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COMMENTARY

Narrative says Bills are paper tiger now – and it's deserved

Jason Wolf

The Buffalo Bills’ offense went three-and-out once again, their fans were already streaming toward the parking lots, and after a terrible punt sailed out of bounds at midfield, the defense tried to muster the will to give a damn.

“Guys were out there talking, ‘Hey, let’s finish this game strong. It’s going to go a long way,’ ” safety Jordan Poyer said in Buffalo’s somber postgame locker room. “So for us to be able to go out there and get that stop at the end, that shows the character of the guys.”

Of course, the Philadelphia Eagles were exclusively running the ball at that point, up 31-13 with 4 1/2 minutes to play, a score that would stand at the final whistle on a soggy and wind-whipped Sunday at New Era Field. And Philadelphia could have opted to try to tack on a short field goal, rather than go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Bills’ 21-yard line, where third-string running back Boston Scott was dropped short of a first down. But, sure, the Bills got that stop at the end.

That’s where we are eight weeks into the season. The Bills own a 5-2 record, with each victory – most too close for comfort – against a team that entered the weekend in position for a top 10 draft pick. And after a week of chirping about how they don’t get enough respect in the national media, solely because this is “Buffalo,” the Bills strained to find even a moral victory in this thumping.

Buffalo was outcoached, outplayed and outmuscled in its own building. And for the second week in a row, the defense struggled to stop an opponent from running between the tackles, right up the middle of the field, in addition to the team’s usual spate of shortcomings.

“We had a couple of turnovers and didn’t play disciplined football, had some penalties, and eventually when you play a good football team, that stuff is going to bite you in the butt. And that’s what happened today,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “It kind of snowballed on us and we weren’t able to keep it tight enough. We have to play good, sound football and don’t forget that we can’t just rely on fourth-quarter comebacks or getting it together in the fourth quarter. We have to play four solid quarters of football.”

There were plenty of clichés tossed around in the locker room about how this was only one game, that they’d learn from the film, that this loss won’t define their season.

But it sure seems like it will.

This one feels different than the 16-10 home loss to the New England Patriots on Sept. 29, when Buffalo committed four turnovers and had a punt blocked for a touchdown.

The Bills had a chance to dent the narrative that their record, the second-best in the AFC, was the product of a weak schedule.

Instead, they got pushed around by the Eagles, a desperate but seasoned group that evened its record to 4-4 after back-to-back blowout losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys.

The Eagles stormed to 218 rushing yards on 41 carries, the fifth-most rushing yards allowed in a game by the Bills in the three seasons since Sean McDermott was named head coach.

“They came in here and imposed their will,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said.

And while Buffalo’s upcoming schedule offers an excellent opportunity to get back on track – the Bills host the 1-7 Washington Redskins next week, then get the Cleveland Browns (2-4), Dolphins (0-6) and Denver Broncos (2-6) – the memory of this one could stick.

I thought the Eagles would win this game, on account of being the more desperate team, and said as much in the newspaper and on TV. I also thought it’d be close, and a good barometer for where both of these teams stand. I suspected the Eagles weren’t as bad as their record indicated and that the Bills, likewise, weren’t as good. But the ease with which Philadelphia handled this team, on the road, in poor weather, when everyone in the stadium knew this game would be won on the ground, was a surprise.

Bills' defense not so elite in lopsided loss vs. Eagles

Eagles reporters spoke of Josh Allen looking like a replacement-level quarterback, and it was tough to argue otherwise.

Allen completed 47% of his passes (16 of 34) for 169 yards and two touchdowns, but also somehow failed to see Tyler Kroft streaking wide open down the right sideline in the third quarter, when it was still a two-score game, instead absorbing a sack on third-and-8 at the Philadelphia 27-yard line. Allen was just 3 of 13 for 9 yards over the team's final six possessions. The Eagles held the ball for 11:56 in the fourth quarter.

On the plus side, Allen didn’t throw an interception for the second consecutive week. But he also fumbled three times, losing one, which led to a short field and easy Eagles touchdown in the final minute of the first half.

That was the first of four Eagles touchdowns in a span of five possessions, until the late-game “stop” that didn’t much matter. The Bills were outscored, 28-6, after the fumble.

Allen sat alone at his locker and stared blankly as his teammates answered questions from reporters, then headed to a brief postgame press conference.

“I have to be better with taking care of the football,” Allen said.

A Bills fan responded on Twitter: “Which week is this quote from?”

But this loss wasn’t exclusively Allen’s fault. It was on everybody. The offense, the defense, the special teams, the coaching staff. Spread it around.

The Bills didn’t even reach 100 rushing yards, despite averaging 4.9 yards per carry, because they only ran the ball 20 times.

Allen had a team-high 45 rushing yards on eight carries. Frank Gore touched the ball just nine times. Devin Singletary had three carries – and an average of 6.3 yards – but for some reason didn’t get a carry until the second half. He added a 28-yard touchdown catch. But it proved too little, too late.

“This wasn’t our Super Bowl,” linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said. “We’ve got a long season still left. We’ve just got to continue getting better. Simple as that.”

The Bills are a paper tiger. That’s the narrative now. And it’s deserved.

They don’t want this loss to define them?

They should have showed up to play.

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