INDIANAPOLIS – The most troubling aspect of Buffalo’s embarrassing performance Sunday afternoon is that no one should really be all that surprised by how this went down at Lucas Oil Stadium.
I know I wasn’t.
The Bills are terrible, there’s no getting around that cold, hard reality, and while losing 37-5 to the Indianapolis Colts is perhaps a bit more of a separation than I expected, I can’t say I was stunned by what took place.
“I’ll give credit to the Colts, they beat us in every phase,” coach Sean McDermott said. “They beat us in every phase — offensively, defensively, and special teams. So, credit goes to them.”
No, sorry, no one wants to hear that from the coach. Bills fans don’t need McDermott to be crediting the other team, especially when the team that just beat his by 32 points isn’t all that good, either.
McDermott would have been better served to call out his players for a performance that was downright embarrassing, way worse than the 47-3 opening day loss to the Ravens because those were the playoff-contending Ravens, and this was the 1-5 Colts.
“This is a group that works extremely hard, a group of coaches and players that works hard, and we just didn’t get the job done today,” he said.
If the Bills truly worked as hard as McDermott says, and that was the result, then he has a full-fledged crisis on his hands, and here’s why.
We already know he has a roster that is ill-equipped to compete on a level playing field most weeks, a fact that is being exposed a little more each week, but now he has a team that looks like it is already checking out on him before the kids put on their Halloween costumes.
Keeping the Bills focused on the task at hand was arguably McDermott’s neatest trick last season, especially when he somehow turned things around after that horrendous three-game losing streak in November that threatened to sink the season. The players stayed with him, bought into his “Process” and went on to win four of the last six games to sneak into the playoffs.
There’s no way the Bills are getting anywhere near the postseason this year, and now, McDermott will have to pool together everything he ever learned from mentors like Andy Reid and Ron Rivera to keep his locker room from fracturing.
There was a defining moment Sunday when this potential problem came into focus. After the Colts had taken a 6-0 lead when Andrew Luck threw the first of his four touchdown passes, the Bills drove into the red zone as new quarterback Derek Anderson — with just three practices under his belt — actually looked competent.
But then he threw a pass over the middle to tight end Charles Clay, and watched the perpetually disappointing Clay promptly fumble it away, costing the Bills at least three points, maybe seven. Luck needed three plays to increase Indy’s lead to 14-0, hitting Marlon Mack with a 29-yard scoring pass, and right there, you could almost see the life drain from the Bills.
At that point, the Bills were ready to get on the plane and go home, and the final 40 minutes were unwatchable.
Here are some other observations I had:
Defense got unmasked
You had to figure there would be a little regression to the mean because no matter what the rankings showed, the Bills’ defense was probably a bit over-ranked.
The stat sheet showed it was No. 3 in yards allowed, and top 10 in several yardage-based categories, but let’s also remember, it was ranked 12th in points allowed primarily because of what happened in the first six quarters of the season.
It’s a good unit, for sure, and on some days this season, it has been very good, but Sunday in Indianapolis, it was simply awful.
“We couldn’t stop anything, we couldn’t do anything,” said safety Micah Hyde. “Just one of those games that just snowballs and everything got worse. I just really don’t know, I wish I had information to tell you, but I really don’t know until we watch the film to see exactly.”
First and foremost, Hyde said, the Bills were killed on the ground. “We didn’t stop the run, that’s the No. 1 thing,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been doing a good job and that’s kind of in our DNA and our identity, to stop the run and we didn’t do that.”
Also, the pass rush was non-existent, one week after it treated Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson like Humpty Dumpty.
Anderson was, well, not good
What did we expect, though? There was no way he was going to play well, and three interceptions and a fumble were the proof.
“Derek came in, and he’s had two weeks,” said McDermott. “There were some moments out there where I thought he executed well, and there’s some moments … obviously we turn the ball over and we didn’t execute well enough.”
Said Anderson, “I gave them points before the half (with an interception that set up a field goal), and then came right back out in the second half and turned it over again and gave them seven points. I’ve just got to be better with the ball.”
One would assume that with another week of practice, Anderson will be better prepared in the next game, but that game is against the Patriots, so let’s not expect much more.
No McCoy, but does it matter?
At this point, I’m not sure having LeSean McCoy on the team makes a difference. Every team the Bills have played has focused their defensive game plan on stopping him, and every team has done a good job with the exception of Tennessee, the only game McCoy performed well.
Without McCoy on the field, it’s almost like Colts backed off the line and played more straight up, and the result was Chris Ivory found some running room behind an offensive line that actually played OK, and he gained 81 yards, four fewer than McCoy had against the Titans.
I’ve said this for a couple weeks: If a partner can be found, trade McCoy before the Oct. 30 deadline, though my sense is the Bills won’t consider it.
► Play of the game: Right after the Clay fumble, the Colts took an insurmountable 14-0 lead when Luck hit Marlon Mack for a 29-yard TD on a play where the Bills were totally confused and beaten. It was if they weren’t even aware Mack was on the field. The game was essentially over at that point.
► Player of the game: Mack had a huge day as he rushed for 126 yards and a TD, and caught two passes for 33 yards and a TD. He came into the game with 123 rushing yards all season.
► Unsung hero: There were none. Seriously, who could possibly have earned this designation for the Bills?
► Injuries: RB LeSean McCoy had to leave the game after the second play when he was tackled out of bounds, upended, and landed on his head. He’s in concussion protocol, meaning his status for next Monday’s game against New England is in question.
► What’s next: The Bills play host to the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, the Patriots are in the AFC East, so this has to happen twice a year. Sadly, for NFL Nation, this first meeting will be on national TV.
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