Week Two: Buffalo makes better, bad
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The Josh Allen era came in like a lamb on Sunday, with the Bills dropping a 31-20 decision to the Southern California city to be named later Chargers. It felt like a classic game for both teams. The Bills, despite only losing by 11, never really felt like they had a legitimate chance at winning this game after the Charges ran roughsod through their defense in the first half. The Chargers, a trendy Super Bowl pick, spent the whole second half playing down to their competition. Ultimately, the top level offensive talent that LA possesses turned out to be enough to build a lead that Buffalo's debuting signal caller was not able to surmount
For Bills fans, the narrative going into the game revolved around what Allen would do in his first start. The Bills staff, alongside a lot of draft experts and "draft experts," called Allen a project QB. In layman's terms, no one thought he was the kind of quarterback you should be planning on starting week 2 of his first season unless the sky has begun to rain meatballs and cave in Chicken Little style. After another Peterman disaster in the wake of trading away the only quarterback on the roster with experience, it may have been the best choice. But it was a choice caused by a chain reaction of baffling personnel decisions. More about those in a bit.
A rough start
Allen was okay. He wasn't great, but unlike Week One, it felt like there were flashes of arm talent and ability that could jump start an offense. They were mixed in with poor decisions and bad reads of defenses that are completely inevitable at this point in time for most, if not any rookie QB. We did get to see a couple flashes of the rocket arm, most notably on a deep bomb to Zay Jones that he desperately tried to drop, but hauled in for a 57 yard catch. The pass was not only the second longest in air throw (64 yards) documented since they started recording that statistic, but also longer than the sum of total yards on the drive, as the Bills went backwards and had to settle for a field goal.
With a rookie QB, a group of receivers that had the #3 receiver cut late in the week, an offensive line that has been much maligned, and an injured LeSean McCoy, this offense looks to be a roller coaster shooting out of the blocks for a season of ups and downs. I believe we'll see flashes of great play from this bunch. This doesn't feel to me, after the second half yesterday, like the 0-16 Lions or Browns teams. Despite my pessimism I do believe there are wins to be had. After the Cardinals barely crossed midfield yesterday, I'm not even convinced the Bills are the worst team in the league right now. What they are is a team lacking talent characteristic of a team tat wants to be taken seriously as a contender.
Trusting the process seems harder and harder with each passing glance at the depth chart. How does this team determine the best course of action with their draft assets is to trade up and draft Allen? If it wasn't for Denver wanting Chubb, we would have given up more. Then, we bring in a veteran QB to replace the veteran QB that half the fanbase hated for not throwing for 300 yards (which, as an aside, Allen did not do). We then traded that guy.
We got rid of Tyrod Taylor so we could run *checks notes* a slew of designed quarterback runs in the second half.
We let Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods go because they're not worth the money. They got replaced by Benjamin and Jones (drops everything), signed Kerley (cut), and traded for Coleman (cut, cut, and cut).
We traded Ronald Darby and let EJ Gaines walk. They get replaced by Phillip Gaines - a walking blown coverage - and Vontae Davis, who literally quit in the middle of the game, saw what he was in for, and retired.
Do I think less of Vontae Davis because he retired at halftime? A bit, yeah. I think we all like to believe that the players who suit up for our teams are doing their best for the city and the organization they represent. The Bills are a laughing stock today because of Davis's actions.
Spitting in the wind
As bad as losing a started to a broken spirit, torn psyche, and a concussion of the will to carry on - the feeling that it gives me about how the roster is being built, and the lip service that is always given to the character that the team searches for in players, is far worse. The team that I would imagine didn't offer anything for occasional drug enthusiast Josh Gordon, despite his immense talent, looked at Jeremy Kerley in the offseason and saw a guy who they felt could contribute to this team. They sat down with Vontae Davis and saw a man ready to begin his career anew. They brought in Anquan Boldin last season and saw a veteran receiver ready to teach a new generation of Bill. The character these guys had totaled one and a half games combined for people penciled in as starters.
What does it mean to be a high character guy? Because I'm not seeing it from a lot of the recent Bills additions.
What Beane and McDermott have done is create a question - are the Bills tanking, or is their ability to build a roster not what they claim it to be?
All that being said, there was a lot of positives to draw from the game, especially in the second half. Allen got his first career touchdown pass in a tight window to Benjamin. Benjamin, much maligned after Week One (some warranted, some not so much), made a tough catch in the area he will be relied on to make plays. The offensive line gave Allen the most time to throw per dropback of any quarterback thus far this season.
The defense felt like they took the Vontae Davis news personally and held the Chargers to 3 second half points. The pass rush especially felt like it came to prove a point coming out of the locker room. Lorenzo Alexander, one of the true leaders of this team, had an impact second half. Jerry Hughes had an elite rusher level sack. Hughes can be frustrating as a fan because you watch him maul a guy one play, and then line up in the neutral zone to wipe out a huge stop the next.
I feel like the team is in a better spot - at least mentally - than they were after Baltimore. Injuries and depth are going to be an issue, as this team wasn't deep to begin with. With McCoy likely to see a little less work if he does play, it will fall on Ivory and Murphy to try and take some of the pressure off Allen. The secondary is a MASH unit without Davis, and both Johnson and Gaines dealing with injuries. McDemott may just have to spam engage eight on a few plays due to lack of other options.
We leave Week Two with more questions than answers, with two tough road games looming ahead. We're going to learn a lot about this team by the time September is done.
Some Quick hitters
Bills MVP: Chris Ivory got to score the first touchdown of the season in what will assuredly be a post season trivia question. He did also have a nice 30 yard catch and run in garbage time
Chargers MVP: A lot of teams are going to regret passing on Derwin James. He was absolutely everywhere yesterday, including a sack before Allen could fake a handoff on a play-action pass.
Rule of the Day: Apparently, muffing a punt is only a fumble when recovered in the field of play, and a touchback when recovered by a teammate in the endzone. I did not know this. I feel like basically no one on the field knew this either, minus the official. Thankful to hear the news today the Taiwan Jones did not suffer anything worse than the gash on his forehead.
Former Bill of the Week: Sammy Watkins went for 100 recieving yards and the Chiefs offense poured it on in Pittsburgh. Also, Ryan Fitzpatrick is living his best life
Future Bill of the Week: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. Coming off a six interception season, Williams is part of a Tigers defense that has shot up into the top ten with a pair of big early season wins. He would pair nicely across the field from former Bayou Bengal Tre White.
Beer I drank to Cope of the Week: Ballast Point's Dead Ringer is a personal favorite Fall beer for those games between the time when it's 90 and the time it's snowing, which is roughly one Bills home game
Next Opponent: The Bills open as 17 point underdogs at Minnesota, a great team that blew a winnable game, and would like nothing more than to prove a point. This is the largest opening line since the pre-Bortles Jaguars were once 26.5 point underdogs at Denver