The second-guessing of offensive Brian Daboll reached a fever pitch Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator took plenty of heat on social media from fans during a 31-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at New Era Field.
The first major issue with Daboll’s game plan came in the second quarter. Facing a third-and-2 coming out of the two-minute warning, the offensive coordinator called a designed quarterback run that ended in disaster when Josh Allen did not properly secure the football. Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham knocked the ball away from Allen and recovered the fumble, setting Philadelphia up at the Bills’ 24-yard line.
Five plays later, the Eagles took the lead on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Dallas Goedert.
Things didn’t get much better for Daboll in the third quarter. After the Eagles lost a fumble on a punt return, Buffalo started a drive at Philadelphia’s 43-yard line. Two consecutive runs by Frank Gore produced 14 yards – the first signs of life from the veteran running back – but Daboll then went to the air.
After a 2-yard completion to rookie running back Devin Singletary, Allen threw incomplete on second down and then was sacked on third down. He threw incomplete again on fourth down.
“You've got to look at the game. We had to do that,” Gore said. “We were down, I think, by two touchdowns, so we had to try to score quick. That's what it was. I feel like whenever my number gets called, I'm going to try to make the best of it.”
Buffalo’s first drive of the fourth quarter produced similar results. Allen threw incomplete intended for Duke Williams, Tyler Kroft and John Brown before the Bills punted the ball away.
Predictably, Daboll’s players had the offensive coordinator’s back after a tough day.
“It has nothing to do with play-calling or anything like that,” receiver Cole Beasley said. “It's the Willies and the Joes, man, you know what I mean? Not the Xs and Os. We've just got to get it right.”
The biggest complaint regarding Daboll, though, centered on Singletary’s usage. The rookie did not receive a carry in the first half. He showed in the third quarter why that was easy to second-guess when he took a completion 28 yards to the end zone.
At least publicly, that second-guessing was limited to social media and did not spill out of the Bills’ locker room.
"I ride with our coaches. For me, whatever play call they call, you run it,” center Mitch Morse said. “There's absolutely no finger pointing at all. I want to nip that in the bud. These team is tight, coaches and players, we've got each other's back no matter what."
Daboll is scheduled to address the media Monday for his weekly news conference.
2. As expected, the wind played a huge part in the kicking game. The Eagles elected not to attempt an extra point kicking into the wind in the second quarter, instead successfully running a two-point conversion.
On the ensuing drive, Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka missed a 53-yard attempt with the wind toward the tunnel end of the stadium. Hauschka’s kick went wide right.
In the third quarter, Eagles kicker Jake Elliott missed an extra point off the left upright kicking toward the tunnel end.
The Bills then elected to go for it on fourth-and-10 in the third quarter going into the wind instead of attempting a 47-yard field goal. Allen’s pass was incomplete after former Bills cornerback Ronald Darby got a hand on it for the Eagles.
Hauschka also had an extra point blocked in the third quarter after Singletary’s touchdown.
“It was pretty hard,” Bills punter Corey Bojorquez said of the wind, which gusted up to 40 mph. “Today was a rougher wind than you usually get in a game. The only thing you can do is know what kind of punts you've got to hit going each way and just execute it.”
3. The Bills got a key part of their defense back. Linebacker Matt Milano, the third-year veteran, returned after missing the Week 7 win over the Miami Dolphins with a hamstring injury suffered in Week 5 against Tennessee.
Milano made his presence felt early when he blew up a third-down play to drop Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor for a 5-yard loss, forcing a Philadelphia punt. Milano added another big play late in the third quarter when he again dropped Agholor behind the line of scrimmage, this time for a 9-yard loss. Milano finished the game with a team-leading 13 tackles, three of which went for losses.
4. Cornerback Levi Wallace was hurt in the third quarter on the Eagles’ 4-yard touchdown run by fourth-string running back Boston Scott. The nature of Wallace’s injury was not announced by the team. Wallace was replaced in the lineup by Kevin Johnson.
It was announced late in the fourth quarter that rookie right tackle Cody Ford suffered an elbow injury. He did not return to the game.
5. Blocking tight end Lee Smith was called for a pair of penalties. The first, a false start, came on a second-and-goal play from the Eagles’ 9-yard line on the first play of the second quarter. The Bills managed to get into the end zone anyway when Allen found Beasley on third-and-goal.
Smith’s second penalty came in the third quarter, a holding call that erased a 10-yard run by Singletary on what would have been his first carry of the game. The Bills again were able to overcome the penalty to score, but that doesn’t excuse Smith, who has been flagged six times for 36 yards on the season. He has been penalized for four false starts and twice for holding.
Overall, the Bills were flagged eight times for 57 yards.
6. Running room was tough to come by for Gore, but the Bills’ veteran hit another career milestone. He became just the fifth player in NFL history to reach 19,000 yards from scrimmage in his career. Gore finished the day with 34 yards on nine carries.
7. Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was a healthy inactive for the first time this season. That meant wide receiver Robert Foster was in the lineup after being a healthy inactive in Week 7 against Miami. Foster was the target on a deep throw in the second quarter, but in a twist, the ball from Allen was underthrown even with the wind, leading to an incompletion.
Wide receiver Duke Williams, who was questionable coming into the game with a shoulder injury, was also active.
Foster finished without a catch and was targeted just once, while Williams made just one catch for 6 yards on two targets – the other of which was not catchable.
8. Tight end Tyler Kroft made the first two catches of his Bills career. Kroft, who missed the first five games of the season, was held without a catch in his debut in Week 7 against Miami.
He caught a 20-yard pass from Allen against the Eagles in the second half, then later added a 12-yard reception.
9. The inactives. Safety Kurt Coleman (hamstring) and linebacker Corey Thompson (ankle) missed Sunday’s game because of injuries. The Bills’ other healthy inactives were running back T.J. Yeldon, tight end Tommy Sweeney, guard Ike Boettger and offensive lineman Ryan Bates.
Story topics: Brian Daboll/ cody ford/ Corey Thompson/ Devin Singletary/ Duke Williams/ Frank Gore/ Ike Boettger/ Isaiah McKenzie/ Josh Allen/ Kevin Johnson/ Kurt Coleman/ Lee Smith/ Levi Wallace/ Matt Milano/ Robert Foster/ ryan bates/ Stephen Hauschka/ T.J. Yeldon/ Tommy Sweeney/ Tyler Kroft