Sal's Sticks: Bears at Bills

November 4, 2018
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The Buffalo Bills lost their fourth straight game Sunday, 41-9 at home to the Chicago Bears.  Many of the same issues continued to go wrong.  Let’s start with what the were:


BEHIND THE STICKS

  • QB Nathan Peterman

I’ll state this right off the bat: of the three interceptions Peterman threw, at least two were not on him at all, and the third is debatable. Even without those three picks, Peterman had his share of issues. He finished the game 31-for-49 for 189 yards, which means he averaged only 3.85 yards per-attempt. Very little was thrown downfield. Peterman also decided to take off and run - eventually out of bounds - on what was supposed to be a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.
 

  • RB LeSean McCoy

The most frustrating season of Shady’s career continued that way Sunday as the back ran for a total of only 10 yards on only 10 carries. There are a lot of reasons why McCoy has struggled this season, including offensive line play, opposing defenses keying on him, and a lack of passing game to get defenses to back off the line of scrimmage. He’s also clearly pressing and trying to do too much at times. For the season, McCoy now only has 267 yards on 85 carries, an average of 3.1 yards per-carry. He also has not scored a single touchdown this year, rushing or receiving.
 

  • WR Kelvin Benjamin

Once again, as has been a theme this year, there was more than one football Benjamin looked like he should have come down with, but didn’t, including one he had in his hands in the end zone but was knocked away before he came to the ground. He finished the game with 40 yards receiving, but he was also targeted nine times, and caught only four of those nine.
 

  • WR Terrelle Pryor

Pryor wasn’t very impressive in his Bills debut. In fact, he dropped two passes, one of which resulted in an interception.
 

  • Overall offensive inefficiency

The Bills ran 81 plays on offense. That’s a lot for a NFL game. Yet, they still only gained a total of 264 yards, and average of a dreadful 3.3 yards per-play. They scored only 10 points, collecting their first touchdown in three games, and that came when the score was already out of hand in the fourth quarter. The number of plays for their first half drives were six, three, six, four, two, three, three and five, an average of only four plays a drive over eight drives. The 2018 Bills are one of the poorest offensive teams I’ve ever seen, and they were no better Sunday than they have been most of the year.
 

  • CB Phillip Gaines

Just as he did near the end of the game in Houston a few weeks ago, Gaines, once again, was called for a costly pass interference penalty. But Sunday, he did it twice. The first gave the Bears a free 47 yards, the second gave them 43 yards. That’s 90 yards in pass interference penalties on Gaines alone. The Bears, by the way, converted those two penalties into 10 points.
 

  • Penalties

The Bills set a franchise record with 163 yards in penalties called on them. They were flagged 10 times, the fourth time this season that number surpassed double-digits. On top of that, the Bills and Bears set a record for most combined penalty yards by both teams in a Bills game with 292.
 

  • Early third down defense

In the first half, the Bears converted on some huge third downs. 3rd-and-10 on the first drive. 3rd-and-7 on the next drive. 3rd-and-15 on the next drive. That’s three straight conversions on the first three drives of the game on third downs that equaled 32 yards to gain. Those cost the Bills major field position and then eventually a touchdown. (Note: the Bears went 0-for-6 on third down the rest of the game…..see below).

 

AHEAD OF THE STICKS

  • Third down defense after the first quarter

The Bears went 0-for-6 on third down after the first play of the second quarter. They finished 3-for-11 (27%) overall.
 

  • DE Shaq Lawson

Filling in fo the injured Trent Murphy, Lawson stood out with seven total tackles, a quarterback hurry, and pass breakup.
 

  • LB Julian Stanford

Like Lawson, Stanford was filling in for the injured starter in front of him. Tremaine Edmunds was out with a concussion. Stanford, in his place, led the Bills with eight total tackles and also had a sack, a quarterback hurry, and forced fumble.
 

  • Run defense

The Bills game up a total of 64 yards on the ground and only 2.6 yards per-carry.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

I think a lot of people realized and expected the 2018 Bills to take step back from the over-their-head season they had in 2017. Many even figured that the organization itself knew they could have the season they might have been expecting last year before things fell into place as last season went on.

There’s a difference between taking a step back and not being as good versus being totally uncompetitive and undisciplined the way this team has in multiple games the season. They’ve now lost games by 44, 22, 32, 19, and 32 points in five of their nine contests.

This is one of the worst offensive teams I can remember in all my years watching Buffalo Bills football, as a member of the media or young fan growing up going to games. They just have so many issues with that side of the ball that it makes you wonder how or when they can ever be fixed.

The reality is, those issues won’t be fixed this year. It’s going to take at least a full offseason of draft picks, free agent singings, and trades to get it at least turned in the right direction, and a lot of that (maybe all of it, really) will still hinge on Josh Allen’s development.  

The offense doesn’t have to be great. It just needs to be about average to take advantage of how good the defense usually is. That’s part of the frustrations of this season, that except for a couple of games, the defense has done everything it can to put this team in a position to win games. That’s not always going to be the case. Players leave via free agency. Players retire. Players get hurt. So as good as the defense looks like it will be, even for a few years to come, you never know when the window is going to close.

2-7 and an offense that is on pace to set a franchise record for fewest points in a season. Not exactly a marketing campaign for the final seven games. It’s not easy for fans to watch what they saw Sunday. So instead of just raking the leaves or going Christmas shopping next Sunday when they play at the Jets, maybe watch while knowing, understanding, and expecting what we’ve seen all season so far. Then focus on how Josh Allen looks when he comes back sometime after that.  

I’m just trying to help make the experience a little better because Sunday wasn’t so fun for anyone.


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