NFL WEEK 5: Bills hit speed bump in Nashville; Jets release Bell; Falcons fire Quinn

photo: George Walker IV/The Tennesseean

By Nic Gelyon

The Buffalo Bills missed an opportunity on Tuesday night. 

It was difficult to watch a team like the Bills get bulldozed. They suffered a 42-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Bills seemed defeated as they trailed 28-16 in the third quarter, even with more than enough time to come back.  

However you want to spin it, the Bills, while missing Tre’Davious White, John Brown, Quinton Spain and others, were beat by a team that couldn’t even practice for the better part of two weeks. 

After the game, head coach Sean McDermott said that his team played unusually bad football, with “Uncharacteristically poor fundamentals, poor pre-snap discipline, turning the ball over.”

So, while doubt begins to seep into the mind of Bills fans, and the inferiority complex ignites, it’s fair to question who the Buffalo Bills really are, and who Josh Allen really is. 

I’m not sure the Bills know the answer yet. 

First of all: the Bills lost to a team that was simply healthier. I could rant for a long time on how much better it would’ve been for the Bills had this game been forfeited by the Titans. They lost one of their better linebackers and arguably the best cornerback in the league. So, as I digress, I give the Bills an automatic pass for a lot of what happened last night.  

Other than the injuries, there are a couple things the Bills and their coaching staff need to address to build their team identity: things that will be necessary to make a deep playoff run. 

First? The Buffalo defensive line is not physical enough. 

We know that the Bills’ front four doesn’t play with the physicality needed to contain a ground-and-pound running back. Darrell Henderson is an example. The Bills gave up 114 yards to Henderson against the Rams. 

And while the Bills were able to contain Derrick Henry yards-wise last night, he still managed to rush for two touchdowns. 

And although many of the breakdowns that happened last night can be attributed to misfortune rather than scheme – the Bills appeared to have solved something last week, holding Josh Jacobs to 48 yards. It’s still an issue that needs to improve if the Bills want to take themselves to the next level. 

Second? The Bills’ offense had issues last night that they don’t normally have. 

The Buffalo offense couldn’t take advantage of a Titans secondary that hadn’t had its share of luck against COVID-19 and the injury bug, missing LB Kamalei Correia and CB Kristian Fulton.  

And while Allen didn’t play a terrible game (263 yards, 2 TD’s and 2 unfortunate INT’s), his receivers didn’t help him in the first half. A significant number of Allen’s 16 incompletions were dropped passes.  

So, what does this loss ultimately come down to? The answer may fall on the back of McDermott and his staff.  

This is still a team in development. That includes each player and coach. Allen’s two interceptions, the dropped passes, the goal line defense that gave up six touchdowns … It comes down to not being prepared for the monster of the Titans. Not to mention, the Bills’ body language didn’t scream comeback, even when the game was still in reach. 

The Titans said they were angry at the world. They showed it last night, and the Bills didn’t. 

So, I think that everything that happened last night makes sense. I think it’s a loss the Bills probably needed early in the season, and it exposed some of the weaknesses Josh Allen has been able to mask the past few weeks.  

Last night was a missed opportunity to take advantage of a COVID-19 weakened team, but it may end up being a blessing in disguise. The Bills now have a better foundation to figure out who they truly are. 

I THINK WE ALL MISUNDERSTOOD – just a bit – exactly what Le’Veon Bell is capable of.  

Bell, known as the shifty running back who can do almost anything, was released by the Jets yesterday after they couldn’t find someone willing to trade for him.  

Bell can be mischievous in the middle of the field, juking defenders left and right. But that’s once he gets beyond the line of scrimmage. 

I can’t remember a time this season when I actually saw Bell beyond the line of scrimmage. 

That’s where the Jets’ coaching comes into play. Without a half-way decent offensive line, Bell is useless in any kind of play that requires him to run around the backfield and then turn up. 

He is a little bit more of a ground and pound back than we understand him to be. For that reason, I fully believe he will resurrect his career somewhere that knows how to use him. 

THE DALLAS COWBOYS RALLIED around Dak Prescott in their 37-34 comeback win against the New York Giants in Week Four. 

The Cowboys, now 1-4, lost starting QB Prescott to a gruesome ankle injury in the second quarter. As the game progressed from there, and Andy Dalton proceeded to rescue the Cowboys with a couple spectacular passes – and catches – you could see the anger and the hurt on the faces of the Cowboys.  

