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Shaw66

THE ROCKPILE REVIEW - Midseason Meltdown

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The Bills lost to the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday night – yes, Tuesday night – by a score of 42-16.  In some respects, the game wasn’t as lopsided as the score, and in other respects it was.

 

Sean McDermott’s Buffalo Bills seem to have some of these games, games where all of the progress of the previous weeks vanishes, games where you wonder how this team will ever win another game.  There probably is some explanation, and the explanation probably has something to do with how McDermott’s process works.  

 

I understand.  I trust the process.  That doesn’t make it any easier emotionally as Bills fan to go through another mid-season blowout.  It’s distressing every time it happens.

 

The story of the Bills’ loss to the Titans is filled with all of the usual reasons for the collapse:   Turnovers, penalties, game planning, injuries, rookie mistakes.  Everything went wrong and still, to the Bills’ credit, they kept fighting and weren’t all that far from a win.  

 

Huh?  42-16 and they weren’t far from the win?   I mean it.  Beneath all of the bad things that contributed to the loss was a good football team.  The Bills ran more plays than the Titans, gained more yards than the Titans, and were more efficient on third down. 

 

Early in the game, things looked good for the Bills.  After the early turnover and Titans’ touchdown, the Bills showed they could take a punch.  They came back with a beautiful drive of their own, converting multiple long third down challenges to get into the end zone.  It looked like they were imposing their will on the game.  Instead, the Titans kept punching, and the Bills just couldn’t match them. 

 

The Bills often seemed like they were ready to break out and take over the game, but the Titans defense never let them.  The Titans defense was textbook bend-don’t-break.  They forced the Bills to dink and dunk all the way up the field, to play errorless football for long drives if they wanted to score.  Sometimes the Bills made it to paydirt, but often some mistake killed the drive. 

 

For their part, the Bills defense forced the Titans into the same game.  The Titans just didn’t make the mistakes the Bills did.  And the Bills couldn’t stop the Titans.   After the Bills went three and out from their own ten and got, effectively, an 80-yard punt from Bojo, the Titans did what the Bills couldn’t – march 90 yards for the TD.  (Bojo, of course, also contributed to the loss, badly outkicking his coverage earlier in the game, giving up a 40-yard return that led to a score.)

 

Fundamentally, the Titans shut down the Bills mid- and long-range passing game.  They kept “everything in front of them,” as the saying goes, and forced the Bills to succeed in the short passing game and the running game.  And, in fact, they did succeed, pretty well, in the short passing game.  Allen completed 63% of his passes and would have completed a half dozen more with a little more help from his receivers.  Diggs, Davis and Knox all missed catchable balls, and Roberts could have bailed Allen out on his first interception.  That’s not to say that Allen was sharp; he wasn’t, but he wasn’t so bad that with a little bit better execution the result couldn’t have been different.

 

The running game is what killed the Bills.  Whatever it was the Titans were doing in the defensive backfield, it was designed to stop the Bills’ downfield passing game.  The only way to do that is by committing players to defend downfield, and that commitment is an invitation to run the ball.  The Bills couldn’t do it.  Without an effective running game, the Bills were forced into a short passing game, which they did pretty well, but not well enough. 

 

Look at those keys to the loss:

 

Turnovers:  It may be too simplistic to say the Bills lost because of the turnovers, but it’s true.  Three turnovers, three touchdowns, three missed scoring opportunities.  The first put the Bills in an immediate hole.  The second ended a productive drive that could have made the game 21-17 in the middle of the third quarter.  Instead, the Bills quickly were down 28-10, and the situation was desperate.  Roberts’ fumble just was the beginning of the Titans’ celebration.

 

The Bills may still have lost, but the game would have been completely different without the turnovers.

 

Penalties:  The Bills looked like their heads were not in the game.  Presnap penalties; one per game is not good, but you can live with it.  Multiple presnap penalties is unacceptable.  Two pass interference penalties on Norman.  Frankly, I liked what I saw from Norman.  I wasn’t at all sure about the first PI, and CBS didn’t replay the second one, but they weren’t killers.   Roughing the passer on third down, on the other hand, was a four-point mistake at a critical time. 

