JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Considered the skip game on the schedule. The second of an easy three-game stretch for the Buffalo Bills after their goodbye. Another roadside stadium packed with Bills fans ready to enjoy an easy win on a nice afternoon in Florida.
Not so fast.
Instead, the Bills’ offense fought mightily in a 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. A week earlier, Buffalo rallied from a poor first two quarters against the Miami Dolphins and pulled off a strong finish to win. This time, the Bills didn’t score a point in the second half.
“[I] I just have to be smart with the ball and finish each attack with a kick, “said quarterback Josh Allen.” Understand how our defense is playing, not give them shortstop, and again, I have to be better. You know, I played like shit today. “
A Bills offense that scored 30 or more points in five of the first six games and entered Week 9 leading the league in scoring offense scored just six points against a one-win Jaguars team that ranks 26th. in scoring defense even after Sunday’s game.
The Bills scored field goals in the first two series and then cleared on three possessions, had three turnovers and finished their final possession with a loss of attempts. No run was more than 48 yards.
What went wrong and what does it mean to keep going?
Statistically, Allen will not look back fondly on this game. He threw two interceptions, fumbled and was sacked four times. He completed 31 of 47 passes for 264 yards. Allen had some bad moments, especially throwing the second interception of the third quarter as he fell to the ground.
The Jaguars came close to defending Allen in the same way that teams have played Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Allen faced two high security coverages in 65% of his dropbacks, by far the highest rate of his career, limiting his options on the field. His average passing yards per attempt was 6.1, his second-lowest this season.
The Bills have lost all three games in which Allen has faced the most safety coverage of two highs in his career: Week 1 loss to the Steelers (58%), last season’s regular season loss to the Chiefs (55%) and Sunday. Allen’s longest pass Sunday was 28 yards to wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the fourth quarter.
“Two tall projectiles force us to go under,” Allen said when asked about the lack of early targets for Diggs. “I can do different things to get our guys going from the start. We didn’t do a good job on that today.”
Diggs finished the game with six receptions for 85 yards, four of them in the second half. Catcher Cole Beasley was attacked often in the first half, but had only one reception in the final two quarters. It’s unclear if the rib injury that left him questionable entering the game had anything to do with it.
Why did the Jaguars feel confident with that style of defense? Partly because they knew the Bills couldn’t run the ball.
“[Linebacker] Myles Jack told me yesterday: ‘This will be the best game [they would play]. This game is meant for us to win, “said Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen.” They’re talking about this team being able to throw the ball. They don’t really run the ball that much. Okay, they’re working on our hands. ‘
The running game, outside of Allen’s five carries for 50 yards, was ineffective and not part of the game plan. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called for a pass on 84.6% of plays, the highest percentage in any game in which neither team scored 10 points (since game designs were first tracked in 2006). That has to change.
Even a pass-first offense like Buffalo’s has to incorporate the running game to be effective. The inability to get runners involved has been a problem all season.
“That’s a big problem for us right now. We have to be able to run the ball when it is delivered,” coach Sean McDermott said. “… That’s not good enough.”
Buffalo was one of two teams that failed to get a first rushing down on a running back in Week 9. A breakaway runner won’t walk through the gate tomorrow. If this offense is to take a step forward, Daboll will have to get creative with the way his backs are used.
You can’t blame the offensive line for all the trouble in the rush, but their game contributed. The two running backs averaged a league low during the week of 0.2 yards per carry before contact.
Offensive line problems
If you looked at the Bills’ performance only from a statistical standpoint, it seemed like the offensive line had a good day. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Allen had 3.12 seconds to pitch, his second-highest window of the season, and threw 64% of his passes to wide receivers, a season record.
What those numbers can’t tell you is how successful the Bills were thanks to Allen. Anyone who has seen the Bills and Jaguars play could see that Buffalo’s line, especially the inside, is a problem.
Without starting rookie right tackle Spencer Brown and guard Jon Feliciano due to injuries, the Bills played right guard Daryl Williams at right tackle once again. They also called in two backup guards, Ike Boettger and Cody Ford, to action. Ford had an especially tough day, and a Jaguars team that entered the game with 11 sacks in seven games had four on Sunday. The Jaguars were credited with eight quarterback hits.
“As you enter, would you like to say [we were prepared], but I guess we weren’t “, center Mitch Morse said. “So for us, it will be finding ways to maybe change your routine because [Sunday] sadly, it was not. So we will have to reevaluate and go from there. “
Ford’s recent move specifically has been a disappointing development for the second-round pick.
Fingers will be pointing in a variety of directions this week, including the umpires (12 penalties for 118 yards) and the coaching staff. The Bills, however, did not lose the game because of any problems. That would be easier to fix. Still, solutions are possible with an offense that boasts one of the best receiving groups in the NFL and a dynamic quarterback. Daboll is a creative coordinator who should be able to find ways to turn things around. But the Bills must make changes to get where they want to go.