They weren’t about to get embarrassed by a winless Giants team.  

It speaks volumes to Prescott’s influence on a locker room that, without him, would be without a true and proven leader. It begs the question: Where do the Cowboys look to now for leadership? It might be time for Ezekiel Elliot to grow up. 

THE FALCONS FIRED Dan Quinn.

I never ‘root’, per se, for anybody to get fired. I think it’s wrong do to so. These coaches have families they have to support, families they have to uproot if they move to a different city.  

I also understand, from Quinn’s perspective, that the team’s lack of talent played a major role in the disappointment that has been the Falcons the last couple years. That’s why the Falcons also fired Thomas Dimitroff, their general manager. 

But Quinn’s teams recently have been unfocused, undetermined, and undisciplined. And while they’re young, it is no excuse for Quinn not to have made the best of what he was given to work with.  

A failure on multiple fronts, the Falcons are now forced to go back to the drawing board. 

NFL WEEK 4: Bills and Packers continue to roll; Herbert shows growth for Chargers; coaching dilemma in ATL

photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

By Nic Gelyon

The Buffalo Bills are setting themselves apart from the pack. 

The Bills are now one of only four teams in the NFL that remain undefeated through Week Four. Their style of play — a rare combination of physicality and finesse — is reminiscent of last year’s Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs. 

Sunday afternoon, in the Buffalo’s 30-23 win against the Las Vegas Raiders, Josh Allen threw for 288 yards, with leading receiver Stefon Diggs hauling in 115 of them. Running back Devin Singletary was also a force Sunday, touching the ball 23 times for 76 total yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. 

Both teams played well: There were only four punts combined all afternoon- meaning that this was a game that came down to pure skill. And in that department, the Bills delivered. 

That’s a tremendous sign if you’re a Bills fan, because this game officially told you that the Bills’ talent is a force to be reckoned with. You’re playing with fire when you play the Bills.  

The Raiders also have a solid, young-but-inexperienced core with players like Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. They also have a veteran spine, in guys like Derek Carr and Jason Witten. But the Bills proved Sunday that as a team trying to win now, they simply have a better foundation.  

From the beginning, the game never really seemed in doubt. However, the game was a lot closer than it seemed, both statistically and in the score. The Bills only held a 17-13 lead going into halftime. 

But was the game ever in doubt? The answer is no. 

It comes down to the fact that this Bills team is maturing. It seems like an obvious statement to make- a Bills team that has been steadily improving for three-to-four years now is finally growing up. But maturation in football is an underrated concept, in ways you might not expect. 

Right out of the gate, the Bills went down and scored on a 26-yard pass from Allen to rookie receiver Gabriel Davis. Less than five minutes into the first quarter, on the first drive of the game, Josh Allen passed six times. He made sure he went to weapons he trusted: Diggs, Singletary, Davis. The Bills let the Raiders beat themselves, as a Las Vegas penalty turned a Bills third-and-11 in to a third-and-six just over a minute into the game. 

The Bills — Sean McDermott included — have learned how glorious it feels to make this kind of statement early in a game. 

That first drive showed growing maturity in not only the Buffalo players, but also in McDermott. He knows that he doesn’t have a team that can afford to wait-and-see early in a game. McDermott practices the mind-game that is football. He knows that the statement his team made left a lasting impression on the Raiders. 

McDermott made us all believe that the game was over before it had even started. All at once, Bills Mafia felt a collective trust in the Buffalo Bills. When’s the last time you’ve felt that? 

My hot take for the day: these Bills can do what the Chiefs did last year. They can win the Super Bowl. 

Two words: Justin Herbert. 

Herbert, fresh out of college at Oregon, went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the Chargers’ 38-31 loss Sunday afternoon. Without much of a rushing attack to speak of, (46 yards for the Chargers compared the Buccaneers’ 115) Herbert managed to go touchdown to touchdown with Brady late in the game as the Chargers blew a 24-7 lead in the second half.  

Herbert alone kept the Chargers in that football game. 

Now, I’ve admittedly calmed down since Sunday. I’ve come to the realization that Herbert probably looked amazing the way Daniel Jones looked amazing against the Buccaneers last year. Tampa Bay has one of the worst secondaries in football. But he still showed laser accuracy while standing in the pocket. He looked poised in what was only his third NFL start. He had a chance to break records Sunday. 

