Buffalo Bills’ 12th man gifts win to Denver Broncos in Week 10

NFL: Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Have the mistake-prone Bills met an impasse?

Brutal, in every way. The Buffalo Bills are now 5-5 and firmly in 10th place in the AFC. Talk of the playoffs needs to be put on hold, at minimum. Can the Bills turn things around? It’s possible. But I wouldn’t suggest you begin making postseason destination plans yet.

Desperately needing a win to remain relevant this season, instead of finding victory to re-claim a theoretical spot in the playoffs, One Bills Drive is left wondering what’s next in a season full of disappointment, frustration, and bad football loaded with mistakes. Essentially, if the Bills hope to reach their 2023 goals, they must go undefeated the rest of the way.

The Bills found their first lead of the night after the two-minute warning… in regulation. Off a 70-plus-yard drive that featured zero passes and plenty of running by running back James Cook. He, of course, is the guy who sat out for 20 game minutes in the first half. Imagine what could have been had McDermott not benched Cook? Cook’s first-play fumble was the night’s initial mistake. But it’s possible that the team’s second error, McDermott’s decision to pull Cook, played a huge part in Buffalo losing at home to a very beatable team.

The mistakes against the Broncos — all but one were truly inexcusable. That defensive pass interference call on nickel cornerback Taron Johnson was the right call. But that’s only true based on the rule. It’s a terrible rule that needs to be changed, and I don’t believe Johnson deserves ridicule even though he likely understands the rule. It was an impossible situation for him to avoid, and one he didn’t seek out. As Ryan Clark said on ESPN after the game, the NFL shouldn’t reward terrible football. And terrible football is exactly what quarterback Russel Wilson offered up on an air ball down the field, which caused his receiver to do a 180 and run back into Johnson, who was trying to turn to look for the ball.

But somehow, the Bills managed to survive that outcome. Most figured the game was won when kicker Will Lutz lined up for the game-winning points. Then he missed. He missed it. As it had been much of the night, Denver’s kicking unit was terrible. The Bills were going to win. And then yellow laundry appeared, ready to inform everyone about a 12th man on the field. With barely any time to make the kick, the Broncos forced the Bills’ to swiftly change from dime defensive personnel to the field goal stop unit. Apparently that meant Cam Lewis was going to re-enter the game. For some reason, the coaching staff, McDermott included, didn’t think it was important to have Lewis announce his return. That play, alone, was a disaster. A near-unforgivable faux pas as it relates to professional football. It’s a mind-boggling way to lose a game. Just another to add to the pile of all-time Bills losses.

Right or wrong, most conversations have turned into guessing when head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will lose their jobs. Like a broken record, the offense again came to life with just over six minutes to go in the first half. They implemented an up-tempo look and moved the ball effortlessly down the field. At game’s end, Dorsey called a 50/50 game, with 26 runs and 26 passes. But once again, the sense of urgency escaped Buffalo’s offense until the chips were down. For whatever reason, the offense disappears until the end of each half. As another theme this season, Josh Allen and the Bills led the team to a go-ahead touchdown, leaving the defense to secure the win. Again, the defense couldn’t get the stop it needed. But it feel wrong blaming the defense, when they continue to keep the team in every game despite the personnel losses.

Think about this for a moment: In two games where the offense turned the ball over four times, they’ve been in position to win the game at the end. Both times, special teams managed to blow it all up in the most unlikely of ways.

The biggest elephant on the field, which I wrote about ahead of the Monday Night Football game, is of course the continued turnover problem. Straight facts? You can’t turn the football over in the NFL and expect to win. Teams turning the ball over four times this season are 0-13. The Bills are owners of two such losses. Buffalo will struggle to find another victory if they don’t cut out the turnovers. Sure, you can say wide receiver Gabe Davis should have caught that pass early in the game, but did Allen need to put so much heat on it — a ball that was clearly behind Davis? The double-dip on the risky handoff was a fun sequence of plays. Since they failed to fumble the first time, they just had to revisit the idea for the sake of success. Allen giving the Broncos an extra series, and the opportunity to run their own double dip — that is, opportunity to score before the half and out of the half — was terrible football. That can’t continue.

At the moment, quarterback Josh Allen looks more like a liability on offense than the sole reason for optimism. At the podium, he appears as though he’s zoning out, finding a safe space. He looks nothing like the person Bills Mafia has come to love. It’s concerning. For his career, Allen has 20 games with multiple interceptions, and he leads the league in INTs since entering the NFL in 2018. Allen also just finished his sixth-straight game with an interception. Allen needs to figure out the problem, and quick.

Stats tells us that the Bills are a good team and should still be considered a playoff contender. But come on, we know this is anything but a playoff team — at least in its current form.

No one should automatically be exempt from criticism this week — and we’ll be certain to dive more into the nuts and guts of the Buffalo Bills’ Week 10 loss at home to the Denver Broncos in the coming days.

This content was originally published here.

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