It was the best of teams. It was the worst of teams. No not Bills versus Patriots. Bills D vs Bills O and “special” teams. The Patriots had 11 first downs, 224 total yards and still the Bills didn’t win. 4 interceptions, a blocked punt, 8 mostly costly penalties and a dinged QB later, the Bills take their first L of the season.
That was as ugly an offensive 1st half as I can remember since the Baltimore game last year. Nate Peterman is still haunting the premises. My goodness, that first quarter was pathetic. Allen showed awful mechanics, little accuracy, no game awareness (sacks out of field goal range) and an overwhelming desire to roll right and fling it deep off his back foot with not much of anything on it. It’s one thing to be confused. It’s another to play like you’ve never been an NFL quarterback before. Disappointing and very, very concerning.
All of that said, they were still in the game. The defense over and over and over again made plays and got off the field. Just the one throw where I’m sure Matt Milano wishes he’d turned his head just a touch and where Brady dropped it in the bucket kept the 1st half from being almost perfect (the 1st run of the game by Michel was the other).
The second half, they were even better, No sacks on Brady but he was rushed, harried and confused. 3.8 yards per throw! That is about as good as it can get against a Tom Brady led offense.
Now on to the the things I didn’t like and liked:
- Besides Allen’s horrific 1st half, the Bills offensive line showed it is very vulnerable to blitzes and cannot hold up long enough to throw the ball down field. On one play Mitch Morse literally got walked all the way back to Allen and ended up tripping him up. Dawkins had a very hard time too. I know they are better than last year (that’s a low bar) but run blocking seems much better than pass blocking for this unit. 5 sacks and lord knows how many hurries ruin any chance to get going and get rhythm. The ball needs to come out faster and they need to shorten routes up or use screens to offset the rush. It won’t get much easier vs a very good Tennessee defense either.
- Penalties. Twice there were holding penalties that offset penalties for the Patriots that would have given Bills first downs.. The one that was particularly egregious was when the Bills had a free play after the Patriots jumped offsides in the 3rd quarter and Dawkins held on the play. Lee Smith was a penalty machine. I think he had at least four. The false starts, at home, are just a lack of discipline.
- The officiating. I thought it was bad all the way around for both teams but the no face mask penalty call was blatant. The hit to the head of Allen should have been disqualifying and, at the end of the half, it looked like a Patriot leapt over the Bills line to try to block the kick. On one other play, I know Gene Steratore came in well after the review to say the Pat’s INT might not have been good because Jones had his hands on it and was standing out of bounds but I wouldn’t think that was as blatant as the other bad ones.
- Bills punting. The gunner has to move inside to keep that punt from being blocked or the Bills need to throw it to the uncovered gunners. One or the other. If Corey Bojorquez can’t throw, then move the gunners in. The snap was low and Bojorquez, frankly, is just not good. That kick for 21 yards in the 3rd quarter was dreadful. The Bills lost a ton of field position on punt exchanges all day.
- Can Zay Jones make just one contested catch. Please. That and the offensive line are areas that need to be upgraded for the future.
- Burning all the timeouts in the 2nd half. I get McDermott’s desire to challenge the offensive pass interference but it was dicey whether that would be called or not. The receiver’s foot does seem to hit Wallace in the leg. It was close though. No excuse for coughing up the other 2. The challenge for placement of the ball on 3rd down in the first half was a waste of a timeout in my opinion. If there had truly been an awful call that needed reversing in as tight a game as this one was in the 2nd half, they’d have been out of luck.
- Big boy teams control the middle of the field with their passing attack. Chucking up “hope” balls down the sidelines when the coverage is man-to-man and your receiver is covered is not the path to victory or success.
- The missed field goal at the end of the half. The sack cost him an easier attempt but Hauschka normally makes 49 yarders. It would have changed the mind set for the 2nd half considerably.
- Failure to get Dawson Knox the ball more. He’s a weapon. Use him.
- Nobody blocking Kyle Van Noy on the last Bills offensive drive of the game. He might be their best pass rusher. Account for him.
The things I liked:
- The defense! All of it. Every member. That is as good a game as I’ve seen them play. They were on this Patriot offense the whole way.
- Frank Gore’s runs. The man runs hard and sees holes for a 36 year old running back. 15,000 yards is a LOT of yards in the NFL.
- Dawson Knox’s catch. That was a “10” for degree of difficulty.
- Going for it down 6 on 4th down inside the 5. I thought it was the right call even though the field goal would have tightened things up. You have a chance to take the lead. Go for it! Play to win!
- Levi Wallace’s pass break up on the sidelines. Outstanding technique and great timing and athleticism.
- Andre Roberts returns. He is sure handed, looks for seams and is a better returner than what they’ve had for a long time. There were no long ones against the Pats but he was steady and effective.
- Micah Hyde INT. He baited Brady and made a great read on it to get the pick.
- Tremaine Edmunds was all over the field making plays. 18 tackles, including 7 solo. Only wish he could have somehow corralled the one pass he knocked down as there was nothing but open space in front of him. It was clearly not an easy one to pick though.
- The Bills only losing by 6 when they had 5 sacks, 4 INT’s and a blocked punt. I would have expected a blowout if you had told me pregame they would do that.
The playoffs are still a reasonable goal for this team. The Bills really could put themselves in great position with a win next week in Tennessee. It’s a conference game that might have implications later. With an off week thereafter and 3 home games to follow, getting a W would give them a leg up.
I really hope Singletary is healthy. They desperately could use his ability to get to the edge. They are limited in the run game without him. A healthy Taron Johnson would help too.
Obviously the focus this week will be on whether Allen is ready to go. If not, they will need to add a QB to the roster and someone will be getting cut. I wonder too if it is time to see what Duke Williams could do with some real game playing time.The drop off from Beasley and Brown is steep.
Editor’s babble: The ‘Old Geezer’ nailed this one. I hope this is the game when Josh Allen realizes he has to give up the hero ball and start taking what the opposing defense giveth. Hopefully his noggin is OK. Thanks to Joe for his always insightful contributions to our blog. You can find Joe on Twitter @Joe_Tauriello.