What was I thinking?

October 21, 2018
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Oy Vey! As defined by Merriam-Webster it is a term used to express dismay or grief.

When I was trying to figure out how to start this column, it came down to that or WOOF!

I feel like either one would have accurately described the Buffalo Bills game in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The “good news” is that there was no suffering involved as this game, like the ones with the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and, to a lesser extent, the Green Bay Packers where the games were basically over at halftime. 

I don’t think anyone would have been surprised if you were told the woeful Bills offense would produce, yet, another game where they did not score a touchdown. The stunner in this one was just how awful the defense looked.

After putting together three great showings against the Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, and a solid game against the Packers, the Bills' defenders were toothless against the Indianapolis Colts. There was no pass rush to speak of, the run defense was gashed and there were no takeaways to rescue them and shorten the field for the offense.

The Colts' offensive line clearly won the matchup up front, giving Andrew Luck time to throw and opening up some big holes for Marlon Mack and his fellow running backs. Luck dissected the pass defense in the first half completing 11-of-15 passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns. Luck had been averaging 48 pass attempts a game, but he only threw 23 times in this contest because the run game was extremely effective and the Bills offense is incapable of getting into a shootout with anybody. Mack became the first running back to rush for at least 100 yards against the Bills this season.

Perhaps the defense is cracking under the strain of having to carry this team and knowing they have very little margin for error. In addition to losing one-on-one battles, there were breakdowns in coverage and missed tackles. A defense that had 11 takeaways and 15 sacks in the last four games came up with a goose egg in both of those categories against Indianapolis, which snapped a four-game losing streak. It marked the first time since Sean McDermott took over as head coach that his defense was shutout in sacks and takeaways in the same game.

The game started out well enough as the Bills forced a three-and-out on the Colts' first two possessions, but Luck and company then put together three straight long touchdown drives. 13 plays and 75 yards, three plays and 74 yards and then nine plays and 82 yards as Indianapolis opened up a 21-0 lead and doomed the Bills to their fifth loss in seven games. The Colts added a field goal just before halftime, but you knew it didn’t really matter thanks to the Bills' offense.  

I’d play the "What did you expect from Derek Anderson?" card here since he was out of football from last January up until two weeks ago. But does that even matter? Whether it is Anderson coming off the street, Nathan Peterman in Year 2 or the rookie Josh Allen, the Bills' offense absolutely stinks. If/when the opponent gets to 14 points, it feels like the game is over. Anderson and the offense actually moved the ball, but couldn’t find their way into the end zone. Buffalo had 303 net yards when all was said and donel but five turnovers and an ugly 2-for-9 on third down made life difficult for the Bills and miserable for their fans. This was the third time in seven games the offense failed to score a single touchdown, joining Baltimore and Green Bay. They managed to produce just one touchdown in two other games (Tennessee and Houston).  

Anderson did a good job of getting the ball out on time and trying to make positive plays. More often than not he seemed to take an initial look downfield and if there was nothing available, he threw a check down pass. Safeties made nice reads and jumped routes on two of his three interceptions and the third was an off target throw that hit off one Colt and went to another. 

The Bills lost LeSean McCoy on their second play of the game as he suffered a head injury and was placed in concussion protocol. I don’t think his presence would have altered the outcome of the game. Chris Ivory actually ran the ball well finishing with 81 yards on 16 carries.  

This seemed to be the most winnable game for the Bills in a three-game stretch that will now see them return home to face the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears the next two weeks, and yet they were throttled by a 1-5 Colts team. As the game ended, there were two thoughts that came to me rather quickly. One was who McDermott would start at quarterback against the Patriots, and then I realized the idea of spending the week discussing Anderson versus Peterman would make me physically ill.

The second thought? For as much fun as we used to make of the “In The Hunt” graphic, that would include almost every team in the league in November, the 2018 Bills won’t be listed. In all likelihood, they will be 2-7 after the Bears game and I’ll have to start playing closer attention to the top prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft.  

Get healthy soon Josh Allen. Not that he will rescue this season from turning into a dumpster fire, but at least I can get back to watching and evaluating him.

Come on Sabres!!!