A column by Senior Sports Columnist Chuck Pollock
Do you believe in karma?
And I guarantee you, if he didn’t before, Bills’ nickel back Taron Johnson does now.
It was last Sunday night that he got away with a hold on Giants tight end Darren Waller in the end zone and the resultant incompletion preserved Buffalo’s 14-9 last-play win over New York.
Fast forward to yesterday afternoon.
The Bills had finally taken the lead 25-22 with under two minutes to play against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium and seemed set to earn consecutive victories against the NFL’s two worst teams.
But, alas, karma intervened.
New England, averaging a pathetic 12 points per game coming in, merely rolled 75 yards in eight plays, the last one courtesy of karma.
On third down from Buffalo’s 1-yard line, Pats’ reserve tight end Mike Gesicki, the former Dolphin, beat Johnson on a slant and caught the winning touchdown.
Buffalo coach Sean McDermott was furious, but he had no problem a week earlier celebrating the no-call on Johnson, complete with a “Praise God” point to the sky.
SO HERE’S where the Bills are now.
At 4-3, that Super Bowl talk can be canned and even winning the division. This team, after three straight lousy performances, is spiraling out of the playoff race.
Buffalo needed a blown call to beat the worst team in the NFC last week and wasted a comeback against the AFC’s last-place squad yesterday afternoon.
Those two games were preceded by a somnambulant performance in losing to the Jaguars at London. And we all remember the turnover-fest loss against the Jets, who lost their starting quarterback after four snaps, in the season opener at the Meadowlands.
In all four of those games, the Bills were a heavy favorite.
After three straight games when Buffalo averaged 41 points in beating the Raiders, Commanders and Dolphins, the Bills have followed with a trio of consecutive malodorous first halves and have a 1-2 record to show for them.
EVEN MORE concerning, after playing Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence to a virtual draw, Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen has been outplayed the last two weeks, first by the Giants Tyrod Taylor, the former Bill, with the notable exception of one play at the end of the first half, then Sunday by the Patriots’ struggling Mack Jones.
Allen is not playing with the confidence we’re used to seeing and we saw it against the Pats when on Buffalo’s first snap of the game he threw an ugly interception.
About the only positive in losing at New England was that rookie first-round draft choice Dalton Kincaid had his best game (eight catches for 75 yards) and second-year running back James Cook has continued his contribution (102 yards rushing and receiving).
It’s impossible to conclude, given the fact that Buffalo has mounted second-half comebacks in the past three dismal performances, that the problem is they’re just not ready to play when the game starts.
That’s totally on the coaches and they had best figure it out fast before Buffalo endures its first postseason miss since 2018.
OTHER NOTES from the Bills most recent hurtful loss:
— The win was the 300th of Pats’ coach Bill Belichick’s career making him only the third in NFL history to reach that milestone, behind only George Halas and Don Shula.
— New England’s 29-point output was its highest total this season, the previous high being 20 in the season opener against Philadelphia. When the Pats went up 22-10, that 12-point margin was their largest lead of the season.
— On the Bills first offensive snap, quarterback Josh Allen threw his seventh interception of the season as Pats’ safety Jabrill Peppers got his first pick this year. Then, on the game’s final play, Allen fumbled with safety Brendan Schooler recovering.
— Buffalo lost an Allen to tight end Dawson Knox TD pass when running back Latavius Murray was called for offensive pass interference.
— The Bills’ only sack of Pats’ quarterback Mack Jones was logged by safety Jordan Poyer, his first of the season. Later, Poyer forced a fumble by New England wideout Kendrick Bourne with middle linebacker Terrel Bernard recovering.
— The Pats lone sack of Allen was logged by defensive tackle Jason Barmore, his second of the campaign.
— The Patriots 3-0 lead at the end of their opening possession marked the first time New England scored after a takeaway.
— Bernard had game-highs in tackles (11) and solos (nine) while Poyer had 10 tackles. Peppers and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley topped the Pats with nine tackles each.
— Rookie first-round draft choice, Dalton Kincaid, the tight end from Utah, had his best game as a pro with eight catches for 75 yards. Wideout Stefon Diggs was held to six catches for a mere 58 yards.
— Bills’ placekicker Tyler Bass, who was perfect through five games, has now missed three of his last four field goal attempts, a 52- and 53-yarder in the narrow win over the Giants and a 42-yard attempt against the Pats.
— Inactive for the Bills were defensive tackle Ed Oliver (toe), tight end Quintin Morris (ankle), safety Damar Hamlin, linebacker A.J. Klein and tackles Germain Ifedi and Alec Anderson.
With Oliver out and DaQuan Jones (injured reserve with pectoral surgery) unavailable Buffalo’s starting D-tackles were Jordan Phillips and Tim Settle with Poona Ford and Kendall Vickers in reserve.
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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