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Chuck Pollock column: Bills’ loss as bad as it gets

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A column by CHUCK POLLOCK

As Bills losses go, nothing will compare to the “13 seconds” defeat two years ago by the Chiefs in overtime of the divisional playoff round at Kansas City.

But when  it comes to regular-season losses, none has been as hurtful as what happened Monday night at MetLife Stadium since the 25-24 last second-embarrassment to Dallas at Ralph Wilson Stadium 16 years ago.

The Jets lost their Hall-of-Fame bound quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, for the game just four snaps in and seemingly gift-wrapped a victory for Buffalo.

When Rodgers went down with an ankle/calf injury early in the first quarter as he was sacked by defensive end Leonard Floyd, New York seemed to be toast.

All the air went out of the Meadowlands’ Jets fans who had produced the largest crowd in stadium history, more than 800 over capacity.

No way could Buffalo conjure giving away a game to a team which just lost its franchise QB, around whom it had built a season plan that would include a division title and possibly a conference championship.

Except it could and the goat horns rest squarely on the heads of coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen.

Allen played one of his worst games since the Bills blew that 16-0 third-quarter lead in the playoff game at Houston four years back

His final stats, after a dismal second half, were as follows: 29-of-41 passing for 236 yards, with three interceptions — all by Jets safety Jordan Whitehead, who had only three all of last season —  five sacks, two fumbles, losing one, and an anemic 62.7 passer rating.

Afterward, he admitted, “I lost the game for us.”

And he did. His three picks were horrible decisions, all into double coverage.

McDermott and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey have yet to convince Allen he has to stop relying on “Hero Ball” and play within the offense. In the last five years, he’s amassed an impressive 177 touchdowns but a disturbing 84 turnovers. The latter are the numbers that get you beat in the playoffs.

And it’s not just passing. Allen continues to put his career at risk running the ball. Against the Jets he had 36 yards on six carries, but on one of them, rather than going out of bounds, he forced his way two more yards and got tagged. McDermott caught his eye and pointed at his temple, indicating, “You’ve got to be smarter than that.” Later, Allen was sandwiched at the end of a five-yard run, refusing to go out of bounds, and took two big hits.

Clearly, Allen isn’t listening to his coaches and, eventually, will absolutely suffer a major injury.

McDermott has his own issues, starting with his inability to rein in Allen, but rather than worry about calling the defensive plays — more on that in a moment — maybe he should inject himself into the offensive calls. The Bills were up 13-3 at intermission and the defense was playing well. What was called for was a conservative game plan to run clock. Instead, Allen uncorked two horrendous picks and a lost fumble, just enough to give the Jets the possessions they needed to take the lead.

Meanwhile, McDermott’s defense surrendered a galling 172 yards on the ground, six per carry. In the first half, Jets’ star running back Breece Hall went for 26 and 83 yards or 109  on two snaps.That vulnerability has been an ongoing problem for Buffalo’s ‘D’ and continues to be under McDermott.

In all, this is a loss the Bills won’t forget, especially when the league gets down to a playoff push.

Rodgers’ injury was uncertain after the game, though if it’s an Achilles, as suspected, he’ll be gone for the year. If it’s a high-ankle sprain, it’s at least a month.

Yet, Monday night, Zach Wilson, the player New York brought in for Rodgers to replace, responded with a workmanlike performance — one TD, one pick — that produced one of the most unexpected wins in Jets history.

It might be temporary euphoria, but Wilson showed just because Rodgers is out, New York can still win with an outstanding defense and a journeyman QB who doesn’t feel the need to play “Hero Ball.”

Other thoughts from Monday night:

— Even after almost losing the game in regulation, Buffalo got a reprieve when kicker Tyler Bass’ 50-yard game-tying attempt hit the left upright and bounced through the goalposts. But even that break wasn’t enough to save the Bills.

— Allen wasn’t the only flawed decision-maker. In the first half, Bills Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matt Milano made an interception, then undermined it by sticking the ball in a Jets’ face, drawing an immediate taunting penalty.

— Terrel Barnard, playing his first game at middle linebacker, tied for a game-high with 11 tackles for Buffalo while Milano had eight plus the interception, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.

— Bills’ sacks were recorded by Floyd, 1.5, and defensive tackles Jordan Phillips, one, Ed Oliver, one-half.

— Jets sacks went to four defensive linemen, Quinton Jeffterson, two, and Jermasine Johnson, John Franklin-Myers and Al Woods, one each.

Cornerback D.J. Reed had 11 tackles with a game-high 10 solos while linebacker Quincy Williams had 10 stops with nine solos.

— If there was any doubt about the dubious nature of the Bills 2022 first-round draft pick, it was verified in Monday’s  inactives which included healthy cornerback Kaiir Elam. The others were safety Damar Hamlin, offensive tackles Germain Idedi and Alec Anderson and defensive end Kingsley Jonathan. 

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at cpollock@wnynet.net.)

Past column from Chuck:

• Bills season prediction

• A pre-season final win erases memories of the Steelers loss

• Where were the tight ends in the preseason win?

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