Image Credit: © Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports
Statistics, trends, analytics, whatever you want to call them; they are great for planning and creating your overall strategy. However, once the game begins and new information arrives, you have to make adjustments based upon what you are seeing in the moment. If there's one thing I don't believe we did in this loss, it's to adjust to what was happening in the moment. There's going to be a lot of frustration and arguments as the Bills lose again going into a bye week for the third straight year, as well as conversations about how we are 1 and 2 against teams with a record of .500 or better. With a soft schedule ahead, I expect a lot of dismissal about who we beat and more focus on who we lost to.
1 - Trenches - This game was lost in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Titans had three guys with their hands planted and one roaming fourth defender come at Josh for most of the game. In some cases, that was enough as the Bills offensive line struggled to pick up the stunt. There were a few plays that Allen looked deep but had to get rid of the ball or get hit as he threw. Motor and Moss were relatively ineffective all game, even though Daboll kept pushing it up until the last drive, the line didn't get much push. Similar to the Steelers game, and what we will probably see against the Bucs, our offensive line is still not able to win the five on four match-ups, allowing the opposing defenses to drop seven into coverage, with two safeties deep.
2 - Allen - All had an overall great game, barring the second to last series where he took an unnecessary shot deep against double coverage, setting us up for a long 3rd down. I have no issue with him wanting to take shots downfield, but that wasn't the coverage or time to do it. Had he taken the open underneath passes, we would have had a much more manageable third down and possibly a sustained drive. The slip on the 4th down sneak to end the game was unfortunate, but it's hard to blame Allen for that one. Allen did more than enough to win the game despite the lack of run support, pass rush, and two deep safeties.
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3 - Pass Rush - For a Titans team that gave up seven sacks to the NJ Jets, it's infuriating that we weren't able to generate any pressure in the second half. I understand that we were trying, and failing, to stop Henry, but there were multiple 3rd and long plays in the second half where the Titans were obviously passing. Yes, Henry was in the backfield for a few of those 3rd down plays, but the Titans didn't attempt to run the ball on a single 3rd and long play. So fine; watch out for the draw on the first few occasions, but eventually take a shot and blitz on these 3rd and longs versus giving Tannehill all day to find AJ Brown. Additionally, I don't understand Boogie and AJ being inactive for this game.
4 - Small my table, sits just two
Got so crowded, I can't make room
Oh, where did they come from?... Stormed my room!
And you dare say it belongs to you... to you
5 - Henry - Occasionally, I will focus on the strong play of the opposing teams, and Henry deserves that time here. Similar to Aaron Judge and Lebron James. Derrick Henry is a physical specimen that you rarely see at his position. When his career is over and done, he could easily be in consideration as one of the best all-time halfbacks. I remember when he came into the league and was splitting time, with many in media saying he would never be an every-down back. He shouldn't be allowed to be as fast as he is for his size, but he showed it on his break-away touchdown in the first half. He's Tannehill's best friend and caused us to structure our entire offensive game plan around stopping him. Three touchdowns later, Henry showed why he is king, and I tip my hat to him.
© George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY Sports
6 - Defensive Formation - The Bills ran a lot of a formation that looked similar to a 4-4. We had four guys on the line and four guys (mixture of safety/linebacker/DB) about 5 yards back parallel to the line of scrimmage. It was an interesting stacked box that could commit to stopping Henry or drop back into coverage. On some plays, in fact, for most of the first half, it did a good job of slowing the Titans offense down. Honestly, if you take the Allen interception and Henry's big run out of the first half, the Bills defense did a great job to start the game. In the second half, the Titans made adjustments, our guys got slower as the rushing attack beat on them, and the pass rush was non-existent. The strategy was there, but the execution by the front four wasn't.
7 - Best Shot - I don't watch the Titans and generally don't like them as a team, so this is completely based off of body language and what I saw on the field. There's no question in my mind that we got the Titan's absolute best game. Vrabel's face on the sidelines showed as much as he seemed to live and die with every play. The Titans played out of their minds, and we still had multiple chances to put this game away. Unlike when we lost to the Chiefs twice last year, and it looked like they had our number, the recent 0-2 against the Titans doesn't feel the same way to me. We controlled the outcome of this game, and many aspects of our team didn't perform well. It's tough to lose to a likely division winner when we are in an ongoing battle for the one seed, but I do not believe for a second that we lost to a better team.
8 - Red Zone - Houston (see what I did there), we have a problem. Controlling the first few series of the game doesn't mean much when you can only put up 6 points. As we saw with the Henry run, all good efforts were wasted on one play, and we were then down by one. The Bills continue to struggle getting touchdowns, and it's cost us twice this season. I don't know what's changed since last season, where we were largely dominant, but it's something we need to use the bye week to address. We have the size in Gabe, Jake, and Knox to win the height battles, but don't take those shots. Above all else, Daboll really needs to get to work here.
© George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY Sports
9 - Offensive Line - Spencer Brown, the golden child by many, had a rough game out there. He allowed a pressure that led to an interception. Morse and Mongo couldn't communicate on stunt plays, letting guys run free to Josh. Dawkins got destroyed on the final play. Overall, in the second week of their new-look starting lineup, the Bills front 5 were didn't show up when it mattered most, and it showed on the final scoreboard. With no rushing attack, Allen was his normal pass-happy self and made some throws to counter the pass rush. However, with a better effort up front, we could have easily seen a better outcome.
10 - The play - Would I have gone for in 4th down at the end of the game? No. I'm conservative like that, and I chose to trust my entire team and let them play it out versus putting all their efforts into one play. I don't blame McD for going for it and understand why. We are allowed to agree to disagree on this one. However, I have an issue with the play call. Like I said in the intro, past game stats are great indicators for future strategy, but this game showed something different. After watching this entire game, it was hard to bet money on the Bills offensive line winning a battle for the game. There's a lot of questions about why the play failed. Was it Allen slipping or Dawkins getting blown off the ball from the snap. What I know is this. The Titans only had four players on the line versus our five, and we still couldn't get a push. Even if Allen didn't slip, you can't say he would have gotten it. Regardless of the outcome, McD shouldn't have gambled the game on us winning in the trenches because the entire game showed you we'd lose. Let Allen play fake and then make a choice. The minute they went to the line, everyone in the stadium knew Allen was going to sneak it over Mongo, including the Titans.
In full transparency, this game absolutely pissed me off. I could feel it coming all day and the deja vu heading into a bye week is not a great feeling. I felt like we were the better team but couldn't execute or adjust to the Titans play calling. How we couldn't cover AJ on 3rd down in the 2nd half, time after time after time again, was infuriating. Henry getting his yards was to be expected. And the last call will stick with me for a while. Seeing Tannehill smile on the sidelines after a pedestrian day made me want to break my TV, and I had to just put myself to bed. I shouldn't care about the narrative and didn't expect to go 16-1, but I wanted this game. Hopefully, it will keep the Bills honest and lead to necessary changes in the game plan.
BillsFans - Virgil