Sean McDermott had seen enough.
The Buffalo Bills’ coach took over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in the second half of Sunday’s 31-20 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the home opener at New Era Field.
“I just thought we needed a spark and that’s my background,” McDermott said in his postgame press conference. “Coach Frazier does a really good job as well as the defensive staff. I just felt like we needed a spark.”
McDermott didn’t rule out the change being permanent.
“It’s something we’re going to evaluate,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate that as well as a few other things, too.”
It’s understandable why the coach would want to shake things up after his defense’s effort in the first half Sunday. To say things were too easy for the Chargers would be putting it mildly. Philip Rivers and Co. did whatever they wanted, piling up 284 yards of total offense and 17 first downs.
Those are just some of the numbers. Here are some more: They ran 31 offensive plays, and faced third down just three times. Rivers was 15 of 16 for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Melvin Gordon rushed six times for 29 yards and a touchdown, but also had six catches for 38 yards and two more scores.
It was expected that the Bills’ offense would struggle this season, and that has happened, too, but the defense’s absolute inability to even keep games close is a shock.
“Defensively, we didn’t play well enough, obviously, in the first half against a good offensive unit, spotting them 28 points,” McDermott said.
Especially troubling is the performance of the secondary, which was thought to be the strength of the team. The Bills need to clean things up in a hurry if they expect to even be competitive in games this season.
2. The numbers for Josh Allen in his first career start: 18 of 33 for 245 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Allen underthrew his longest completion, but receiver Zay Jones came back to the ball, double clutching it before ultimately pulling it in for a 57-yard gain – the longest of his career. The ball traveled 64 yards in the air, confirming what we all know – the rookie has a big arm.
Allen threw an ugly interception in the third quarter to Adrian Phillips as he was being pulled down by Chargers pass rusher Melvin Ingram. That came on a third-down play, and it was clear the rookie was trying to do too much in forcing a ball to running back Marcus Murphy.
Allen’s second interception came in the fourth quarter, when he underthrew tight end Jason Croom on the left sideline. Chargers linebacker Kyzir White pulled that one in.
Allen did get his first career touchdown during garbage time, completing a 3-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 38 seconds left.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Ingram said. “He’s got a chance to be special in this league.”
3. What a wild sequence in the third quarter when Murphy fumbled on a punt return after getting hit by Chargers cornerback Michael Davis. The ball was recovered in the end zone by Buffalo’s Taiwan Jones, who was then swarmed by the Chargers, getting his helmet ripped off. Instead of immediately blowing the play dead, which is supposed to happen, officials allowed it to continue, and Jones was struck in the head by Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. That resulted in an unnecessary roughness that allowed the Bills to keep possession. Jones, who was bleeding profusely from his forehead, was taken to the locker room for evaluation of a head injury. He did not return to the game.
“God, you hate to see that, whether it’s on our team or their team,” McDermott said. “Those are scary.”
4. For the second straight week, the Bills suffered an injury at cornerback that left them with just three healthy players at the position. Phillip Gaines left with an elbow injury in the first half, once again forcing safety Rafael Bush to play nickel cornerback. On top of that, the Bills were without Vontae Davis in the second half after he – shockingly – quit in the middle of the game. Davis announced his retirement in a statement after the game, saying in part that “reality hit me fast and hard: I shouldn’t be out there any more.” He went on to say he “meant no disrespect to his teammates and coaches.” If that was truly the case, he could have held off until at least after the game, and not left his team short-handed.
5. Something to monitor going forward: Running back LeSean McCoy injured his ribs in the third quarter after center Ryan Groy fell on top of him after a 1-yard rush. McCoy was taken to the injury tent on the Bills’ sideline, but was able to return. However, he was announced as being questionable to return later in the fourth quarter, and ultimately did not come back in. He finished the game with nine carries for 39 yards and four catches for 29 yards. He declined an interview request after the game, saying it hurt to talk.
McDermott did not have an update on any of the injured players, saying he’ll “know more tomorrow.”
6. Things that make you go hmmm … long snapper Reid Ferguson and linebacker Ramon Humber watched as a punt rolled … and rolled … and rolled into the end zone for a touchback. The reaction in the press box was a collective “what?” It’s been overshadowed by the struggles on offense and defense, but the Bills’ special teams hasn’t come close to getting it done so far, either.
7. It was another quiet game for Benjamin, the self-proclaimed No. 1 receiver. He finished with just two catches for 19 yards and was only targeted three times. Both of those catches came in the second half, with the Bills trailing big.
“We just put ourselves in a hole,” he said.
The production among all receivers was again a problem. Jones finished with just two catches, while Robert Foster had one catch for 11 yards (which came on a quick pitch) and Andre Holmes finished with one catch for 19 yards despite having a team-leading five targets.
8. It took seven quarters, but the Bills finally got their first touchdown of the season when Chris Ivory scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter. Ivory, though, got just two carries in the game. It appears more and more like Murphy has moved ahead of him on the depth chart.
9. Allen was sacked five times. That makes it 11 sacks allowed by the Bills through the first two weeks, third most in franchise history in that time span. The 1998 team allowed 13 sacks, while the 1968 squad gave up 12.
10. It was impossible to ignore the out-of-town scoreboard Sunday. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for six touchdowns against the Steelers. Yes, he’s got a great set of pass catchers, but Mahomes looks like the real deal. Bills fans would be justified in being afraid their team made a huge mistake in passing on Mahomes last year.
Story topics: Andre Holmes/ Chris Ivory/ Jason Croom/ Kelvin Benjamin/ LeSean McCoy/ Leslie Frazier/ Marcus Murphy/ Phillip Gaines/ Rafael Bush/ Ramon Humber/ Reid Ferguson/ Robert Foster/ Ryan Groy/ Sean McDermott/ Taiwan Jones/ Vontae Davis/ Zay Jones