Moments after a crushing loss at Kansas City, Sammy Watkins lamented a “lack of urgency.” He wasn’t necessarily broadcasting veiled criticism at coaches for a lack of targets in the second half.
No, the Buffalo Bills wide receiver didn’t like the body language he was seeing on the sideline from the whole team. The vibe. The atmosphere. Himself included.
At his locker on Wednesday, Watkins explained.
“Body language,” Watkins said. “They go and score, we have to line back up, make plays and go out there. I think we get down in the game. Guys that aren’t getting balls get down and when I don’t get the ball I get down. So it’s really just staying consistent through all the plays. Blocking throughout the whole game. I think I kind of died down a bit in the second half and I have to stay alive, stay playing fast and competing.”
Watkins’ numbers reflect such a sudden change. He torched the Chiefs in the first half for 158 yards on six receptions with two touchdowns. Then, he was targeted once in the second half. An unstoppable, well-oiled machine of an offense suddenly had smoke emanating from the hood and shut down, completely, as the Chiefs pulled away.
This has been the latest theme for Buffalo’s offense. At New England, the unit got off to a fast start before stalling, too. In all, the Bills have gone three and out on 35 on 129 possessions (27.13 percent), second-worst in the NFL.
It’s not a mental thing to Watkins. He pointed to the dreary, rainy atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium.
“The weather, the clouds, little things like that, that you can’t let affect your game,” Watkins said. “You can’t fall asleep when they’re holding the ball for six minutes. Things like that, you have to stay in tune. You can’t worry about what the defense is doing. You’ve got to really control the offense.”
How do the Bills go about changing this downtrodden, defeated vibe? Staying positive, Watkins says. It sounds like his segment of the sideline that second half at Kansas City was not always that way on Sunday.
“I don’t need anybody telling me, ‘Man, we got scored on!’” Watkins said. “Stuff like that kind of brings you down. You can’t listen to that. We have to really stay together as a whole team, which I think we do for the most part. But third and fourth quarter we’re just slipping a little bit. We need to refocus sometimes and come out second half and get on the team and put the nail in the coffin basically.”
Not that Watkins’ teammates on offense all agree with this sentiment. Two of the linemen didn’t sense any sort of woe-is-me dejection, disappointment on the sideline when the Chiefs began pulling away. Quite the opposite to guard Richie Incognito. In fact, he sees the ability to bounce back from bad plays as a strength of this team. A rarity.
Just this week, Incognito had a conversation with offensive coordinator Greg Roman about the team’s resiliency. This team’s attitude is much different than what he’s seen in Miami and St. Louis seasons past.
To him, there’s a hunger that can trigger a strong finish.
So on Sunday, neither Incognito nor center Eric Wood sensed that players were down and out.
“No, not at all,” Incognito said. “I know as far as being down there by the O-linemen, we’re into it. We’re jacked up. We’re ready to go. Something bad will happen and you won’t see guys moping around or deer in the headlights like ‘Oh, here we go again.’ I’ve been on bad teams before where something will happen – a fumble or an interception – and you just come over to the sideline and you feel it. It permeates throughout the entire team. Bad body language and people just thinking, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ We’re not that team. We’re resilient and we fight. We’re going to be fun to watch when we play a complete game.”
Added Wood, “Well, we were over there a bunch with 11 minutes of possession. And we did that to ourselves. You just have to stay on the field better. I didn’t necessarily sense that but I did notice we were sitting a lot. … When you do hit a wall, you’ve got to get out of it. And you’ve got to get back to executing at some point.”
Of course, Wood has seen his share of crushing losses in Buffalo himself. Seasons fall apart. While the abbreviated, lifeless drives must stop, he senses the same fight Incognito does. Either way, the Bills are now at 5-6 and in need of a complete game on offense.
Whether it’s the clouds, the pass rush, the coverage, whatever’s slowing down Buffalo’s offense, it’ll need to snap out of it quickly this Sunday against the Houston Texans.
Fixing poor second halves, to Watkins, starts in practice. Starts with a focus. He’s trying to treat each practice rep like a game rep. He’s working on “staying alive the whole practice.” Everyone on offense must be engaged.
Then, sure, the results will change.
“If we play like we play first halves in the second half,” Watkins said, “I think we would’ve won most of our games. I think that’s what we have to instill.”