 

Game planning:  Brian Daboll, what happened to your passing game?   The Bills were unprepared to be shut down like that.  They didn’t have answers to get the ball deep, and they didn’t have answers on the line of scrimmage to get the running game going.  The game was close until late in the third quarter, but already by then the Bills were passing on two plays for every one run.  There had to be opportunities to run, but Daboll couldn’t find them or hadn’t prepared his team for them. 

 

Injuries:  The Bills pass defense is not the same without Milano and White.  Taron Johnson was exposed, I suspect because he wasn’t getting the help he usually could expect from the linebackers and safeties, because they were trying to help the corners deal with the wideouts.  It was a mess back there.  And Brown’s absence probably explains some of the problem with the passing game.  Roberts and McKenzie, for whatever reasons, aren’t credible deep threats.  The Titans focused on stopping Diggs, and no one else was able to run free anywhere in the middle of the defense.  Eventually, the Bills got around to finding Beasley short, but that wasn’t going to change the outcome.  That was taking what the Titans were happy to give. 

 

Rookie mistakes:  This category is reserved for Josh Allen (although Epenesa gets honorable mention for getting drawn offside.  Pure lack of focus.)  Allen actually played pretty well, including an absolutely beautiful run for a first down, but his second interception, probably the play that decided the game, was a classic rookie mistake.  CBS didn’t show enough replays, but it looked like Davis may actually have been open up the sideline.  In other words, the decision to throw to Davis may not have been bad, but Allen never should fail to see the defender underneath.  He has to see that guy and adjust the throw – or not throw it at all.   That was the point in the game where everything changed, the point where the kid pulls his team back into the game or puts his team in a big hole.  Allen was a rookie on that play.

 

A couple of comments about the Titans.

 

It’s hard not to be impressed with Mike Vrabel.   His team always is full of fight, and always is well prepared.  I hate saying it, but he clearly learned from the master, and his teams will continue to be competitive in the NFL.

 

I’ve always liked Tannehill.  He’s smart, he’s athletic, and he can throw.  He did an excellent job against the Bills – not spectacular, but effective all night long. 

 

Derrick Henry.  I’ve noticed this and said this before: in terms of running style, Derrick Henry looks more like Jim Brown than any runner I’ve seen.  He runs straight up.  He has relentless power, always moving forward, always challenging the defense to get him to the ground.   He has the speed to get to the edge.  He’s a big-time threat. 

 

The Bills stopped Henry from beating them, but it was their commitment to stopping Henry that allowed Tannehill and others to get outside the tackles for easy gains or pass completions.  The Titans commitment to the run gave them the run-pass balance that the Bills lacked. 

 

It’s a long season.  It’s a process.  For some reason, the process includes a mid-season meltdown or two.  In the past, McDermott somehow has been able to get everything back on track, to continue to improve the team and how it competes.  He’s faced with that problem again.

 

The Chiefs are waiting, and they are hungry. 

 

 

GO BILLS!!!

 

The Rockpile Review is written to share the passion we have for the Buffalo Bills. That passion was born in the Rockpile; its parents were everyday people of western New York who translated their dedication to a full day’s hard work and simple pleasures into love for a pro football team.

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Nice writeup as usual 

 

 

Colin Cowherd  just said on air 

The Bills are good and will not lose like that again this year. 
 

Not to NE and not to KC. 

3 hours ago, Shaw66 said:

It’s a long season.  It’s a process.  For some reason, the process includes a mid-season meltdown or two.  In the past, McDermott somehow has been able to get everything back on track, to continue to improve the team and how it competes.  He’s faced with that problem again.

 

Edited by SlimShady'sSpaceForce
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Accurate assessment.

 

I also think the extended downtime by the Titans was a huge factor, they have been thinking about coming back for a long time and showing the rest of the league.   I dont want to hear about the lack of practices they had.  First of all we dont know how many "informal practices" they had and how many  zoom meeting they have been doing. These guys are pros, not a high school team that desperately need more practice times.

 

The Titans were better prepared and eager to get out there.  The Bills have been getting jerked around as to if they game would happen and when.  I thought it was very telling McDermott quickly said "no  comment" to how he felt about the way the league handled it. He didnt want to use it as an excuse but I bet he is pissed about it. I would be if I were him.

Edited by RoyBatty is alive
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44 minutes ago, RoyBatty is alive said:

Accurate assessment.

 

I also think the extended downtime by the Titans was a huge factor, they have been thinking about coming back for a long time and showing the rest of the league.   I dont want to hear about the lack of practices they had.  First of all we dont know how many "informal practices" they had and how many  zoom meeting they have been doing. These guys are pros, not a high school team that desperately need more practice times.

 

The Titans were better prepared and eager to get out there.  The Bills have been getting jerked around as to if they game would happen and when.  I thought it was very telling McDermott quickly said "no  comment" to how he felt about the way the league handled it. He didnt want to use it as an excuse but I bet he is pissed about it. I would be if I were him.

I agree with this.  One big question in this game, in the other rescheduled games, is how each team will handle it.   I agree that the situation was easier for the Titans to handle well, because they had that anticipation, and they had something to prove.   

 

But that doesn't explain why the Bills seemed to have lost focus so badly.  The penalties, Allen's second interception, the dropped passes.  I didn't expect those problems. 

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I'm not sure what it is about the Titans that continues to allow them to fly under the radar. Nobody seen them coming last season. Nobody wants to talk about them this season. This just in. The Titans are a playoff/championship caliber football team.

 

We should have known that though right?

 

Thanks OP for another good review. I won't say great because the game was to hard to swallow. 

 

I couldn't even find the words to comment last night here on TBD. 

 

I talked a bunch of my relatives in the south into watching the game. Some don't even follow football. I built a good friend of mine up on her birthday. Huge Bills fan.  Sigh

 

Stunned, sad, and that here we go again feeling coming back to haunt me.

 

 

Edited by Figster

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Of all the failed/failing former NE (assistant) coaches, former players who are trying to elevate, etc., I agree with @Shaw66 that they may be on to something with Vrabel.

 

My hope here, obviously, is that Vrabel can't make treasure out of trash -- like Belichick did with the 2001-2002 squad.

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Nice write up, Shaw. They were absolutely flat and it appeared evident to me straight out of the gate. Each and every time they showed Bills players faces, they looked overwhelmed. 
 

I stayed positive and trusted in Josh to bail the team out. Didn’t happen...although if they put him in at MLB we would have had a chance. 😃 

 

Edit: Tasked just told a story about when they laid a dud and Thurman got up in front of the team and said, “Guys, that was just a bad night.”

 

Yup. 

Edited by TroutDog

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7 minutes ago, TroutDog said:

Nice write up, Shaw. They were absolutely flat and it appeared evident to me straight out of the gate. Each and every time they showed Bills players faces, they looked overwhelmed. 
 

I stayed positive and trusted in Josh to bail the team out. Didn’t happen...although if they put him in at MLB we would have had a chance. 😃 

120 mph fast balls, lol

 

Thanks, needed that...

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Was a great example of differences in team construction and identity

 

Bills are built for speed and finesse, Titans are built to bulldoze you

 

Singletary v Henry, Brown v Diggs, Dawkins v Lewan...not hard to see when you look at personnel 

 

Bills didn't play to our identity (hard to w/injuries piling up) and didn't have the right gameplan. Different philosophies don't mix well 

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It felt like every yard gained was a huge struggle.

 

Their heads definitely weren't in it. Gonna be tough to bounce back against KC.

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6 minutes ago, GoBills808 said:

Was a great example of differences in team construction and identity

 

Bills are built for speed and finesse, Titans are built to bulldoze you

 

Singletary v Henry, Brown v Diggs, Dawkins v Lewan...not hard to see when you look at personnel 

 

Bills didn't play to our identity (hard to w/injuries piling up) and didn't have the right gameplan. Different philosophies don't mix well 

Good analogy,

 

Hadn't really pictured the Bills as a speed, finesse team and that is what we have become. 

 

Interesting...

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Good assessment, Shaw!

