the Sam Darnold-led offense’s job. The field position was the biggest difference in the game, allowing the Jets to win a game in which the Bills’ offense was able to produce 120 more yards on the same number of drives for each side.

https://twitter.com/NoHuddle_NFL/status/1071844222402248706

The special teams play has been weak for the entire tenure of its coordinator, Danny Crossman. With Sean McDermott demanding a high standard from his players and coaches, I don’t see any way he keeps his job for 2019.

 

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