Image Credit: © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
While this season is one of parody and week-to-week results, the Bills fell to one game over .500 in a game where they didn't look like they belonged on the same field for half the game. As I look back on this season versus my previous seasons writing these, it's hard for me to tell if it's harder to write during a season of blown expectations or during the drought. At least during the drought, we could focus on improvement and hope. In this season, it's been more about meeting expectations or letdowns. At this point, it's evident where the problems lay with this team and not it's only a matter of how the Bills will fix it in the off-season through personnel or coaching changes.
1 - Allen - I'm sure many will discuss the interception before the half, but even by that point in the game, it's almost impossible for me to blame Josh for much of anything he does. Behind this offensive line where he was running for his life on almost every play, because Daboll can't seem to figure out how to block more than 5, and receivers that don't magically get open in less than 2 seconds, Josh is constantly being asked to make something out of nothing. I'm not saying he doesn't have opportunities (high throws to the sideline), nor is Josh perfect. I'm just saying it's impossible to tell. He had a great touchdown run off the RPO and had a solid completion percentage for a bit, but then was down 21 and had to start playing hero ball. Josh is our entire offense and sets up everyone else's success on the team. His ability to move in the pocket brings up safeties, and he avoided more sacks than the stat sheet will show. But it's unrealistic to expect him to carry this team on his own. I feel good knowing that we have our QB to build around no matter what changes happen on this team.
2 - Daboll - Coming into this game, you knew the Bucs could do one thing well on defense, and that was rush the passer. With that being said, why did Daboll leave only five players in to block so much? With the amount of DB blitzes, Motor in the backfield as extra pass protection. I say Motor very specifically because Breida got absolutely run over when he tried to make a block. McKenzie ran a Jet Sweep threat only one time which pretty much sums up Daboll's attempt to confuse the defense, move the pocket, or do anything at all to slow down the Bucs pass rush. While we did get it going in the second half, there's still no excuse for the first half performance or the three and out in OT. I don't feel like this team has any "go-to" plays anymore, and there's no overall theme on offense. Each drive and 3rd down play feels like a toss-up. This has been an ongoing theme this past month, and it's one thing just to get beat up front; it's another to not plan for it at all.
3 - Running backs in the first half -
4 - I seem to recognize your face
Haunting familiar, yet I can't seem to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me
All these changes taking place
I wish I'd seen the place
But no one's ever taken me
5 - Defensive Line - I almost labeled this thought pass rush, but that would indicate that the Bills have one. Brady had all day literally to throw, and this 40 million dollar defensive line with multiple first-round pics was beyond pathetic in this game. You can see the frustration brewing from the players, and Oliver is a ticking time bomb of a personal foul. I've been able to tolerate McD's rotation on the line, but we can't rush the passer or stop the run with these guys and aren't getting an ROI. Groot has been non-existent since the first few weeks. Addison's had one good game and threw in an offside in this game. Hughes is the kind of almost sacks and missed holding calls. Oliver is high motor, undisciplined, and I'm waiting for more PFs against him.
© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
6 - Zone Defense - While Poyer and Hyde are great safeties, how were they left to cover Godwin and Evans so much? I understand that Tre is out, and we need to compensate to a degree, but our great passing defense gave up over 200 passing yards in the first half, with each pass looking to fall right in front of either safety. Also, with zero pass rush, zone defense is only good if you force the QB to make bad reads and throw into coverage. With Brady having all day, it was surgical how easily he picked us apart. As we transitioned to the second half, it does look like we started playing man and saw more success. With that, shout out to Dane Jackson for playing well one on one in coverage against Gronk.
7 - Edmunds - With this thought, I will be retiring any future comments about Edmunds, as I'm just over him as a player. While Milano didn't have a great game, I can at least remember seeing him on the field (Brady sack was beautiful) with some big tackles and pass knockdowns. Edmunds had one good tackle in the open field against Gronk. Other than that, Edmunds was just a big-bodied player in the middle of the field who occupies space. Edmunds got engulfed by blocks, couldn't beat a man when rushing the passer, took terrible angles on both Fournette long runs, and was overall invisible. He did start to play better in the second half, but he's nowhere near a playmaker or worthy of his draft selection. I don't blame the game-winning touchdown on him, but I blame him for the converted 3rd and 1 in OT. Edmunds was clearly behind the LOS and still allowed Fournette to get 2 yards from the point of contact. When we need a hero, it continues not to be him.
8 - Knox - If there's a bright spot this season, it has to be the emergence of Knox in this offense. Needing to forget his terrible play last week, Knox was decent on the plays he was left in to block and scored our only passing touchdown of the game. With that catch, he leads the NFL in touchdown passes by a TE. In an upcoming off-season where many tough decisions are going to be made, TE is no longer one of the positions we need to worry about.
© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
9 - McD - I want to give McD props for clearly getting involved with the defensive play-calling early in the game. However, another question is why the defensive game plan needed to be adjusted so early in the game. But what will be talked about more so than anything else tomorrow will be his decision-making again on 4th down. Sure, if the fake punt worked, then everything is fine. But the choice to give Breida the ball over Allen on 4th and short is a head-scratcher to me. Then, when the Bills actually have some momentum, he punts on 4th and short. I'm all for continuity, and we did just sign him to an extension, but I don't think that gets him out of having to present a solid plan of change to the owners going forward. I hope he's willing to adapt his defensive line rotation and start to take a bigger interest in the offensive game planning. Being 7-6 with this schedule and roster is a joke.
10 - 2nd Half - I know a lot are going to take the second half as a positive sign that the offense woke up and hopefully will be good down the stretch. And while I do try to take a positive approach to these games, I'm also human and tired of not winning a close game this season. I remember expecting to convert every third and fourth down play last year versus expecting not to this year. I think we were 1-9 on 3rd downs at one point. The offense did wake up, but I still attribute that more to Allen playing hero ball as much as finally remembering Davis and Beasley are on the field. To that point, I don't care if Sanders plays another snap for us. Since his arrival, he's taken snaps away from guys who proved it on the field last year, has had maybe three good games, and has disappeared since. I'm happy it was a game but also felt like I lost twice today. This game felt over at half, but the Bills did the most Billsy thing they could by coming back, giving hope, only to lose again.
**The only reason I'm not talking about the refs is because of promise earlier in the season to stop blaming games on them. Yes, the 50/50 calls for PI went against the Bills and never in their favor, but we need to stop expecting them to help us. To call that play on 3rd and two if you don't plan on going for it on 4th is stupid and on us.
I know the season isn't over, and we still have a good chance to make the playoffs, but there's no reason to believe this team is capable of winning a game against any team who's physical in the trenches or be able to come back and win a game from behind. The beauty of the drought was having no expectations. I don't even know how to process this season besides it being a disappointment. There's a lot of off-season work to do, and I don't know if it will be possible in just one year. We've proven that we need to upgrade at least three spots on the offensive line, get a genuine pass rusher (not a rotation!), a big space-eater up the middle, a DB to fill in for Tre (Tre won't be back until November and Wallace is a UFA), and an MLB who can actually make a play. This team needs to change at a core level, and I hope it can be done with tweaks, but I honestly don't know anymore.
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