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What went wrong with the Buffalo Bills offense, and can it be fixed? – Buffalo Bills Blog



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It was considered the skippable game on the schedule. The second of an easy three-game stretch for the Buffalo Bills following their bye. Another road stadium filled with Bills fans set to enjoy an easy win on a pleasant Florida afternoon.

Not so fast.

Instead, the Bills’ offense struggled mightily in a 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. A week prior, Buffalo rebounded from a bad first two quarters against the Miami Dolphins and put together a strong finish for a win. This time around, the Bills did not score a point in the second half.

“[I] just gotta be smart with the football and end every drive in a kick,” quarterback Josh Allen said. “Understanding how our defense is playing, not giving them a short field and again, I gotta be better. You know, I played like s— today.”

A Bills offense that scored 30 or more points in five of the first six games and came into Week 9 leading the league in scoring offense put up just six points against a one-win Jaguars team that ranks 26th in scoring defense even after Sunday’s game.

The Bills scored field goals on the first two drives and then punted on three possessions, had three turnovers, and had their final possession end on a loss of downs. No drive was longer than 48 yards.

What went wrong, and what does it mean going forward?

Allen’s play

Statistically, Allen won’t look back fondly on this game. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked four times. He completed 31 of 47 passes for 264 yards. Allen had some bad moments, especially throwing the second interception of the third quarter as he fell to the ground.

The Jaguars approached defending Allen the same way teams have played against Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Allen faced two-high safety coverages on 65% of his dropbacks — by far the highest rate of his career — which limited his options downfield. His average air yards per attempt was 6.1, his second lowest this season.

The Bills have lost the three games Allen has faced the most two-high safety coverage in his career: the Week 1 loss to the Steelers (58%), last season’s regular-season loss to the Chiefs (55%), and Sunday. Allen’s longest completion on Sunday was a 28-yarder to wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the fourth quarter.

“Two-high shells forcing us to throw underneath,” Allen said when asked about a lack of early targets to Diggs. “I can do things different to get our guys going early on. We didn’t do a good enough job of that today.”

Diggs finished the game with six catches for 85 yards, with four of those catches coming in the second half. Receiver Cole Beasley was targeted often in the first half but had only one reception in the final two quarters. It’s unclear whether the injury to his ribs that left him questionable coming into the game played a part.

Why did the Jaguars feel confident running that style of defense? Partly because they knew the Bills couldn’t run the ball.

“[Linebacker] Myles Jack told me yesterday, ‘This is going to be the best game [they would play]. This game is meant for us to win,'” Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen said. “‘They’re talking about this team can throw the ball. They really don’t run the ball that much. OK, they’re working into our hands.'”

Ineffective running backs

Zack Moss left early with a concussion, but he and Devin Singletary finished the game against the Jaguars with a combined total of nine carries for 22 yards.

The running game, outside of Allen’s five carries for 50 yards, was ineffective and not a part of the game plan. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called a pass on 84.6% of plays, the highest percentage in any game that neither team scored 10 points (since play designs were first tracked in 2006). That has to change.

Even a pass-first offense like Buffalo’s has to incorporate the run game to be effective. The inability to get the running backs involved has been a problem throughout the season.

“That’s a huge issue right now for us. Gotta be able to run the football when it’s handed off,” coach Sean McDermott said. “… That’s not good enough.”

Buffalo was one of two teams not to gain a rushing first down by a running back in Week 9. A breakout rusher isn’t walking in the door tomorrow. If this offense is going to take a step forward, Daboll will have to get creative with how the backs are used.

The offensive line can’t be blamed for all the rushing issues, but its play contributed. The two backs averaged a league-low for the week of 0.2 yards per carry before contact.

Offensive line issues

If you looked at the Bills’ performance only from a statistical standpoint, it appeared the offensive line had an OK day. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Allen had 3.12 seconds to throw, his second-highest window of the season, and he threw 64% of his passes to open receivers, a season high.

What those numbers can’t tell you is whatever success the Bills had was because of Allen. Anyone who watched the Bills and Jaguars play could see that Buffalo’s line, especially the interior, is an issue.

Without starting rookie right tackle Spencer Brown and guard Jon Feliciano because of injuries, the Bills played right guard Daryl Williams at right tackle yet again. They also called two backup guards — Ike Boettger and Cody Ford — into action. Ford had an especially rough day, and a Jaguars team that entered the game with 11 sacks in seven games had four on Sunday. The Jaguars were credited with eight QB hits.