One thing, though, is for sure: Tyrod Taylor is starting QB for the Chargers no more. 

We must stop worrying about the Green Bay Packers. 

First: for Packers fans angry that they haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 2011- well, the Bills haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1994. Argument over. 

Anyway, the team that went 13-3 and got to the NFC Conference Championship last year did what they were supposed to do against the Atlanta Falcons. They did what three other teams haven’t really been able to do this season. 

They took a sledgehammer to one of the worst teams in the NFL. They went into halftime with a 20-3 lead. They won the game 30-16, handing the 0-4 team their largest margin of loss yet Monday night. 

The Packers are a real football team. After all, they are 4-0. 

Oh, the Falcons. It seems I will never understand the Atlanta Falcons. 

Dan Quinn is confused. Dan Quinn is frustrated. These are actual quotes from – guess who – Dan Quinn. 

Jeff Schultz, Atlanta sportswriter for The Athletic, tweeted yesterday that “there’s no indication at this time that Falcons coach Dan Quinn is getting fired today”. 

Who did get fired yesterday? Bill O’Brien, who led the Texans to the playoffs four times in seven seasons as head coach, reaching the divisional round twice- including just last year, when they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. 

Quinn has only made the playoffs twice since becoming Falcons head coach in 2015. His record is only 43-40 after 4 additional losses this season. 

Quinn is quite literally the last one standing. It’s time for the Falcons to give up on this game. 

NFL WEEK 4: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

By Anthony Goss

Week 4 of the NFL season presented major headlines before any players stepped foot on the field for the games, with the COVID-19 outbreak among Tennessee Titans players and staff.

After Tennessee’s game vs. Pittsburgh was postponed, news broke out that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive for the virus as well. Luckily, no other outbreaks occurred, and the NFL moved forward with most of its scheduled games.  

Three Good Things 

4-0 Records and Stellar QB play going hand in hand 

There are several undefeated teams left, but the Bills, Chiefs, Packers and Seahawks all sit at 4-0. 

The common denominator with all these teams? Excellent quarterback play.

Josh Allen has improved vastly this season and led a poised Bills team to a win in Vegas on Sunday afternoon. With the Patriots vs Chiefs game moved to Monday, the spotlight shifted to Allen and the Bills. Allen took care of the ball and threw for two touchdowns, adding one more on the ground as well. 

In a close defensive battle, the Chiefs outlasted the Patriots in a game where Patrick Mahomes was not his usual self. The reigning Super Bowl MVP performed under his standards, but has been great this season.

Aaron Rodgers has turned back the clock for the Packers through four games, after an offseason and draft highlighted by questions about his successor and ability to play at a high level. Rodgers continued to silence the doubters on Monday night, throwing for three touchdowns in the first half en route to a 30-16 win over the Falcons.

Finally, Russell Wilson continued his quest for his first MVP by leading the Seahawks to a 31-23 win against the Dolphins. Like Mahomes, this was not his best performance, but great players find ways to win football games, and that’s what these quarterbacks have done this season.  

Browns make a statement 

The defense in Dallas is atrocious, but Kevin Stefanski deserves credit for bringing change to a Cleveland Browns team with its first 3-1 record since 2001. 

Down early, losing running back Nick Chubb to a right MCL sprain, the Browns held their ground from a furious Dak Prescott comeback and made a statement in Jerry World on Sunday afternoon. 

The Cleveland defense, headlined by defensive end Myles Garrett, forced two crucial turnovers that led to great field position and touchdowns on both possessions. WR Odell Beckham Jr made plays all over the field, including a touchdown catch off a creative trick play thrown by his former LSU teammate and now fellow wideout, Jarvis Landry. 

QB Baker Mayfield was solid and did not try to force anything downfield or off his legs, something he was criticized for last season. When RB Nick Chubb went down with a knee injury, the rest of the running back committee stepped up and made solid runs to keep the Dallas defense on its heels throughout the game. In a loaded AFC North, the Browns sit at 3-1, but this team has found its identity on the ground and will be a formidable opponent going forward.  

Chargers have their guy 

Despite the loss to the Bucs on a gloomy Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay, the Chargers have found a bright side in rookie QB Justin Herbert.

