A column by Senior Sports Columnist Chuck Pollock
So you don’t think the Bills are in trouble?
Well, consider this.
They beat one of the NFL’s two worst teams, 14-9, on Sunday night at Highmark Stadium, in a game they were outgained offensively, lost the turnover battle 2-0, and had to stop two plays from their own 1-yard on the final play of each half to prevail.
This win was hardly celebration-worthy … indeed had Buffalo not won, it would have been a profound embarrassment.
And the reason was, for the second straight game against an inferior opponent, the Bills were clearly unready to play … and that’s coaching my friends.
It cost them last Sunday in London and it almost did last night in Orchard Park.
CONSIDER, Buffalo was held scoreless for the opening three quarters for the first time since 2018 and one reason was that quarterback Josh Allen’s passing game was monolithic.
He completed 19 passes, 16 to three players: Stefon Diggs 10, Gabriel Davis and tight end Dawson Knox, three each. Wideouts Khalil Shakir and Deonte Harty and backup tight end Quintin Morris, one each, the latter two for TDs.
The Bills surrendered 317 yards to the NFL’s second-worst offense and got precious-little help from defensive end Von Miller, who did not make it on to the stat sheet last night and combined with a week ago against Jacksonville, admittedly on “pitch counts” both games, has totaled one assisted tackle.
AFTERWARD, coach Sean McDermott, echoed the same message about slow starts as he did after the loss to the Jags.
“We hadn’t been in rhythm in the first half … at the end of the day you’ve got to find some rhythm,” he said. “If you don’t have your ‘A’ game, you’ve got to figure it out.
“Our defense really stood up … nine points for the game. And the two drives they had (at the end of the half and end of the game) … fourth down, last play, we stopped a run and we stopped a pass.”
Quarterback Josh Allen, who had negative x-rays on a sore shoulder, was asked about the team’s slow start.
“Their offense is very much similar to ours,” he said of the Giants. “They see it for a month-and-a-half in training camp and are used to defending it. They played a really good game defensively so let’s throw records out the door.
“They did a good job today … we made one more play on defense than they did.
“There are pretty wins and ugly wins and this one was ugly but we’ll take it.”
Allen added, “We just got into a better rhythm in the second half and were smarter with the football. We got to find a way to establish that early in the game and feed off of that.
“We’ve been an extremely efficient offense and scored a lot of points up until the last two games. We have to figure out why that is and to get ourselves out of that funk and get ourselves into a good rhythm.”
Next up for the Bills, 4-2, is a game against the AFC’s worst team, New England, 1-5, next Sunday in Foxboro.
OTHER NOTES from Buffalo barely surviving against the 1-5 Giants:
— The game’s leading tackler was Bills nickel back, Taron Johnson, with 15 stops and nine solos AND most importantly, getting away with a potential hold on the final play, tipping away the potential winning TD in the end zone. Middle linebacker Terrel Bernard had a dozen tackles and also nine solos and cornerback Christian Benford added nine stops and eight solos.
Bernard and Benford combined to stop Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley on the final play of the first half … another game-saver.
— Bills’ kicker Tyler Bass, who had made his first 27 kicks this season — field goals and extra points combined — ended the streak when he was wide right on 52 and 53 -yard attempts.
— The Bills’ first sack of Giants QB Tyrod Taylor was recorded by end Leonard Floyd, giving him a team-leading 6.5. The second was logged by end A.J. Epenesa, his fourth of the season and third in the last two games.
— Buffalo’s first turnover was a fumble by wide receiver Gabe Davis after a reception when hit by linebacker Bobby Okereke with fellow backer Micah McFadden recovering.
Later, McFadden intercepted a tipped Josh Allen ball, his first of the season.
Okereke topped the Giants with 11 tackles and eight solos while McFadden had the game’s only takeaways.
— Two of Buffalo’s inactives were injury-related — cornerback Dane Jackson (foot) and tight end Dalton Kincaid (concussion protocol) — plus safety Damar Hamlin, linebacker A.J. Klein and tackles Germain Ifedi and Alec Anderson. Last year’s first-round draft choice, Kaiir Elam, replaced Jackson in the starting line-up.
In the second quarter, running back Damien Harris, the former Patriot, suffered a neck injury and was taken from the field via ambulance though he had movement in his extremities and though hospitalized his prognosis seemed good.
— Barkley (ankle) was active but on a “pitch count.” But three other New York starters were out: quarterback Daniel Jones (neck), offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) and center John Schmitz (shoulder).
During the game, the Giants lost offensive tackle Joshua Ezeuku (toe).
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.)
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