Outside of The Josh Allen Experiment, the 2018 Bills season is likely to be remembered for its up and down, in and out, don’t know if we are good or bad, coming or going fluctuations.
Sometimes we are riding sky high; sometimes seem on life support. The Dr. Poyer and Micah Hyde back and forth, two-headed monster, is tough to watch and even tougher to get a handle on.
Bills fans are not even sure if Poyer and Hyde are good anymore. Hint: They are.
But for much of this season, as soon as the Bills draw you in, they shove you out. As soon as you get your hopes up, they are not only curbed, they’re curb-stomped. As soon as you put on your rose-colored shades, you’re pricked in the eye with thorns off those same roses.
And most of the games play out like turnstiles as well, also called “baffle gates,” which could be a good title for this controversial season: Bafflegate. It’s perplexing to say the least.
In Josh v. Sam I, fans and pundits will say Darnold ultimately outplayed Allen, as the Jets outlasted the Bills, 27-23. But Sam had all day to throw; Josh had all of two seconds. Sam’s WR made plays for him, and went after the ball for him; especially Robbie Anderson, who was, and which was, the difference maker.
Josh’s game, as well as his rookie season, had this same in-n-out dichotomy—somehow both erratic and encouraging. Allen was reckless at times, with the ball and his body. He fumbled once, and threw a heinous interception on an equally heinous decision (as did Darnold).
The last INT was just trying to make a play with a whole field and less than a minute to go, no timeouts, and no one who will go through a turnstile for you, let alone a defender or a wall. In fact, the Bills receiver who fought the hardest for the ball on any pass play the entire game was—well, Josh Allen—on the trick play Zay Jones threw into the end zone in the first half.
One would be hard-pressed to name one truly great catch a Bills receiver has made this entire season. Good if not very good ones, sure. A handful. But a “great” one? Name it.
Yes, Allen still misses passes he should hit, and holds the ball a little too long at times. But stats betray his play, and without blocking, running backs, running game, WR and TE, he has no chance.
Allen’s running is exciting and prolific if not historic. He nearly broke a quarterback sneak for 65 yards. He has more rushing yards than the Bills' top RB, and this was the third straight game he eclipsed 100 yards on the ground, regardless of the stupid NFL rules which stole two yards from him in the first one.
Of course he cannot and will not do this forever, or even in his second or third season, and no one believes he will, so I don’t really know why it is an issue now at all. He’s literally running for his life.
Outside of the poetic justice embodied by Robert Foster, whom out of all the roads to the NFL — took the one less traveled by — en route to the starting lineup if not starring role, the Bills receivers do little to help Allen.
In fact, they are Allen wrenches.
Just when you thought Zay Jones might not be Zay Jones, he’s just who you worried he was — Zay Jones. Charles Clay followed up his lackluster effort on the final play of the previous week’s last second loss to have an entire afternoon devoid of luster.
Deonte Thompson has made an invisible impact since his much ballyhooed re-signing, and may be resigning soon thereafter. Isaiah McKenzie the diminutive WR/KR/PR looks pretty great as a RB on reverses and jet sweeps but not much from those WR/KR/PR positions he actually plays.
In the backfield, Shady pulled a hammy, but wasn’t likely getting many more yards whether he was on or off the field. Chris Ivory had two or three holes the rest of the day and then almost lost an arm trying to create his own.
Stephen Hauschka had his worst day as a Bill and maybe career, getting blindsided, looking rather foolish on an attempted tripping penalty, and losing most of the power in his leg, which leads into the total debacle and baffle gate known as the Bills’ Special Teams.
The Bills didn’t seem able or willing to kick, snap, block, catch, cover, contain, tackle or return, which is everything ST Players are charged to do. Danny Crossman is in the crosshairs of the Bills Mafia as well as the Bills brass, and should be putting his resume out if not his house up for sale soon.
The Bills' defense made a bunch of gutsy, as well as gut-wrenching if not soul-killing plays. Too much of the game, especially with it on the line, they were in their give some/take some, Bend-But-Don’t-Break-OK-Break Defense, something they seem to practice too much of.
The Bills and the Jets also don’t seem so fond of each other, except for the two rival QBs, who are BFFFs. The chippiness started with 15 minutes to go in the first quarter, when LT Dion Dawkins was called for an uncalled-for chop block on the game’s first snap, which put him and other Bills on the chopping block all afternoon.
The Jets retaliated with a series of cheap shots, unnecessary roughness penalties, and full-throated denials.
The Bills pass and run blockers/blocking were mostly turnstylish themselves; and seemingly getting worse. Josh often starts backpedaling and never comes to a complete stop; he just keeps running away from onrushing defenders, many of whom did not seem impeded in any meaningful way.
On the other hand, the Bills' pass rush barely if ever laid a finger on Sam Darnold before he threw the ball.
So now, with only three games left in this start ‘n stop season, whose trajectory resembles the green rhythm strip of a heartbeat monitor, tracing the flat lines, sudden upticks and drastic down ticks of its patient… The Bills are looking for some consistency, and steadiness, that can set the franchise on the upward, no-looking-back path to glory.
And not another stuttering, baffling season of being turnstiles.