Swirling winds topping 40 miles an hour whipped through New Era Field on Sunday and blew the lid and shine off the Bills’ previous lofty, second-in-the-AFC record.
Buffalo is neither as good as 5-1 might indicate, nor as bad as the 31-13 drubbing by the Eagles might, either.
No unit, coach, or player fared well. The Bills were dominated on both sides of the ball, trenches, stats, and scoreboard. Basic football fundamentals: running, blocking, throwing, and tackling were all sorely missing in action.
But that happens in the NFL’s seven-day news cycle. Good teams have bad weeks. Any Given Sunday is just as easily Any God-awful Sunday.
The next four games for the Bills are against doormats: the Redskins, Browns, Dolphins and Broncos. We will get a glimpse of who we are after that stretch. A 12-13 win team might go 4-0. A 10-11 win team should go 3-1. An 8-9 win team could split.
The Bills should, in theory and on paper, go at least 3-1, which would make them 8-3 overall going into the homestretch and playoff hunt.
The real test might be the two games after that, against the Cowboys and Ravens. That is where we will likely learn the most about our Bills.
Sunday, the team had no answers for the Eagles' high-flying offense, through the air or on the ground, which raises numerous flags. They were clearly out-coached.
The defense made Miles Sanders resemble Barry. Tackling has become a problem. Individually and collectively, the defense often makes the hit near the line, loosely wraps up, and is then carried an extra three or four yards by opposing runners or receivers.
It is impossible for fans to evaluate an offensive coordinator’s play-calling because we never know the original call, and what responsibilities each player has. But we fans often do the impossible, so we appraise and often badmouth them anyway.
And get this, we think plays that Brian Daboll calls that work are excellent and ones that do not are moronic.
That said, it is hard to reconcile that Frank Gore and Josh Allen each had seven carries at halftime, and often-spectacular Devin Singletary had zip. A few of Allen’s were scrambles, but at least three were designated runs. They must find a way to get Tasmanian Devin the ball in space. The first time he scored from 28 yards out. Later, some ill-advised, badly timed and poorly executed screen and swing passes failed badly.
Often Sunday, the Bills were a flash mob. Many showed flashes of brilliance on one or two isolated plays, including Gore, Allen, Cole Beasley, Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, etc, but for most of the game were manhandled, out of sync, or out of position.
Failing to score on their lone turnover behind enemy lines with four minutes left in the third quarter was emblematic of the clumsiness of the Bills team, and frustration of the Bills Mafia. Not nearly enough rumbling; and too much bumbling, stumbling and fumbling.
Penalties are play, drive, and game killers, and it has reached disturbing if not alarming constancy. The Bills had eight costly yellow flags thrown at them, often putting the offense into deep holes, and long down and distance. Allen picked up four third-and-longs, including a third-and-goal from the 14 with a beautiful scrambling decision and TD toss to Beasley, and a 28-yard score on third-and-13 to Singletary, but could not keep it up.
The run game was the real killer, as Allen and Carson Wentz mirrored each other on the field and in the stats, before several late incompletions by Allen with the Bills trailing by 18 points.
The desperate Eagles played with desperation; the good kind. The complacent Bills played with hesitation. The Eagles dominated time of possession by 12 minutes, including a soul-crushing, game-defining 8:17 touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Even something named Boston Scott scored on the ground for Philly.
Allen threw for two sixes, and no picks, but could never sustain momentum, or perform his trademark late-game heroics. He got little help from his line, run game, backs, receivers or coaches, but made his share of misreads, misfires and mishandling of the football.
The winds wreaked havoc with passes and kicks for both sides, but favored neither. The Eagles soared and scored when they needed to; the Bills staggered and floundered.
A team will often go through the winds of change several times over the long season. The Bills had some early bluster that fanned the flames of lofty predictions, and stats, especially on defense. But the howling airstream that swept through Sunday got them off their game and high horse.
The next few winnable games might decide if they will weather the storm or get blown away. Boom or bust, gloom or gust.
Pete Rosen is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, lifetime Buffalo fan, and may be found blathering daily at twobillsdrive.com.