GREEN BAY, Wis. – Grading offensive line play in the NFL can be subjective.
Without knowing the assignments of each member, it’s hard to say who is at fault when a play breaks down. There are some measures to grade line play, though, and none of them are particularly kind to the Buffalo Bills right now.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen was under siege Sunday in a 22-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Allen was sacked seven times. That pushes the team total to 21 sacks taken – most in the NFL.
CBS sideline reporter Evan Washburn said during Sunday's broadcast that Bills coach Sean McDermott told him he thinks young quarterbacks can be ruined they're put in a bad situation early in their career. McDermott went into more detail on that answer Monday.
"I think one of the goals out of this year -- No. 1 is to win games -- but is also to develop these players, and Josh being a big part of that," McDermott said. "We get to the end of the season, we can say that he is exponentially better because of the reps that he has gotten, and the only way to get reps is when you’re healthy, so we have to start every game plan with that in mind.
"How do we protect the quarterback first and foremost, and then where we go after that falls in line, because this is a quarterback-driven league as you’ve heard me say before, so in order for the young man to play, he needs to be healthy, and in order for him to be healthy you can’t stand back there and take hits. Some of that falls on him as well, so it’s timing in the offense and continuity in the offense and so on and so forth. We go back to work today, and we were back to work last night so that we can try to get this thing back in the right direction here."
As McDermott alluded to, sacks are not always the fault of the line. On some of them, Allen is holding the ball too long. Tight ends and running backs also have pass-protection responsibilities,.
"It was a mix of stuff," offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said of what led to the high sack total Sunday. "Getting rid of the ball on time, not running out of the pocket, stepping up in the pocket, whether it was a redirection. They did some good things, give them a lot of credit, too. They did a lot of good things that caused some issues."
Still, the guys up front know things need to get better in a hurry.
“As always, it starts up front,” right guard John Miller said. “We take full responsibility. We just have to have better communication. At the end of the day, it’s all about execution. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting him.”
By falling behind as much and as quickly as they have in their three losses, the Bills are forced to pass, which means the defense can dial up the pressure.
“Two-minute drill is a tough spot to be in,” center Russell Bodine. “The best way to handle a two-minute drill is to not get in one. We've got to do a better job of starting fast. Go out there, get points on the board early, get some momentum going in our favor so we're not trying to scratch and claw from behind the whole time.
“We've got to do a better job on first and second down, so we're not in those third and longs where they can scheme up their best. That's what you're going to get on those.”
Another measure to use when analyzing the offensive line is yards per carry. The Bills are 25th in that, at 3.6 yards per rush. Again, that doesn’t always fall on the offensive line – a running back might make the wrong read, for example – but it’s a good indication that the line is controlling play at the line of scrimmage. An example of that could be found on the first drive Sunday. After gaining 7 yards on the first play from scrimmage, the Bills couldn’t gain 3 more yards on the next two plays. LeSean McCoy rushed for 2 yards on second down, then Chris Ivory was stuffed on third and 1. Ivory didn’t have much of a chance.
“We’ve got to make sure we establish a line of scrimmage, and that sets up the running game and that sets up the pass game,” coach Sean McDermott said. “You’ve got to make sure you’re winning your one-on-one, whatever it is, whether it’s up front or outside. … I don’t think we did that enough today overall. That’s why you get the result that we got.”
Stat of the game: 3 for 19
That's the Bills' success rate on third downs Sunday – 19 percent. Buffalo went three and out on seven possessions, and on those lost a total of 19 yards. The offense just can't find any sort of rhythm. Not every possession is going to end in points, but getting at least a couple first downs helps to flip the field position.
Game ball: Corey Bojorquez
A throwback to the days of Brian Moorman being the Bills' best player. Bojorquez punted eight times Sunday for 348 yards – a gross average of 43.5 yards and net average of 41.0 yards. Four of Bojorquez's eight punts were downed inside the Packers' 20-yard line. Bojorquez's best punt came out of his end zone in the first half. It went for 50 yards with no return. It's not a good sign for the rest of the team that Bojorquez was the best player on the field for the Bills.
Quote of the day
“Look, any time that you don't put up any points, you're going to look at everything and you start making sure we're putting players in the proper positions. We do that in all three phases. This is a team game. It wasn't just the offense. Defense, special teams, all of us are in it together." – Sean McDermott
Snap count notes
1. LeSean McCoy played 35 snaps – 60 percent of the offensive total – in his return to the lineup after missing one week because of a rib injury. On those 35 snaps, McCoy had just eight touches.
2. Zay Jones took 53 snaps – 91 percent of the offensive total. That led all receivers by a wide margin. Kelvin Benjamin was next with 35 snaps. He had to leave the game in the second half for a concussion test, but was able to return.
3. Shaq Lawson played 25 defensive snaps in returning from a two-game absence because of a hamstring injury. All of those snaps came at defensive tackle. The Bills gave defensive end Nate Orchard 15 snaps, while Eddie Yarbrough played 19 snaps. That's less than his usual total and relates to Yarbrough suffering an unidentified injury that required some examination.
4. Matt Milano continues to lose snaps to veteran Ramon Humber. Milano took 55 defensive snaps, with Humber getting 21 in his place. Given that he was coming off a strong game against the Vikings, for which he won the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, it's a surprise Milano checked out against Green Bay as much as he did.
5. Conor McDermott took three snaps in place of right tackle Jordan Mills. On one of those three snaps, a Green Bay edge rusher blew by him for a sack of rookie quarterback Josh Allen. McDermott's first appearance of this season was not promising. He's the team's new swing tackle after Marshall Newhouse was traded to the Packers last week.
The Bills return home to start a stretch of games against opponents from the AFC South when the Titans visit New Era Field at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Here are three things to know about the Titans ...
1. They’re coming off back-to-back big wins. Tennessee has gone on the road to beat Jacksonville and come home to beat defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia in the last two weeks. Sunday’s win over the Eagles was a thriller, 26-23 in overtime. On the game-winning drive, the Titans converted three fourth downs, including a fourth and 2 from the Eagles’ 32-yard line with 1:17 left in overtime. A 50-yard field goal could have tied the game, but instead coach Mike Vrabel decided to go for it. A 17-yard completion moved the chains, and the Titans would go on to win the game.
2. The Marcus Mariota-Corey Davis connection is heating up. The Titans’ quarterback delivered the game-winning pass to Davis, the No. 5 overall draft pick in 2017, with 17 seconds left in overtime. Davis had nine catches for 161 yards. His touchdown reception was the first of his career in the regular season. Mariota completed 30-of-43 passes for 344 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also led the Titans in rushing with 46 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Mariota entered the Week 4 matchup with a pinched nerve in his throwing hand, but the injury did not limit him in any way.
3. They excel in close games. The Titans won their third consecutive game by three points Sunday. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, their 9-1 (.900) record in games decided by three points or less is the best in the NFL.
Story topics: Brian Moorman/ Chris Ivory/ Conor McDermott/ Corey Bojorquez/ Eddie Yarbrough/ John Miller/ Jordan Mills/ Josh Allen/ Kelvin Benjamin/ LeSean McCoy/ Matt Milano/ Nate Orchard/ Ramon Humber/ Russell Bodine/ Sean McDermott/ Shaq Lawson/ Zay Jones