Josh Allen couldn’t deliver on the big stage Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills’ second-year quarterback didn’t get much help, either.
Drops were a huge issue for the offense in the second half of a 24-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at New Era Field.
There were at least four of them, and maybe more depending on your definition.
First it was rookie tight end Dawson Knox, who dropped a throw on third down that would have been good for a first down on Buffalo’s first possession of the third quarter.
Then it was rookie running back Devin Singletary, who dropped a screen pass on a second-and-5 play with 2:10 left in the third quarter.
“Definitely let him down – let the team down,” Singletary said.
On the very next play, Allen threw a good ball intended for Cole Beasley, but the ball slipped through the receiver’s fingers – erasing what would have been a huge gain.
“There's always more you can do. There's no pointing fingers or anything,” Beasley said. “We blame ourselves and point fingers at ourselves. All we can control is what we do individually as players. Any time in a loss, you always feel like you could do more. I know I could. I had a big drop. He dropped a dime on it. It was a perfect pass, but ... happens sometimes. It just makes you hungry and eager to get in and get better and just work harder.”
Second-year receiver Robert Foster also had a drop late in the third quarter. After a first quarter in which Allen went 1 for 7 for just 10 yards, it was clear the Bills were going to need the offensive playmakers to pick up their quarterback.
Instead, the opposite happened. Those playmakers shot themselves in the foot far too often against one of the NFL’s best teams.
“We just have to execute better,” said wide receiver John Brown, who finished with three catches for 26 yards – his third straight game with less than 40 receiving yards. “We have to make the plays. All of them count.”
Those dropped passes contributed to Allen completing fewer than 50% of his passes. He finished 17 of 39 for 146 yards in the loss. His completion percentage of 43.6 is the worst of this season and the second worst of his career.
“I have the utmost respect for Josh, the way he's playing,” Knox said. “So we've got to help him out.”
2. Knox has had a promising rookie season, but the tight end simply drops too many passes. Knox dropped his eighth pass of the season in the third quarter.
Knox came into the game tied for third in the NFL with seven drops, according to analytics website Pro Football Focus. The two players ahead of him, Dallas’ Michael Gallup and New England’s Julian Edelman, were tied for the league lead with 10 drops. Gallup and Edelman, though, came into the game with 92 and 119 targets, respectively. Knox had just 42 coming into Week 14.
Drops are a somewhat subjective stat, but it’s possible Knox had a ninth drop on the year later in the second half, when he couldn’t make a short catch in the end zone.
“When you're a competitor and you're playing a game that you love and you're not performing the way you want to, it's one of the most frustrating things you can deal with,” Knox said. “I'm just going to keep working on my hands, getting that timing right. I've got to help him out and make that play.”
Allen didn’t lose faith in Knox, going to him in the fourth quarter for a 37-yard gain.
“I had to wipe that play out of my mind,” Knox said. “Thankfully I had another opportunity to try to go get a catch. Josh still has a little bit of confidence in me so he could throw it up and let me go make a play. My mentality is just play the next play every time. … I can't keep dropping the ball or he's not going to have any more confidence in me. So I've just got to help him out and like I said, just keep getting better.”
3. Stephen Hauschka had a strong game. The Bills’ veteran kicker, who missed a field goal and an extra point in the Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys, bounced back by going a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals against the Ravens.
“It felt good out there,” he said. “I've been working on dialing in things for a while now, so to get the results on the field is great.”
The Bills put Hauschka on notice this week when they put a waiver claim in for kicker Chase McLaughlin. That was unsuccessful, but the message was sent.
“I've just been sticking with my gut and just keep on going,” Hauschka said. “I knew things would turn around for me. I'm hitting the ball well. I feel good. I knew it was just a matter of time before the results go my way.”
Hauschka was good from 36 and 47 yards out in the second quarter kicking toward the tunnel end of New Era Field, then converted a 48-yarder in the third quarter kicking to the scoreboard end.
4. Beasley’s 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter was his sixth of the season. That’s a single-season career high for Beasley, who is in his first season with the Bills after spending seven years with Dallas. Beasley has two, three-game receiving touchdown streaks this season, joining Bill Brooks (in 1995) as the only Bills to ever do so.
5. Give Tre’Davious White credit: He was looking for any edge he could find. The Buffalo Bills’ cornerback moved quickly to grab a couple of papers that blew onto the field from the Ravens’ sideline, sneaking a peak at them before referee Shawn Smith took them away. It’s debatable how much intel White was able to glean from the papers, but it gave everyone watching a good laugh.
6. Return man Andre Roberts couldn’t get much going for the Bills on kickoffs. Roberts returned four kicks for 80 yards. He also made a dubious decision to return a kick from 5 yards deep in the end zone. Roberts was only able to get the ball out to the 18-yard line, setting the offense up with a long field.
7. My Cause, My Cleats. A total of 14 Bills players and coach Sean McDermott participated in the “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, showcasing causes that are important to them through custom cleats. McDermott’s sneakers brought awareness to food allergies, while Allen’s cleats supported John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital. Some of the other organizations represented were the Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY (Reid Ferguson and Jerry Hughes), ALS Association (Levi Wallace) and Camp Good Days and Special Times (Jordan Poyer).
8. The Bills’ injury list continues to be a lonely place. Veteran right tackle Ty Nsekhe was the only player ruled out ahead of Sunday’s game. Nsekhe missed his third straight game because of an ankle injury, with rookie Cody Ford once again pulling full-time duty at right tackle.
The Bills did not have any announced injuries during the game, although Allen was seen limping to the sideline after a sack in the first half.
9. Healthy inactives: Running back T.J. Yeldon, wide receiver Duke Williams, guard Ike Boettger, tight end Tommy Sweeney, safety Dean Marlowe and defensive tackle Vincent Taylor all did not suit up for the Bills.
Yeldon and Sweeney have been healthy inactives for eight straight games, while Williams has sat for six straight, Taylor has sat for five and Marlowe has been inactive four of the past five weeks. Boettger, meanwhile, has played just once this season.
10. Special guests: The Bills honored members of St. Bonaventure’s 1970 Final Four men’s basketball team prior to the game. … Former quarterback Doug Flutie returned to Buffalo for the first time in 20 years as the Bills’ “Legend of the Game.” Flutie pumped up the crowd with the “Shout” song just before kickoff. He also signed autographs in the fieldhouse before the game. Flutie, the 1998 Comeback Player of the Year in the NFL, went 21-9 as the Bills’ starter, passing for 7,582 yards and 47 touchdowns.