NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WROC) — It felt like a sure thing.
The Bills needed half a yard. There’s no better play for that than Josh Allen on a quarterback sneak. Before this game, Allen had only failed to get a first down in seven of 40 rushing tries on 3rd or 4th and 1. On two of those, the snap was botched. On a third, Allen fumbled after gaining six yards. He was a 90 percent shot to convert.
So, almost a sure thing.
Not only did I think going for it on fourth down with the right call, I think 32 of 32 NFL head coaches would agree. In fact, any head coach that would try a field goal in that spot should be fired the moment the ball went through the uprights. Especially in this game, where the Bills defense had failed over and over. Kicking a field goal means leaving the win in the hands of Lady Luck. If the Bills lose the overtime coin toss, there’s a good chance they would have never seen the ball again.
Every one of the Bills agreed with Sean McDermott’s call to go for the first down. And with the person who carried the ball.
“No one’s mad at anyone for any calls,” Cole Beasley said. “Who better to have ball in their hands than 17? He’s the best player we got.”
“We trust our coaches. We trust 17. I’m with coach ten out of ten times,” Jordan Poyer said.
“Coach put a lot of trust in us for that play,” Mitch Morse said. “That’s why it makes a really sour feeling, especially for the O-line.”
It was the right choice and the right play. It just didn’t work out. That’s how it goes in the NFL. As Allen said, “Those guys get paid, too”.
The Bills told us all week there would be no letdown after the big win over the Chiefs and I don’t think there was. However, those same players clearly revved their engines a few extra times during and after the Arrowhead Annihilation. It seemed like they were out of gas at the end in Nashville. The Titans scored on the last six possessions. The Bills only got a stop two times after the first quarter, both for field goals.
I don’t think there’s anything about this game that “exposed” the Bills, but it did seem like this game showed some of the old wounds from seasons past aren’t yet fully medicated.
The run D that’s been a big concern for a few years was gashed with 143 yards by Derrick Henry alone. All four Titans touchdowns also came on the ground. The pass rush that had blips of life early this season was invisible in Tennessee, failing to sack or much trouble the league’s most sacked QB. It did not help that two of the better young pass rushers (AJ Epenesa and Boogie Basham) were on the bench for this game. Seemingly, McDermott and Leslie Frazier wanted a better run stopping front four.
In Kansas City, Buffalo was the more physical team and pushed the Chiefs around for four quarters. Tennessee is a whole different level of physical and the Bills couldn’t handle the step up in weight class.
After winning almost any way they wanted the last four weeks, the Bills needed Allen and the offense to save this one. As brilliant as he was, Allen only scored two touchdowns in five trips to the red zone. That’s a big box on the “pull the upset” checklist, but the Titans hit a few more. They won on big plays (two 40-yard plays to none). They won on points off turnovers (7 to 3). They let the Bills commit the killer penalties. Tennessee forced this game into one play to decide it and then made the play.
I think Mike Vrabel also outcoached the Bills. I understand why McDermott would want more beef up front on the defensive line (and Harrison Phillips did reward him with a nice game), but the move mostly backfired. The Titans seemed to mix coverages and blitzes very effectively on the other side of the ball. Allen was much more unsure than he should be against a terrible secondary that was down a starter.
I still think the Bills are the best team in the AFC, even if Baltimore will wear that crown this week. The Ravens earned it with a big win over the Chargers. The point is that this one Bills lost doesn’t dismiss Buffalo as a true Super Bowl contender, if not still the favorite.
Monday night in Nashville does prove, above all, the NFL remains a week to week league. How else do you explain a team that lost two weeks ago against 2020’s second-worst team beating the team that last week knocked off 2020’s second best team?
BillsMafia flocked to Nashville expecting a big party that concluded with a big win. Instead, they went home with a reminder that, in the NFL, there is no such thing as a sure thing.