A column by Senior Sports Columnist Chuck Pollock
As I watched the Bills fritter away Sunday’s afternoon’s game at Foxboro against the then-last-place Patriots, my thoughts went back to the Buffalo fans who laughed at me after reading I predicted a 10-7 season for their team.
And while there are 10 games to go, here’s what’s coming: road games at both of last year’s Super Bowl teams, Kansas City and Philadelphia (each 6-1), Miami (5-2), improving Cincinnati and the always dangerous Chargers plus a home game versus Dallas (4-2).
Currently, Buffalo, 4-3, is trailing six other AFC teams in the standings with three others within a half-game. In other words, missing the playoffs is hardly out of the question.
This is a team that has strung three straight horrid performances and is a missed holding call from losing all of them.
Worse, that trio of games have one factor in common … abysmal first halves.
AND THAT brings us to coaching, in general, and Sean McDermott in particular.
Buffalo’s head coach showed unmistakable arrogance when he pushed veteran defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier aside after last season and decided he, and he alone, would restore order to that unit by calling the plays.
How’s that working out?
The last two games, the NFL’s two worst teams — Giants and Patriots — have each outgained Buffalo and in the last three starts McDermott’s defense has tackled as if it’s touch football.
In fairness, that stretch has coincided with the injury loss of three of its best defenders: cornerback Tre’Davious White, outside linebacker Matt Milano and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. And it hasn’t helped that the Bills have gotten nothing from end Von Miller (one assisted tackle in 53 snaps over three games), but that’s also to be expected from a 34-year-old edge rusher coming off ACL surgery.
And, yes, Ken Dorsey isn’t Brian Daboll as an offensive coordinator, but to put all the blame on him is to not see the whole picture.
Much of that responsibility also falls on quarterback Josh Allen who’s suddenly not the same player.
Has he been distracted by the celebrity of a starlet girlfriend, national interviews and all those endorsement opportunities? Has the cacophony of calls from him to “slide” or “run out of bounds” ruined his on-field creativity? Or is it merely the lack of a dependable No. 2 wide receiver narrowing his passing options?
Against the Patriots, nominal No. 2, Gabriel Davis, was targeted a half-dozen times and caught one ball for six yards. He has 22 receptions in seven games … not exactly Jaylen Waddle.
WHAT’S CERTAIN is this, Buffalo is a team in disarray and it starts at the top. The question is what to do about it.
Usually, in this situation, McDermott scapegoats somebody. Think special teams coordinator Heath Farwell, safeties coach Jim Salgado and, of course, Frazier.
He could dump Dorsey and go full micromanager and call both the offensive and defensive signals himself.
Just a joke, of course.
But, it’s not unfair to suggest that he drastically underestimated the amount of time running the defense would take away from his primary job, game management.
Now, at the worst possible time, Buffalo faces another short week.
Yeah, the Bills are home on Thursday night, but the Buccaneers aren’t exactly the pushover they appeared to be when the schedule was released.
Tampa Bay quarterback Baker Mayfield is playing well, the Bucs are a better-than-expected 3-3 and have beaten the Vikings and Bears on the road.
In other words, this isn’t necessarily the game for Buffalo to try to regain its footing.
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.)
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