Just so we’re straight, the Bills rationale for basically ignoring Sammy Watkins against the Patriots was based on the idea that he was … covered? They might have spared themselves another loss and subsequent aggravation if they actually tested that theory before spinning it.
The Bills’ defense showed what can happen when cranking up their aggression against the Patriots, but they still showed New England too much deference on the other side of the ball. Watkins confirmed as much Sunday when he scorched the Chiefs for six catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the first half Sunday.
In fact, he still has six catches for 158 yards for two touchdowns.
Suddenly, inexplicably, he disappeared from the offense.
Watkins was targeted once in the third quarter and didn’t have a pass thrown his way in the fourth in the Chiefs’ 30-22 victory. Kansas City won its fifth straight while charging into playoff contention. The Bills lost their second straight, fell to 5-6 and watched as their hopes of reaching the postseason continued slipping away.
The only thing worse than the Bills’ use of Watkins in the second half Sunday was the coaching staff’s use of their challenge flag. They missed an incompletion to Jeremy Maclin that turned into a touchdown. They challenged an incompletion to Robert Woods that clearly was the right call. They ignored an obvious catch by Chris Hogan that was ruled incomplete on their final drive.
It was utterly, completely, mind-boggling.
On a day in which the offense rolled up 296 yards in the first half, the Bills defense failed to shut down the Chiefs enough to win the game. Kansas City scored on six of seven possessions during a stretch that lasted into the fourth quarter. They also scored 17 straight points before pulling away.
Of course, it doesn’t help when the Bills are forced to chase a missed extra point. Dan Carpenter’s third missed PAT forced Buffalo to go for a two-point conversion, a disaster, rather than tie the game. It also doesn’t help, after Watkins dominated for two quarters, they targeted him once in the third.
And so it goes.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
When the defense plays well enough to win, as it did against the Patriots, the offense has struggled. When the offense was productive enough to win, the defense has problems stopping the opposition. It’s a recipe for mediocrity, which Bills fans have known all too well for far too long.
Rex Ryan made a point last week to say the Bills weren’t looking to their best receiver enough in the offense. You think? He was targeted only 13 times in two games having hanging eight catches for 168 yards and a touchdown against Miami. The Dolphins aren’t the Patriots, but it doesn’t mean the Bills should ignore the guy.
Tyrod Taylor needed to overcome his trepidation, throw caution to the wind and the ball into tight coverage and watch Watkins do the rest. As the saying goes, he’s open even when he’s covered. At times, he was double-covered against the Chiefs and still dominated. But he can’t dominate as a decoy.
Watkins had six catches for 158 yards and two TDs in the first half. The Bills yardate total in the first half was their most through two quarters since 1998. And they still trailed, 24-16, after fumbling early in the third quarter.
Watkins’ performance makes you wonder why the Bills still needed a reminder, after 10 games, to get him more involved in the offense. You could practically hear the community screaming from the rooftops before Buffalo’s coaching staff and quarterback, the people who should have been most aware, had an awakening.
So what happens when they finally realize the errors of their ways? They continue making the same errors. It has become a troubling pattern.
The defense played like its hair was on fire against the Patriots, and it worked. If they can confuse Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in history, the same style should work against anybody. Rather than attack, they backed off and allowed a season-high 158 yards rushing, including 114 yards from third-stringer Spencer Ware.
Watkins disappeared. So did the Bills' chance of winning. Now, so is the postseason.