The NFL season is like a roller coaster. Or a good novel, take your pick. There are twists and turns, highs and lows, emotional moments and tragic scenes. The characters go through tremendous trials and at times, things look dark and hopeless. It’s gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, and unforgettable.
Welcome to the unwanted but necessary dark chapter of the Bills season. You could call it jet lag, we let the Jags get a win, trap game, etc etc. The cold truth at the end of the chapter is that the Bills lost a game, a game they could have and should have won. Let’s take a look at five takeaways from a London Letdown.
Buffalo Bills Week 5: The Letdown in London
The Defense Continues to Lose Players
If the Tre’Davious White Injury last weekend was heart-wrenching, then the Matt Milano injury rips the heart right out of Bills Fans. The absence of Milano in the secondary was noticeable immediately and for the rest of the game. The air was taken out of the sails of a once-vaunted and ferocious defense, which seemed to be on the chase the rest of the game rather than dictating the pace. The secondary has been left in shambles. I’m not sure anything but a trade for an upper-level DB is going to make things better.
Yes, the Jaguars were a playoff team last year. But this year, they hadn’t really impressed anyone with their offensive prowess or defensive superiority. The lack of ‘bite’ in the Bills’ defense made the Jags look better than they probably are. The lone bright spot was the edge rushers and defensive ends, who continue to be problem makers and turnover takers. But those beasts can’t cover wide receivers.
Zero Points from Two Turnovers
If one stat defined the game, this was it. In this grudge match, the defense caused two fumbles at crucial moments to prevent points from being scored. The Bills offense took those gifts and promptly wasted them. In a game where things weren’t going well and you needed every little advantage and edge that you could get, the Bills got dull and could not cut the mustard.
There is a weird stat line when looking at the offense. Josh Allen had over 350 yards passing. Two receivers had over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. You had a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive at the end of the game which made every Bills fan scream “Where has this been all game!?”. If I told you those four pieces, you say that the Bills won the game by 10 points. If the offense had turned those two turnovers into even just field goals, we’d be writing articles about the great London escape instead of a letdown.
The Run Game Became the None Game
14 rushes. 29 yards. That’s not one player’s numbers, that’s all 4 players that ran the ball. James Cook ended up at negative four yards for the game! This wasn’t just a step back for the rushing attack, it was a ‘we got trucked into last week’ leap backward. Without that balanced attack, even Josh Allen’s 359 passing yards weren’t enough. And yet several times during the game on second and long (8 or more yards to go) the Bills tried to run the ball?! And failed each time. I am 100% in favor of a balanced offense and see the positives of having one, but if it ain’t working…
I commented to my sons at halftime that if the Bills don’t correctly adjust their offensive schemes, then the game is lost. Josh Allen started slinging the ball around to mixed success, the run game continued to do nothing, and the Bills looked like they were still operating on Eastern Standard Time. With no variety in the playcalling and little pizzazz to show for it, the Bills looked like they were drowning across the pond.
Forget the Jets Loss, But You’d Better Remember This One
There’s an adage in life and football that you have to have a short memory. I have no doubt the Bills will depart from their plane tomorrow morning and hit the ground running on figuring out how to beat the New Jersey Giants. And well they should. But they would be remiss if they didn’t let the echoes of this tough loss linger and come back to them in quiet moments. So many opportunities wasted that could come back to haunt them in two months as the playoff picture begins to come into focus.
The Bills started the second half with a strike to Stefon Diggs for 14 yards, and then the drive fizzled. The Defense had a 3rd and 11 deep in their own end and gave up the first down still. Diggs makes a 48-yard leaping grab, and the drive stalls again. The defense comes up with another turnover, and we give it right back on an Allen deep ball interception that was unnecessary. At the end of each half, the Bills offense looked efficient and even fast, and yet this was a fleeting moment instead of an intentional normalcy. If any good is to be taken from the game, those two furious drives need to be studied and picked apart and then recreated over and over again.
In what is certain to be a race to the finish, the last thing Buffalo needs is to be in second place chasing a very fast very capable Miami team. These types of losses loom large and there are no mulligans in football. Is Buffalo still going to be a team to be reckoned with as the season progresses? Certainly. But they are human and subject to bad games. They have to find a way to correct their mistakes and put out a better product than this game.
I wrote earlier this year about the ‘Diggs effect‘ and that the Bills had to take the good with the bad. He’s having an unbelievable season so far. Is there anything to his abuse of a tablet at the end of the game? He was pretty much demonstrating what everyone was feeling. Maybe we need to bust a few more to get it out of our system and just pay the ridiculous fines.
It’s the teams that can make the fewest mistakes and keep their best team uninjured and on the field that find the magic to win the big games. Buffalo is reeling right now, but they have no choice but to persist and push forward. There is still time to fix what needs fixing to get back on track and become the best version of what the Buffalo Bills can be. The defense needs to just not lose any more players, and the offense needs to regain their swagger. At the least, the Bills need to be the ones to write their next chapter and not leave it to someone else.
Main Image: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports