The road ahead for the Buffalo Bills’ offense doesn’t get any easier for the next three weeks.
After the Bills lost to New England, 14-10, Buffalo's next three foes are good on defense. Tampa Bay ranks 10th in yards allowed and second vs. the run. After that, the Bills return home to play Carolina, ranked No. 2 in yards allowed. Then it’s onto Foxborough, Mass., for the rematch with the Patriots, who are No. 1 in points allowed.
Here are the position-by-position grades for the Bills from Monday’s loss, based on video review and on a scale of 0 to 5:
Quarterback (3.0): It’s a shame the Bills lost on a day when their quarterback produced 184 yards and one touchdown vs. 16 combined yards for the opposing quarterback. Allen didn’t get enough help. It seems clear the Bills are going to need all his rushing ability going forward. He made a lot of good throws in the wind. Conversely, the fumble by Matt Breida was at least partly Allen’s fault for the placement of the handoff. The other big miscue was Allen left a tightening-but-clean pocket on the final third-and-14 play as Stefon Diggs was breaking open over the middle. Instead, he scrambled and threw incomplete for Dawson Knox. On the second to last drive, Allen threw incomplete for Gabriel Davis. He thought he had a free play, because Deatrick Wise appeared to move offside. There was no call.
Running backs (1.0): The backs share responsibility for the running failures. Seven of Devin Singletary’s 10 carries went for 3 yards or less. Zack Moss had a couple of hard push-the-pile runs early for 4 yards but never could find lanes on his eight carries.
Receivers (1.0): Yes, it was a tough day to catch. But Knox dropped the first third-down pass, along with a third-and-19 throw in the second quarter. Worse, he had a false start on a third-and-9 situation with 2:11 left. Diggs couldn’t come down with the deep ball to the end zone, but it's hard to blame him given the wind. It hit his forearms, not his hands. Diggs, however, did catch two of four targeted throws vs. the Pats’ top corner, J.C. Jackson. Matthew Judon shoved Tommy Sweeney backward on the final sack. That’s a tough assignment for Sweeney. The Bills didn’t run well out of the two-tight-end set. On a first-down run in the second quarter, Sweeney couldn’t block Adrian Phillips, who stopped Moss for 1 yard.
Offensive line (1.0): The offensive line’s run blocking was analyzed in Wednesday’s News. It wasn’t pretty, all around. Rookie right tackle Spencer Brown had a rough game. Besides having trouble with Lawrence Guy in the run game, he gave up a couple of second-half hurries to Kyle Van Noy and one in the fourth quarter to Judon. Daryl Williams was partially to blame, along with Allen, on both sacks, from The News’ perspective. Cody Ford played only three plays but couldn’t block Davon Godchaux on a tough reach block then gave up a hurry to Christian Barmore on a third down. Dion Dawkins’ pass protection was good.
Defensive line (2.5): A.J. Epenesa didn’t set the edge on the 64-yard TD run. Play-side linebacker Tyrel Dodson didn’t turn the play inside, so Tremaine Edmunds and Micah Hyde both overflowed to the outside. Epenesa didn’t set the edge on the two-point conversion, either. The better performers on the defensive line were Greg Rousseau, Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips, who had seven tackles. Star Lotulelei was kept off the stat sheet (no tackles). Jerry Hughes failed to set the edge on a 10-yard run late in the third quarter. While a team like Tampa would have shut down this Pats game plan, the idea it was a terrible showing by the front seven is an overreaction. The Pats got three points on their last six drives.
Linebackers (2.5): Edmunds and Matt Milano had trouble shedding blocks while trying to fill their gaps. Milano couldn’t shed on an 18-yarder and a couple of 10-yarders in the third quarter. Then late, he shot gaps and made two tackles for loss of minus-4 and minus-5 yards. Besides the TD run, Dodson looked as if he didn’t fill the gap on the last 17-yard run in the second quarter.
Defensive backs (3.5): The secondary never will have a quieter pass coverage day. Tackling was generally good by the defensive backs. Jordan Poyer made eight tackles and Dane Jackson had five. Jackson had the lone pass breakup in the fourth quarter.
Special teams (3.5): Tyler Bass got a good strike on the ball on his missed, 33-yard attempt but didn’t aim it far enough left to account for the extreme wind. Otherwise, it was a good special teams night. Punter Matt Haack came through with a clutch performance. His two punts into the wind went for 33 yards to the Pats’ 15 and 34 yards to the Pats’ 25 in the second quarter. Meanwhile, counterpart Jake Bailey hit a 15-yarder into the wind in the first quarter. The punt protection was good vs. the dangerous Pats’ special teams. Siran Neal was on the spot for the recovery of the muffed punt.