Bills loss in Tampa could end up a win

Buffalo Bills

TAMPA BAY (WROC) — An NFL team with legit Super Bowl aspirations should not have moral victories, but that might be exactly what happened for the Bills in Tampa.

You could tell afterward in the interview room the Bills felt they found solutions in that second half. Sean McDermott said he “saw something”. Dawson Knox thought his team could “take a lot of momentum away”. Josh Allen even may have Freudian slipped the truth from the Bills locker room about this game when called it “this win” before correcting to “this loss”.

No doubt the Bills team that played in the second half was not anywhere near the same team that played in the first. It was a hell of a rally, even if it didn’t end in a victory. And it’s one that’s right out of the Sean McDermott book of coaching philosophy.

It wasn’t just one guy or one unit that spearheaded Buffalo’s comeback against Tampa Bay. It was almost everybody. Dane Jackson was breaking up balls to Rob Gronkowski. Matt Milano had the sack to allow the Bills a last possession to tie. Jordan Poyer was stopping Leonard Fournette cold. Gabriel Davis had a touchdown catch and the 4th down conversion to keep the tying drive alive. Knox had a touchdown and the long catch that got Buffalo into position for the tying field goal. Stefon Diggs was very good again. Even Matt Bleeping Haack had a monster punt in overtime that flipped the field and could have led to a winning field goal.

That second half was a festival of “doing your 1/11th” and McDermott had to be clapping until his hands turned raw like a Buffalo winter. Josh Allen saw it as confirmation.

“I’m damn proud of our team and how we fought in that second half,” Allen said. “That’s who we are.”

Allen didn’t talk about who he was, but almost everyone else would. McDermott called his game “incredible”. Knox said he was a “warrior” and that’s the one I’d settle on. Allen finished with 417 total yards and three touchdowns while playing most the fourth quarter on a bum ankle that needed a boot postgame and will reportedly need an MRI Monday.

There were a half dozen guys who passed for 300 yards Sunday and another half dozen who ran for 100. Allen did both. On one good peg. He didn’t get a win but he nearly earned every damn penny of his $258 million contract in this game.

I know some Bills fans will complain about the pass interference calls towards the end of the game. There were certainly a couple on Diggs that could or should have been called. When you get down by 21 points, you need almost every little call to go your way. The Bills needed every single second half inch and, when they missed on a couple, Tom Brady made them pay.

Allen said the Bills in the second half is who they are. Let’s be fair. If that’s who they are, they wouldn’t be 7-6. I think the more accurate point is that’s who the Bills have to be.

The offense from last year that dominated weekly doesn’t show up as consistently this season. The defense that will smother the bad offenses turns pretty human against the elite ones. The Bills aren’t going to beat the Tampa Bay’s and New England’s and the other elite teams of the NFL with one superior unit. It’s going to take everybody.

That might sounds trite and cliche and straight off a picture on the wall of McDermott’s office, but I think the Tampa loss revealed the Bills will only win on the level they expected this season if everyone does their job. The second half proved it can happen. It’s just a matter of making it happen for more than one half.

McDermott made the proper point after the game that it is just one game. It might just be that the Bills made the right adjustments against the right team, the right quarterback and the right coaching staff and it worked for 30-plus minutes.

It’s also possible Buffalo discovered their formula for competing at the highest level this season. We won’t really know until next week against Carolina and especially the week after in Foxboro and for however many games this Bills season lasts.

The Bills lost a contest that put them two full games out of first place in the division. It also put their playoff chances a little further in peril. But it’s a loss that might help them create some wins down the road. That’s a victory no matter what the scoreboard read on this particular warm Florida night.

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