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Image Credit: © Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports


The Colts crushed the Bills, 41-15, on Sunday afternoon. 


Coming into the game, the persistent question was “just how good are the 2021 Bills?”


Now, we have the answer:  Not very good.


November is when good teams emerge in the NFL.  The Bills haven’t emerged, and time is running out.  Fast. 


There’s not much to say, so I’ll state the obvious.


The Bills have a one-dimensional offense that can’t score against any decent NFL defense, like the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The formula is simple:  Give the Bills nothing deep, rush Allen, ignore the play fake.   Play the receivers tight.


Wait.  That’s the formula to stop everyone.  It’s easier said than done.  Well, yes, except against the Bills, it IS easily done.  Why?


1.  The Bills can’t run the ball, so the linebackers and defensive backs can ignore the play fake.


2.  The Bills can’t pass block, so rushing Allen is easy. 


3.  Secure in the knowledge that Allen will have to throw quickly, the defensive backs can clamp down on the short routes, making every throw a tough throw. 


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© Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports


It’s hard not to conclude that the offensive line is a problem.  The line creates few easy yards for the running backs, and the line consistently allows quick pressure in Allen’s face.  Remarkably, the Bills really miss rookie Spencer Brown.  Not that Brown has been an All-Star, but he’s been pretty consistent.  Brown’s absence and the season-ending injury to Feliciano have forced the Bills to put Cody Ford on the field, a player who’s had multiple opportunities to produce and simply can’t. 


Ford isn’t the only problem.  Mitch Morse seems to be good for a holding penalty flag almost every week.  He holds because he can’t neutralize good power rushers. 


Someone’s probably playing well on the line, but I don’t know who it is. 


The defensive line presents exactly the opposite problem.   It can’t stop good running teams, and it can’t pressure the quarterback consistently.  Lotulelei out of the lineup made a difference.


On both sides, the primary problem is that these players are finesse players, not power players.   The offensive line can’t move the defense off the line of scrimmage, and the defensive line can’t hold the line of scrimmage.  Under those circumstances, the opposing defense can ignore the Bills run game and the play fake, and the opposing offense can run at will forcing the linebackers to play the run and the run fake.   


Until the line play changes, it’s hard to imagine that the results will change.


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© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports


Of course, the game got away from the Bills on one play:  After the Colts went up 17-7 late in the first half, the script was clear:  Allen takes the Bills on a scoring drive to close the half 17-10 or 17-14, and then the Bills take the second half kickoff and take over the game.  Instead, Isaiah McKenzie gave the ball away on the kickoff, the Colts make it 24-7, the Bills go three and out to open the second half, and the game was over.


Several Bills made critical mistakes, and the lack of discipline and execution was surprising for a McDermott team, but McKenzie’s play – one play – should earn him a ticket out of town before next September.  Harsh?  Not at all.  McKenzie has 5 receptions for 26 yards and 5 rushes for 27 yards.  His primary job, practically his only job, is to return kicks, and ball security is rule number one for kick returners. 


In fact, ball security may be the ONLY rule for a kick returner.  Some might say the fumble is worth the risk, because once in a while there’ll be a big return.  Well, no.  There have been over 600 kickoffs returned this season, four for touchdowns.  That’s less than 1% out of kicks returned, and that doesn’t include all kickoffs for touchbacks.  How about punts?  Over 500 punts returned, ZERO TDs, and that doesn’t include the fair catches, punts downed, or punts out of bounds.  These days, kick returning is pretty much all risk and no reward.  Given that reality, McKenzie’s play was unforgiveable. 


 The Bills now face a big-time gut check:  Go to New Orleans and win on four days’ rest, then come home beat a Patriots team that unlike the Bills, is getting great line play on both sides of the ball.    




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