Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts ran all over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Bills’ Week 11 performance was somehow more disappointing than their loss to the Jaguars. They have now failed to win back-to-back games since early October.
The AFC East is currently led by the Patriots, who are playing some of the best football in the league. The sky is falling in Buffalo. Whatever has changed in Buffalo, there is still time to overcome it and be the team we all know and expect them to be.
Bills Week 11 Recap – The Good
Red Zone Offense
The Bills were perfect in their two red zone possessions with both touchdowns going to Stefon Diggs. This had been a weak point this season, but that was not the case in the Bills’ Week 11 game.
Allen hit Diggs on a 6-yard out to cut the Colts lead down to seven in the early second quarter. They connected again for a 9-yard score when the game was well out of reach in the early fourth quarter. Diggs is clearly still at the top of his game and deserves many more schemed looks as part of the natural game script.
It is hard to find positives after such a disheartening performance, but at least there were no injuries. I agree with McDermott’s decision to pull his starters when it was clear things were over. On a short week, rest and recovery is hard to come by and every bit helps.
Cole Beasley is limited with a rib injury, as he has been for weeks. Tremaine Edmunds was a full participant in their Monday walkthrough after missing the Bills’ Week 11 game. Unfortunately, Star Lotulelei and Spencer Brown will remain in Covid protocols and miss the Saints game.
Bills Week 11 Recap – The Bad
Allen played poorly. This is not disputable. He was not the reason they lost, but the franchise QB should be the player to step up when everything else is going wrong. Allen did not. He forced his first interception into a bad spot, but an uncalled DPI allowed the safety to make his break. He also got picked when things were already over on a bad ball that Kenny Moore volleyed up to himself.
Throughout the day, he never really looked comfortable and had no command over the offense. This has been a concerning theme throughout this season — when adversity piles up, Allen fails to step up and pull the team out of it.
Bills Week 11 Recap – The Ugly
Sean McDermott’s buzzword of choice is “culture”. The previous teams took pride in an exceptional culture where everything was earned and never given. That culture was the foundation of the organizational turnaround. Those teams were disciplined and resilient and always willing to stand up and fight in the face of adversity.
This team, however, is soft. Their culture is all about gloating when they beat up bad teams and cowering when they are punched in the mouth. They get bullied in the trenches and have no fight in them when the going gets tough.
In post game interviews of all their losses, we hear “This is not who we are”. When it happens every other week, and this deep into the season, it is exactly who you are. There is plenty of time to dig in and find that resilient culture, but right now they don’t have it.
Speaking of McDermott, he made some real bad decisions in this game. The Bills’ Week 11 game was cold, rainy, and windy. McDermott opted for two field goal attempts (57 and 49 yards) when they were down 24-7.
Needing multiple scores, knowing Taylor can run at will against you, and the weather being so bad are clear reasons to keep your offense on the field. The first attempt is excusable being an end-of-half play, but the second is inexcusable and essentially a forfeit.
The personnel management was disappointing as well. The defensive line was getting bullied and has not been great this year, but Ed Oliver had been a bright spot. Oliver only played 46% of the snaps, while Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler both played over 60%. Run defense isn’t Oliver’s best attribute but he is certainly better than those two.
Another position with questionable management is running back. Devin Singletary has at least been serviceable this year and deserves some run. Zack Moss has been uninspiring, at best. Matt Breida has been inactive most of the season, but his impact on the offense is clear. He has burst and speed that the others lack and it showed in the past two games. He needs to be the guy going forward.
The Bills’ defense entered the game ranked top in the league without many questions. There were some skeptics based on the quality of offenses the team had faced, but nobody thought the unit was bad. The Colts exposed the unit.
Jonathan Taylor continued his potential MVP campaign gaining over 200 yards and five touchdowns. The team gave up nearly five yards per carry when they had eight or more in the box, and were expectedly even worse with light boxes. This was an all-around failure to compete against a team built to do exactly what they did on Sunday.
McKenzie has been a fun spark in his return duties this year, causing some fans to ask “Andre Roberts who”? In the Bills’ Week 11 game, however, McKenzie showed a troubling problem that has followed him throughout his career: ball security. The Colts took a 17-7 lead late in the first half. The Bills were in a perfect “double dip” position with a chance to score in the two minute drill and get the ball back at halftime.
Instead, McKenzie fumbled the kick and gave the Colts a 1-yard field to work with. Taylor punched the ball in to take a 24-7 lead. The Bills never recovered from that moment, despite decent momentum immediately before it.
The offensive line is really bad and has been really bad in all of their losses. Spencer Brown was missed and will be missed against New Orleans as well. Jon Feliciano has also been missed, and it appears unlikely that he will return by Thursday. As much as the team needs Brown, it was never the plan for him to start.
Openly admitting that the line was a weakness, Brandon Beane refused to address it in a meaningful way this offseason. His plan was to run it back with the same starting group he was dissatisfied with last season. They got lucky that their third round project tackle was good enough to start right away. This team lives and dies with the offensive line, and it is a concern that the front office has been comfortable with this weak group.
The Bills have to put this game in the past and refocus quickly. They face the Saints in the Thanksgiving night game this Thursday. New Orleans lost Sunday as well but are strong in the trenches and post a similar threat to the Colts.
The schedule ahead is grueling and these next few weeks will reveal if the Bills are contenders or potentially not even a playoff team at all. Let’s hope that the Bills’ Week 11 result was a reality check for a team we all know is capable of competing.
Check back in later this week for a full preview of the Thanksgiving game. Go Bills!