Mitch Morse says T.J. Watt’s demolition of Bills OL a great ‘gut-check’

09/12/2021
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The Buffalo Bills entered the 2021 NFL season in uncharted waters. After making it all the way to the AFC Championship game a year ago while embracing their underdog status, all eyes were on the Super Bowl-favorite Bills in Week 1. And after a good, but not great showing in the first half, the team utterly collapsed in the second half, ultimately falling 23-16 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in front of a home crowd at the sold-out Highmark Stadium.

Josh Allen, fresh off signing a $258 million contract during the offseason, was inconsistent, and even erratic at times. The fifth-year signal-caller completed just 30-of-51 pass attempts for 270 yards and one touchdown. While Allen wasn’t his best self, much of his struggles against Pittsburgh can be attributed to star edge rusher T.J. Watt, who signed a record-breaking extension of his own just days ago.

Watt, along with fellow defensive lineman Cameron Heyward dominated Buffalo’s offensive line all afternoon. Watt finished the game with three tackles, two sacks and five quarterback hits. He would’ve had a third sack, had it not been for a holding call late in the fourth quarter, too.

Bills veteran center Mitch Morse spoke to the media after the game and said while the loss hurts, it’s an opportunity to remain humble and work even harder to get better.

“I think it’s a great gut check,” Morse said, via Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic. “It’s very frustrating, but it’s also an opportunity for us to learn.”

And what a gut-check it was.

Buffalo’s offense was one of the NFL’s best in 2020, but on Sunday, Allen just couldn’t get into a rhythm. Whether it was Watt bullying right tackle Darryl Williams and forcing Allen out of the pocket, or Heyward bull-rushing his way through the Bills’ interior to force off-platform throws, Buffalo’s offense just wasn’t able to put quality drives together.

“We put ourselves in bad situations,” Morse added. “We know we have a special guy, No. 17, back there and it’s our job to keep him as clean as possible.”

Top 4 takeaways from Bills 23-16 collapse vs. Steelers

Allen was sacked three times and hit a whopping eight times. He wasn’t able to get depth in his dropbacks, and as a result, many of his throws were forced or out of the structure of the offense.

Making matters worse, the Steelers were able to get this consistent pressure rushing four, or even just three defenders. This allowed the back seven to swarm on Bills’ receivers and limit the spacing on the backend for them to create yards after the catch.

Stefon Diggs managed just 69 yards on nine catches, while Cole Beasley gained 60 yards on eight grabs.

To top it all off, the Bills’ offensive line was flagged four times for holding. Not a great recipe for success.

Sean McDermott was visibly frustrated following the game and told reporters that the team needs to make adjustments throughout the offensive line to prevent another defense from wreaking havoc in the same way Pittsburgh was able to.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to do a better job on offense getting into a rhythm, establishing the line of scrimmage and the penalties,” McDermott said in his post-game press conference, via BuffaloBills.com’s Chris Brown. “We didn’t help ourselves upfront.”

Buffalo travels to Miami to take on the Miami Dolphins next week. While the Dolphins don’t have a ferocious duo of pass rushers like the Steelers do, resolving their offensive line issues will be paramount if Buffalo hopes to push for a Super Bowl in 2021.

 

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