He might have had to view them under a microscope, but Sean McDermott insisted there were positives to be found amidst the rubble that was game film of the Buffalo Bills' 47-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
"There’s always positive. There is," the coach said Monday. "Harder to find yesterday, for sure. You have to find things that we did do well in order to build on those things, whatever you do. That’s just true in teaching. We have to go back and reteach. Obviously, a lot of it wasn’t up to our standard, no doubt about it. We have to go back and reteach it, own it, embrace the work that you have to put in to get it back to where it needs to be."
Although it might not feel like it at the moment, the Bills are still a playoff team. At least, they would be if the season ended today. At 5-4, they hold the sixth and final postseason spot in the AFC, although their grip on it seems tenuous at the moment. The Bills control their own destiny, and McDermott isn't worried about morale in the locker room even after getting embarrassed in back-to-back games.
"Big-picture perspective at this point says we’re in the playoff hunt," McDermott said. "Right now, I’m not concerned about that at all. I believe in the men in that locker room. I’m excited about where we’re going. This is our first year together, so you have to keep things in perspective.
"This is the growing pains you go through when you come in, and try and get things going the right way. Like I told you before, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy in the first year. Right now, we had two games back-to-back that wasn’t up to our standard, and sometimes that happens as you’re going through this process. There’s pain in the process also. That doesn’t make it easy, it’s just means you have to work through it."
Take your pick of the problem to fix, and it's on the Bills' plate. The running defense was demolished. The passing offense under Tyrod Taylor managed just 56 yards.
"We take what happened yesterday seriously and we can’t get – you have to learn from it, but not get too far down on yourself and lose confidence in what you’re doing," McDermott said. "The five wins didn’t happen by mistake. Obviously, the last couple games, we haven’t played our best football, but that tends to happen. When you look around the league, it tends to happen and again it’s ‘can you hang together, can you handle the downturns and manage the downturns that come up once in a while throughout the season and get the thing going back in the right direction?’ Making sure we’re learning from the mistakes, making sure we’re learning from the lessons that we have incurred the last couple of weeks."
One thing McDermott didn't take issue with was his team's effort.
"The guys have prepared all week long, and prepared last week like they have in other weeks, and probably even more prepared than in other weeks," he said. "On the field, the effort was there, it’s fundamentals and technique.
"Now, did we get worn down? We did, and that’s what happens when you can’t stop the runner. In the game, you get worn down over time. Over three or four quarters of the run that continues to hit on you, that’s what happens in this game."
McDermott, along with offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, preached getting back to basics as a way for the Bills to get out of the muck they've been in the last two games.
"We need to do a better job with our fundamentals and techniques, and then the execution overall needs to get better," McDermott said.
On offense, the best way to support Taylor will be to find a way to spark the running game. After gaining 151 yards in a Week 8 win over the Raiders, LeSean McCoy has been held to less than half that total (74 yards) over the last two games.
"We’re still trying to iron out the detail and the whole thing, to make sure we know what we do best," Dennison said.
That's why he placed a phone call to offensive line coach Juan Castillo after Sunday's game.
"I may not (always) call him after a game, but I wasn’t going to sleep anyway, so it didn’t matter," Dennison said. "I just had it in my mind that I wanted to talk to him, took a break and talked to him about it. Just make sure we’re focused on it today, and, we met, we're going to continue to work on that."
McDermott refused to buy into any "must win" talk about the upcoming trip to Los Angeles, but a look at the calendar and standings makes it clear what's at stake in Week 11.
"I’m disappointed, but I’m upbeat because I know we’re building," McDermott said. "I know that we didn’t play up to the standard we’ve played at before and we’ve coached at before. For that reason, I’m upbeat and I’m looking forward to getting back to work."
That starts Wednesday, when the team returns to practice.
"I know a lot of what we’re doing is good," McDermott said. "You don’t lose sight of that. ... A lot of hard work has been put into it so far, and we’ve done a lot of good things. Obviously, the last two weeks have not been up to the standard that we’ve instilled from the day we’ve come in here. No one is happy about that. I take responsibility for that. I have confidence in the staff, in these football players, that we’ll continue to work. That’s the only way you fix it is you work. You put your head down, you work and you get better."