A column by Senior Sports Columnist Chuck Pollock
It was hard to watch Buffalo’s way-tougher-than-it-should-have-been win against the overmatched Giants Sunday night at Highmark Stadium without thinking the Bills seem lost on both sides of the ball.
That 14-9 escape never should have been a game. Coach Sean McDermott’s offense was reasonably effective running the ball.
Sixteen of Bills’ QB Josh Allen’s 30 passing attempts targeted Stefon Diggs, 10 of them completions, giving him a team-record fourth straight 100-yard receiving game. Only two other receivers had more than a single catch among the other nine, one of them wideout Gabriel Davis who fumbled away a key first-half possession.
Diggs-Davis don’t exactly remind you of Hill-Waddle.
And unless Buffalo’s offensive coaching staff comes up with a viable No. 2 receiving option, the Bills are in trouble when the postseason arrives.
The Giants figured it out early … Diggs would get his catches but he wouldn’t beat them.
Buffalo’s touchdowns came from a pair of reserves, backup wideout Deonte Harty and No. 3 tight end Quintin Morris. Not exactly a tandem which scares opponents into a “prevent” defense.
McDermott addressed that very subject Monday afternoon.
“That’s some of the deep dive we’re digging through now,” he said, ‘where is the second target, where’s the third targeted player and who is it? How can we get them more touches, or get them open more?
“Stef is off to a good start, the rapport with Josh has certainly been obvious … now it’s who’s resource two and resource three … we’ve got to continue to evolve offensively off that.”
STILL, it’s not just finding ancillary receivers, the past two games it’s been slow starts, first at London in the loss to the Jags, then Sunday night in Orchard Park.
After both games, McDermott and Allen cited the same issue.
“Overall we’re trying to define who we are,” the seventh-year coach said, “ … that’s an ongoing process throughout the year, what players fit into what holes. That inconsistency (we’ve got to solve) by getting into a better rhythm early in the game. “We’ve got to look hard at that. We have not gotten off to a good start the last two games. We’re doing work this week to figure out how to improve that … obviously not scoring enough points the last two games in particular in the first half.”
He concluded, “Give credit to the Giants, but other than that (it comes down to) a higher level of execution from us.’
BUFFALO’S DEFENSE is more innocent as the effects of losing its top cornerback (Tre’Davious White), outside linebacker (Matt Milano) and run stuffer (DaQuan Jones) are already being felt.
The Bills generated precious-little pass rush — two sacks, five hits– on veteran New York quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the former Bill, now with his sixth NFL team. Indeed, other than one calamitous decision at the end of the first half, Taylor outplayed Allen most of the game.
What’s really concerning is that in two games and 47 snaps Von Miller, the Bills top pass rusher, back from offseason knee surgery, has generated exactly one assisted tackle. They need much more from what once was one of the NFL’s premier defensive ends.
However, it’s hard to look past the problems at cornerback as Dane Jackson, who took White’s spot, was inactive against the Giants due to a foot injury and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back for Sunday’s game at New England.
In his place, 2022 first-round draft choice Kaiir Elam became the desperation starter and the Giants attacked him like mosquitoes on a blood spill.
And while second-year pro Terrel Bernard had performed well in the middle, the rest of the linebacking crew is still mix-and-match.
MEANWHILE, the Bills mantra, on Monday night, was some variation of “a win is a win,” figuratively whistling past a graveyard.
But there’s always another side to a stolen victory … a crushing defeat.
It was hard not to feel for Brian Daboll, whose brilliant coaching job of an inferior team, nearly produced once of the biggest upsets of the NFL season.
“It was a competitive game,” he said of the matchup he knew the Giants played well enough to win. “I thought we competed hard. All (losses) are tough. You put a lot into it. “But this is a hell of a football team that we played — in a great environment, a tough place to play. Sixty minutes, there was zero time on the clock (for the final deciding play). You don’t get trophies for trying. It came down to one yard. (We) just missed it.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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