“Coming in, you’d like to say [we were prepared], but I guess we weren’t,” center Mitch Morse said. “So, for us, it’ll be finding ways to maybe change up your routine because [Sunday] unfortunately, was not it. So, we’ll have to reevaluate and go from there.”

The recent play of Ford specifically has been a disappointing development for the second-round pick.

Fingers will be pointing in a variety of directions this week, including the referees (12 penalties for 118 yards) and the coaching staff. The Bills, however, did not lose the game because of any one issue. That would be easier to fix. Still, solutions are possible with an offense that boasts one of the best receiving groups in the NFL and a dynamic quarterback. Daboll is a creative coordinator who should be able to find ways to switch things up. But the Bills must make changes to get where they want to go.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers left guard Ali Marpet (abdomen) downgraded to out vs. Indianapolis Colts



INDIANAPOLIS — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without starting left guard and arguably one of their best offensive linemen, Ali Marpet, when they face the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, the team announced.

Marpet, who sustained an abdominal injury in the second quarter of Monday night’s game against the New York Giants, was downgraded to out Saturday prior to the team’s departure for Indianapolis.

He was initially going to be a game-time decision, but was listed on Friday’s injury report as doubtful.

Marpet was replaced in the game by Aaron Stinnie, who filled in for Alex Cappa last year during the playoffs when Cappa suffered a broken leg in the wild-card game at Washington.

In 51 snaps against the Giants, Stinnie surrendered one sack, and last year, he surrendered only one sack in the postseason — in the NFC Championship game against Kenny Clark.

Marpet’s 74.6% run block win rate is the highest of any offensive lineman on the team, as is his 92.5% pass blocking win rate.

The Colts, meanwhile, have given up 19.5 points per game over the last six games — eighth-best in the league.

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Short-handed Pittsburgh Steelers will take on Cincinnati Bengals without cornerback Joe Haden



PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers placed two players on the injured reserve list Saturday, and downgraded another to out for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers ruled out cornerback Joe Haden, downgraded from questionable with a mid-foot sprain, and they put tight end Eric Ebron and center/guard J.C. Hassenauer on IR.

Ebron injured a knee last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, apparently during his fourth-quarter touchdown. He is expected to miss extended time with surgery, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler earlier this week.

Ebron was a co-starter along with rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth. He has had a reduced role this season with just 12 catches for 84 yards and a receiving touchdown as well as a rushing TD.

Hassenauer, who was starting in place of guard Kevin Dotson, injured a pectoral muscle early in the loss to the Chargers. Tackle Joe Haeg replaced Hassenauer a week ago, but the Steelers are likely to turn to B.J. Finney, a veteran interior offensive lineman, to replace him in the long term.

With both Dotson and Hassenauer now on IR, the Steelers signed practice squad offensive lineman John Leglue to the active roster.

The team also elevated defensive lineman Daniel Archibong and wide receiver Anthony Miller ahead of Sunday’s game, and signed kicker Sam Sloman to the practice squad.

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Tennessee Titans place wide receiver A.J. Brown on injured reserve



The Tennessee Titans placed wide receiver A.J. Brown on injured reserve on Saturday ahead of their matchup with the New England Patriots.

Brown suffered chest, rib and hand injuries during last week’s 22-13 loss to the Houston Texans. He played 40 offensive snaps and finished with five receptions for 48 yards on nine targets.

“Walking by faith as always. GOD makes no mistakes,” Brown posted on social media after the news broke that is headed for IR.

Brown will now be out for the next three weeks. The earliest that Brown will be able to return is when Tennessee faces the San Francisco 49ers on Dec 23 on Thursday night football.

In 10 games, Brown has 46 receptions for 615 yards and three touchdowns. He also missed Tennessee’s Week 4 loss to the New York Jets because of a knee injury.

The Titans signed veteran free agent receiver Golden Tate to their practice squad last Tuesday. But they did not elevate him to the active roster after he practiced with the team on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The Titans will likely turn to rookie Dez Fitzpatrick to start in place of Brown. Tennessee utilized the COVID elevation to make receiver Cody Hollister available to them on Sunday against the Patriots.

Hollister joins Fitzpatrick, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Chester Rogers as the wide receivers that will be available for quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Sunday.

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