Bills have a toughness problem and not just on the line of scrimmage

NFL

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — Sean McDermott said he thinks the Bills are a physical team. They aren’t.

They’re also not the least physical team. They did push the Chiefs around, but against teams like the Steelers or Titans or Colts, Buffalo is probably going to lose the line of scrimmage more often than not.

They weren’t built to be a down and dirty, grind it out team. They aren’t supposed to be a team that runs it over and over for three yards and a cloud of black turf things in a 17-13 game.

They were built for the modern NFL. They were built with a dynamic, uber-productive quarterback and crazy talent at the skill positions on both sides of the ball. They were built to succeed at protecting the passer and winning games 35-30.

In the NFL, circa 2021, that’s what is believed to be the correct formula and it’s been borne out by the last few Super Bowl champs. Even if that formula is a bit finesse over power and even if there are some games where the power team wins.

The last few weeks have exposed a different problem. It’s not about X’s and O’s or strategy or roster construction.

This Bills team doesn’t seem to be mentally strong. They appear easily rattled. They don’t seem to handle adversity well. They’ll wave goodbye to an opponents’ face up two touchdowns, but punch Buffalo in the mouth and they don’t have an answer.

It’s one thing for a great player like Jonathan Taylor to have a great game. Those happen in the NFL every week. This game was an avalanche. Same as the Rams game at home last year when the Bills blew a 28-3 lead (even though they still won). Same as last year’s AFC Championship. Once the freefall begins, the Bills don’t know how to stop it. That’s not a defense problem. That’s an everyone problem.

In these games, the Buffalo team that’s usually smart, calculating and prepared seems to disappear. Sean McDermott can’t make a correct decision on a field goal to save his life. In the AFC Championship, it was going conservative with two kicks in the red zone. In Jacksonville, it was declining a holding penalty that gave the Jags the shot at a long field goal. In this game, it was deciding to kick on 4th and five down 17 in the third quarter even while his quarterback nearly stomped his foot on the field hoping to go for it.

These Bills lose control and take penalties by the bushel including 15 yarders that appear full of frustration. The clever roughing the passer calls that get Josh Allen regularly nominated for an Oscar were committed by the Bills and earned by Carson Wentz this time.

At some point, someone’s got to make a play. Someone has to rescue the Bills before they reach the cliff. Often that someone is the quarterback. That’s why you pay him $258 million. Yet, Allen was only a single voice in a chorus of sour notes.

It’s not fair expecting the quarterback to have all the solutions, but Allen turned it over three times in the loss to Jacksonville and two times against the Colts. It really should have been three because the fumble Devin Singletary recovered at the end of the first half still pushed the Bills out of reasonable field goal range and cost the Bills three points.

It wasn’t just the turnovers. Allen did not play anything close to good in this game. He missed passes he’s hit all year. He looked unsure of reads. The offensive line was not super without Spencer Brown and Jon Feliciano, but it did not appear to be the same disaster upfront Buffalo had in Jacksonville. Allen can’t only look like an MVP when the personnel situation around him is ideal.

I respect McDermott’s mantra of “everyone doing their 1/11th” and I also respect that the quarterback will always get too much blame in a situation like this. But someone has to figure out how to prop the Bills up when these games start to crumble. The guy who’s got the ball in his hands every snap on offense is gonna have the best chance.

There’s no doubt Star Lotulelei would have helped in this game. Probably a lot. Same for Tremaine Edmunds. Same for Feliciano and Brown. Still, four missing starters is not some crazy dire injury situation in the NFL. It may be unusual for the Bills, but that’s every week in some places.

Injuries can’t be an excuse and, to their credit, no one in red and blue implied they were. There’s still an excellent chance the return of Lotulelei and Edmunds will heal some of the run game wounds. Brown and Feliciano could very well also restore the Buffalo offensive success.

Healthy or not, this won’t be the last time the Bills face a tough spot if they plan on a run to the Super Bowl. We talk a lot in this space about finding different ways to win. Well… the Bills have proven they can win as front-runners. Finding a way to win when things go bad might have to be next on the list especially after their last two playoff runs ended the moment things started to go bad.

There’s probably gonna be a bit of social media chatter this week that the “Same Old Bills” are back because the Patriots now in first place and, once again, Buffalo is looking up to New England. That’s garbage.

This Bills team has too much talent for that. This team has a process and a philosophy and a coach and a staff they believe in. They were built to win a championship.

They just gotta figure out how to still use all that even after getting punched in the mouth.

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