This feels all to familiar, doesn’t it?
Just a few weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills were sitting at 5-2, and looked like a near lock to break their 17 year playoff drought, the black cloud that has loomed over this organization for far too long. Now, after back to back blowout losses to the Jets and the Saints, it looks like this team might be exactly what many thought they would be: the same old Bills.
Sunday’s game against the Saints was, in a word, embarrassing. The Saints dominated the Bills on their home turf, where they were previously undefeated, by a score of 47-10. Most would look at that score and assume Drew Brees did what Drew Brees does, but that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, the Saints ran all over the Bills, as Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara each ran for over 100 yards, and punched in four combined touchdowns.
It was a loss so bad, it’s tough to pick out exactly who to blame. This was a complete organizational loss, from start to finish.
Tyrod Taylor, who’s had a decent season so far, had his worst game as a Bill, finishing with 56 yards and an interception. 56 yards, in a professional football game, by a regular starting quarterback. The Saints defense is good, but they aren’t the 85 Bears. Kelvin Benjamin was targeted early, but after the first drive, he wasn’t targeted again until the fourth quarter.
While that’s all frustrating, my biggest complaint regarding the offense is OC Rick Dennison. What was he thinking Sunday? Your defense is getting crushed. The score was already out of hand in the second quarter. Where are the downfield passes? Where are these jump balls to Benjamin? Dennison coached this game as if the forward pass was illegal. Even if the Bills weren’t going to win that game, the offense didn’t even put up a fight.
Also, can we please, pretty please, end the Mike Tolbert experiment? Mike Tolbert may be a nice locker room guy. He may be a solid special teamer. What he isn’t, is an NFL running back. You look all around the league, and see these teams with multiple backs, guys that can break off big plays (Look at the Saints, Rick). The Bills have LeSean McCoy, and a 31 year old fullback. For some reason, this regime fails to see how terrible Tolbert is, and not only plays him, but gives him a prominent role each and every week, despite the fact that he’s failed to make a single big play this season. I don’t know who’s continuously deciding to trot him out there, but it needs to end.
On the defensive side of the ball, it’s becoming clear that if other teams protect the ball, the Bills cannot consistently get stops. The Saints, and to a lesser extent the Jets, did whatever they wanted against the Bills, with little to no resistance. The linebackers continue to struggle in coverage. The pass rush is non existent. Now, the run defense is putrid. It’s all come together at a terrible time.
Say what you will, and I’m not saying it changes the outcome, but as the Saints are rushing for 300 yards, maybe Marcell Dareus stops one or two of those runs up the middle. Sure, he was a headache, but at some point, you need to work with a player, instead of just trading them away. Shaq Lawson, who was supposed to make this second year jump, looks slow and unimpressive. Jerry Hughes has disappeared. The Bills aren’t good enough in coverage to survive without a pass rush, and it may be time to bring some more blitzers.
With all this said, the Bills are still in the playoff picture. If the season ended today, they’d finish with the sixth seed, because the AFC is just that bad. Crazily enough, the Bills still very well could break the drought, as their main competition for that final spot is the lifeless Dolphins, and the offenseless Ravens. Someone will limp across that finish line.
We all knew this wasn’t about 2017. This was about the future. But with those five wins, followed by the trade for Benjamin, fans were excited that this team may be for real. It had fans hoping that maybe, just maybe, this was different from other hot starts. Now, those painful memories are resurfacing. There’s still time to right the ship, but with games against New England and Kansas City quickly approaching, the Bills need to find a fix, and fast, if they want to avoid yet another devastating collapse.