Who was ultimately at fault for the Bills’ maddening, belly-wrenching, head-scratching, lunch-tossing 19-16 loss to the lowly Browns?
I’ll tell you.
Hauschka is no longer Hausch Money, he’s a bad bet. It is the first time many Bills fans have completely lost faith in the man of faith. The game-tying kick as time all but expired, even at 53 breezy yards, must be nailed. It’s too big a game and boot for a guy who has not been good for a year now, although some of that might be blamed on an injury from a New York Jet cheap shot.
Hauschka is healthy now, though. The snap and hold were good; the kick not so much. Let’s not even relive the 34-yard stinker he shanked. From cheap shot to chip shot to boinking the money shot, place kicker has officially become an issue.
But Hausch Money did not actually cost the Bills the game.
Josh Allen did.
The Bills’ possible franchise QB short-armed some early short balls. He cannot hit anyone deep these days, or months, or years, now 3 of his last 36 of more on 30 yards. Josh made criticizable decisions on critical downs, like third-and-3 deep to a double-covered Cole Beasley, and an errant last gasp to John Brown.
He fumbled again, at the goal line, but was luckily saved. He ran for two scores and fired numerous good, accurate lasers, but debatably not enough, and inarguably did not, and does not, score enough points. He is much closer to yesterday’s definition of goat than today’s.
When he threw it, he blew it.
But Allen was not, in fact, responsible for the disaster.
The defense was.
End of game and story.
The highly regarded D could not stop the Browns early in the first half or late in the second, when they had to. Eleven goal-to-goal stops were unforgettable, and since rendered meaningless. Repeatedly gashed by Bill-dozer Nick Chubb, the game felt like a slasher flick, and we’re the ones with Frank Gore. Part of the team’s slack of offense was lack of time of possession, because the defense could not get themselves off the field.
But the true guilt is not the overall defense, it is their tackling.
No, wait …
The actual impeachment lies in the team’s lack of turnovers. They flubbed a golden opportunity on a Browns’ special teams’ muff.
Tre’Davious White dropped an interception right in his hands and a second, which, sure, would have been a great catch, but to be a great player you need to make great plays.
Jerry Hughes nearly won the game with a drop-six when Baker Mayfield couldn’t complete a 6-inch pass before replay overturned it. But the loss of the highlight turnover touchdown only spotlights the fact that this defense does not take the ball away. Tremaine Edmunds did make a spectacular blitz/hit/tackle/safety for two points but the Bills still lost by three from a Browns’ touchdown at crunch time.
And yet turnovers were not liable. They did not lose this game.
Brian Daboll did.
He was the clear villain and bad guy.
Daboll needs to get Devin Singletary more than eight carries. His puzzling calls and baffling groupings, including three nearly useless tight ends (outside of a couple of Dawson Knox sightings), has to go, or he does. Daboll cannot waste time getting the play in with less than a minute. He must let Allen be Allen.
But do not point fingers at Daboll for the white-knuckle loss.
Direct them right at John Brown.
One play can win a game, and one player can lose it.
On that last crucial third down, the correct read was back shoulder, right where Allen threw it. Buffalo at least ties, likely wins, and the whole Bills Mafia rejoices if Brown makes the play he has been making all season. Don’t fall for armchair quarterbacks on social media that point out some out-of-context screen grab with Cole Beasley wide open by 10 yards. That is not the read.
And besides …
Levi Wallace floundered the freakin’ game.
He did not turn around on the Jarvis Landry TD, didn’t turn his hips on several others, and could not stay with his man or bring one down all afternoon. With better CB play or player, this is a win. This whole game would be on Wallace’s shoulders…
If it weren’t for Sean McDermott.
The buck stops there. He cannot and did not get this team ready, which has become a trend. He cannot win a big game, they still make critical mistakes at the worst times, he’s more conservative than Jack Kemp, he cannot manage or control the clock or game or his clapping or wardrobe, and he refuses to let his star players become star players.
But Lee Smith screwed the pooch and, in turn, us.
Why is he even playing?
The refs might as well let him carry the yellow flags and take it out of his pants instead of theirs. Fine, if you cannot get yourself to put the proper burden on Smith …
The refs took the game from us. Allen was punched in the face, which drew no penalty, but they call it on Bills' defensive linemen when they look askance at opposing quarterbacks. Overturning the Hughes touchdown might have been the correct call as being forward a few undetectable millimeters, but was not the right call, you know, according to the rules of being incontrovertible, visible, video evidence.
And yet, you know who actually was to blame for this back-breaking, obscenity-inducing, season-threatening loss?
You need to show up, bud.
The Blame Game is in quadruple overtime.
Pete Rosen is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, lifetime Buffalo fan, and may be found blathering daily at twobillsdrive.com.