The Bills locker room was somber Monday after giving up 29 unanswered points in a 38-24 loss to the Raiders that all but crushed Buffalo's playoff hopes.
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, one of the team's veteran leaders who spent last season with Oakland and is having a career year at age 33, stood in the middle of the room and said point blank that the team lacks mental toughness. The loss, he said, showed the difference between an "average" team like the Bills and a playoff team like the Raiders.
"It comes to being inconsistent. That’s been our tale the whole year. I can’t tell you why it’s like that," Alexander said. "We either have a strong first half or a strong second half, and I can’t tell you what mentally is going on with guys or us collectively that’s saying why we can’t put four quarters together.
"That’s something that we’ve addressed, talked about, but at some point you have to do. That’s what it comes down to, and we’re not doing that. If I could bottle it up and have everybody drink it, I would. Because we have great leadership, we have great coaching, we have the talent, we just got to man up and fight through things mentally and overcome. We’re going to have adversity. It’s all about how you respond."
The Bills led the Raiders, 24-9, in the third quarter before imploding. The defense gave up touchdowns on four of five drives after taking the big lead while the offense gained only 70 yards on its following six drives.
The loss dropped the Bills to 6-6, meaning they'll have to win their final four games and get significant help to qualify for the playoffs.
"What we lacked really yesterday was somebody really stepping up and making a play," Alexander said. "Whether it’s me, Jerry [Hughes], somebody on the back end creating an interception, forcing a fumble, somebody really stepping up and taking the momentum back like that had to take place.
"It’s the same thing every week," he added. "At the end of the day, we have to go out and put four quarters together. That’s something we haven’t done all year. So we have to, at some point, ‘do’ instead of talking about why we haven’t. Hopefully we grow up within this season and do it next week."
Alexander referred to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, his former teammate, is the league's leading MVP candidate. He said he couldn't pinpoint why the Raiders were able to respond when the Bills weren't, but mentioned – for the umpteenth year in a row – that "changing the culture" needs to take place.
"It’s always going back to fundamentals and execution, and we were never able to do that collectively," he said. "You can have four, five guys that have been there and know what to do, but if you don’t have everybody buy in all the way around, you’re not going to be able to withhold a charge like the Raiders [made].
"It’s [an area] that we still have to grow. We’re an average team. And that’s really the difference between and average team and a team like the Raiders. They were down 24-9 and they could’ve easily packed it in but they didn’t. … That’s what we have to figure out. How can we rally our guys, get them on the same page to withhold those type of charges? Because if we want to find ourselves in the playoffs moving forward – not only this year but next year – and changing the culture around here, we have to be able to stand up as men and collectively rally together."