 

I want to add a possible answer to why the Bills didn't have their collective heads in the game. Perhaps they, like many of us, were truly freaked-out with the Covid risk. It would certainly be understandable. When your head is focused on something else, the task at hand gets away from you. That's how it works for us and for them. This is something we'll never know for sure, but is likely a contributing cause. And, in the overall scheme of things, its probably not going to be an outlier in the NFL this season.

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12 minutes ago, LeGOATski said:

It felt like every yard gained was a huge struggle.

 

Their heads definitely weren't in it. Gonna be tough to bounce back against KC.

To McD's credit, the team normally bounces back well.

 

On the other hand Mahomes and Co. are having thoughts of bouncing back also...

 

...something has to give... 

 

Somethings gone a rye, someones run a muck.

 

Like to get away, but I think we're stuck...

 

 

Edited by Figster

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1 minute ago, Figster said:

To McD's credit, the team normally bounces back well.

 

On the other hand Mahomes and Co. are having thoughts of bouncing back also...

 

...something has to give... 

I give the edge to the Chiefs. They're the champs and a slightly better team.

 

It could be very similar to last year. The Bills were 5-2 after getting crushed by the Eagles and bounced back against a weak Washington team. This year, stomping a weak Jets team could be the ticket.

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2 hours ago, Shaw66 said:

Brian Daboll, what happened to your passing game?

 

Yeah he had a disappointing game plan. We ran the ball way too much and needed to give it up earlier. You could make the argument that Daboll and every player on offense had their worst game of the season. Notable exceptions would be Beasley and Ford, and Morse who has been excellent all year. The rest had problems. On defense you could say the same with no exceptions. When everyone is playing that poorly it snowballs into a blowout loss. Just a bad game all around and hopefully it the sting won't linger.

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41 minutes ago, LeGOATski said:

It felt like every yard gained was a huge struggle.

 

Their heads definitely weren't in it. Gonna be tough to bounce back against KC.

Josh seemed focused on Diggs to the exclusion of Davis and Beasley at times...which was remedied in the 2nd half to Beasley. But I am hard pressed to name anyone who really had a "good" game against the Titans...hey wait...BASS had a field goal and an extra point so Yay..haha...That's the kind of night it was. celebrating the kicker....Bojo had an amazing punt to pin em back.,..didn't matter in the end oh well....anyway I can recall some stinker prime time games (jets on Thursday night anybody else) add last night to that nefarious list . 

Hey NFL, Please no Bills games on days of the week that begin with T......TCK.

 

My default reaction to loss and sadness TRIES to be humor to lighten the mood and look at the bright side of things. My last point is our next game is a game on a Monday...yippee no more T's.................smh haha. GO BILLS

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Thanks for the writeup - always interested in your take.  Just HATE these "mid-season meltdowns"!  If the Bills really want to get into the upper AFC echelon, they gotta start putting a stop to these.

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27 minutes ago, Muppy said:

Josh seemed focused on Diggs to the exclusion of Davis and Beasley at times...which was remedied in the 2nd half to Beasley. But I am hard pressed to name anyone who really had a "good" game against the Titans...hey wait...BASS had a field goal and an extra point so Yay..haha...That's the kind of night it was. celebrating the kicker....Bojo had an amazing punt to pin em back.,..didn't matter in the end oh well....anyway I can recall some stinker prime time games (jets on Thursday night anybody else) add last night to that nefarious list . 

Hey NFL, Please no Bills games on days of the week that begin with T......TCK.

 

My default reaction to loss and sadness TRIES to be humor to lighten the mood and look at the bright side of things. My last point is our next game is a game on a Monday...yippee no more T's.................smh haha. GO BILLS

Hi Muppy, I hope all is well.

 

Myself Personally,  what has always made the New England Patriots such a hard team to play is the abilty to play smash mouth football with the best of them. Good run game opens up the pass more IMO.

 

The Buffalo Bills do not need to abandon the run because we have a big armed franchise QB in my humble opinion. Running the ball well helps rest the D and gives the Oline a chance to go on the offensive.

 

Godspeed into the future my friend...

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