A column by Senior Sports Columnist Chuck Pollock
The Bills will not remember their latest trip to London fondly.
Oh, it starts with them losing a game they were supposed to win and not merely because Las Vegas favored them by 5½ points, or so many “experts” predicted they would win by three touchdowns, or one media-type who assessed Buffalo was superior to the Jaguars in every aspect of the game … including coaching, which is laughable.
The real embarrassment was that the Bills showed up in Britain way too full of themselves … having won the previous three games by an average 41-11 and fresh from having just hung a 48-20 on the Dolphins to retake the division lead.
They were clearly not ready to play and that’s not me saying it, it’s coach Sean McDermott.
“Our energy was not good enough,” he said of Buffalo’s 25-20 loss to Jacksonville. “We’ve got to start the game faster … too many three- and four -and-outs … six total.
“We’ve got to learn from this and get back to (focusing) on throwing, catching and tackling … we have to concentrate on getting back in sync.”
But would that ego was the worst of the Bills problems.
There’s also the devastating injury problem on defense. If the knee issue suffered by Pro Bowl linebacker Matt Milano is as severe as it appeared, it means Buffalo has lost its top two defenders on consecutive Sundays as cornerback Tre’Davious White was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon in the win over Miami.
Milano’s injury put this year’s third-round draft choice, Dorian Williams, in the lineup, and left Buffalo with only four linebackers, one of them, Tyler Matakavich, a special teamer.
THE SITUATION is almost worse at cornerback where not only has White been lost but the starter on the other side, Christian Benford, didn’t play due to a shoulder injury suffered against the Dolphins forcing last year’s top draft choice, Kaiir Elam, into the starting lineup after being inactive the first four games.
White’s spot was taken by Dane Jackson.
A real scare came in the second half when nickel corner Taron Johnson, one of the league’s best, hobbled off the field, but later returned.
Still, the Bills took advantage of the rule that permits the activation of two players from the practice squad and used them to address personnel shortages — defensive tackle Kendall Vickers and cornerback Ja’ Marcus Ingram — and both saw considerable action.
Even the defensive line wasn’t immune.
Two defensive ends — Greg Rousseau and Shaq Lawson — were inactive due to foot injuries with A.J. Epensa taking Rousseau’s starting spot and he enjoyed a big game until he left the game due to exhaustion in the late going.
Epenesa finished with four tackles, two sacks, one of them a strip variety when he not only forced a fumble but also recovered it, plus three deflected passes.
End Von Miller returned for the first time since last Thanksgiving when he suffered a knee injury, and split time with Leonard Floyd, who logged two sacks.
When asked about Miller’s return, McDermott allowed, “It was great to have him out there … you could feel his impact on the game.”
Well, not exactly.
Miller was credited with one assisted tackle, what they really needed was his locker room presence and his realization that the team was flat and needed his emotional inspiration to get it out of the game-long funk it was in.
OTHER TAKES from this hurtful — literally and figuratively — loss to the Jaguars.
— Some media outlets indicated the game would be carried on WIVB-TV which, of course, it wasn’t.
The broadcast was actually on Fox, which was bad news for viewers who chose that option rather than the NFL Channel. Somehow, in the early going on Fox, the audio on the game was interrupted by a competing foreign-language broadcast and the duplicate broadcasts lasted for much of the first quarter. Subscribers to the NFL Channel had no such issue, though many in the Southern Tier don’t have access to it.
— It’s hard not to blame Buffalo’s blah performance for the ridiculous 13 penalties, two of which were declined. The ones that were accepted were hurtful.
Rookie offensive guard O’Cyrus Torrence attracted two holding penalties within three snaps. Defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who had a nice game — nine tackles, five assists, a sack and three quarterback hits — was called for illegal use of hands that kept the Jaguars’ first touchdown drive alive.
Safety Jordan Poyer was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a third-and-11 play that gave the Jags life and nickel back Taron Johnson was called for pass interference which did the same.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs was called for offensive pass interference that negated a touchdown pass from Josh Allen to wideout Gabe Davis, though they connected for a score on the very next play.
Dorian Williams, who replaced Milano, was flagged for illegal contact, offensive tackle Dion Dawkins was guilty of holding and both Matakavich and Ingram were called for violations on special teams.
— And let’s not forget the offense. Suddenly the Bills rushing attack is in need of some juice. Against the Jags, Buffalo ran for a pathetic 29 yards on 14 carries, worse, James Cook, the feature back, had an underwhelming minus-four yards on five tries.
— Once again, McDermott, as is his wont, wasted a couple of timeouts that would have been of use late in the game.
— Inactive for the Bills besides Benford, Rousseau and Lawson were offensive tackles Germain Iefidi and Alec Anderson, safety Damar Hamlin and defensive tackle Poona Ford.
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.)
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