In what was supposed to be a learning year on the bench for Herbert, he has stepped in for injured QB Tyrod Taylor and shown some moxie in his game. Yes, there are some mistakes to be fixed, but Herbert provides the Chargers with their best shot at winning football games.

Herbert has shown confidence since stepping in, especially on Sunday as he went toe-to-toe with future hall of fame QB Tom Brady. On Sunday, Herbert went 20 for 25 with three touchdowns, and one interception but a passer rating of 137.9. 

The Chargers and Herbert will continue to grow, but if he continues to make plays like he made on the 53-yard bomb to Tyron Johnson, a promising future lies ahead for the Chargers. 

Three Bad Things 

Dallas Defense in Disarray 

Just as I mentioned before, the defense in Dallas is atrocious. Granted, there are some other issues on this team, but man…. this group has been pathetic.

The Cowboys have given up 36.5 points per game through the first quarter of the season, with a run defense that has given up a league-high 172.5 yards per game (last in the NFC) and a passing defense giving up 258.0 yards per game. 

Dallas refused to spend money on its secondary in the offseason, and now is paying a hefty price. 

The departure of cornerback Byron Jones in free agency has hurt more than expected, leaving a depleted secondary that seems to be a few steps behind receivers on almost every throw. 

In the second year of his big contract extension, LB Jaylon Smith has had little to no impact on the field, and DE Tank Lawrence and the “Hot Boys” have been ice cold in the pass rush, doing very little to generate turnovers and stop the run.

Hopefully, the Cowboys defense can find some success when the Giants come into town next week, but after giving up 49 points to the Browns, nothing is guaranteed.  

Houston, We Have a Problem 

Bill O’Brien is out as head coach, but things do not look good for this team.

The Texans sit at 0-4 after falling 31-23 to the Vikings in a battle of winless teams. After finishing first in the AFC South the last two seasons, Houston looks like a team far from contention this season. 

The Texans have an NFL-worst run defense, which Dalvin Cook exposed this week with 130 yards and two touchdowns. Left with little to work with on offense since the departure of WR DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson posted his worst quarterback rating of the season (37.8), and the run game failed to break 100 yards.

The Texans do not have either a first or second round pick this season, thanks to Bill O’Brien, so tanking is not an option either. They will look to turn the page next week against the Jaguars, but their next two opponents have a combined record of 7-0. The road ahead for Houston is daunting, but hey, at least they didn’t draft Mitchell Trubisky. 

Cardinals Grounded in Carolina 

After two games into the season, many were high on the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray looked like a video game character as he led the Cardinals to two wins to start the season, but since then, they have struggled.

Last week against Detroit, Murray made some questionable throws that hurt the offense, and this week, the defense had issues as the Panthers pounced on a defense that had a hard time finding stops.

The Cardinals are a younger team, but in a season where they are competing with Seattle (4-0) and the Los Angeles Rams (3-1), they need to win games against the lesser teams of the NFC if they want to clinch their first playoff berth since 2015. 

Keep an eye on… 

Coronavirus measures moving forward 

The NFL was doomed for a COVID-19 outbreak from the start.

Just as the MLB demonstrated in its regular season, it is close to impossible to prevent the transmission of the virus without a bubble format.

Now that the Titans officially had an outbreak within the organization and the Patriots and Saints had outbreak scares, fans should prepare for the possibility of a pause in the season. The NFL was able to perform schedule gymnastics this past week and create byes for the teams affected, but this cannot become a continuous response to outbreaks if the league wants to carry out the rest of its season.

The NFL has already had issues coaches wearing their masks improperly on the sidelines, and going forward, they must find a way to keep all players, coaches, and staff safe and healthy.  

WEEK 3 NFL COLUMN: Allen’s immaturity could hurt Bills; Mahomes shines again; Foles picks up Trubisky’s slack

photo: Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

By Nic Gelyon

The love affair between myself and Josh Allen has been a bumpy ride from the start. 

I’ll admit that I went into a fit of rage three years ago when the Buffalo Bills drafted Allen seventh overall. I’ll admit that I was discouraged, angry even, with Allen’s lack of progression the past couple seasons. 

And the Bills’ collapse in last year’s Wild Card game didn’t exactly boost my confidence. 

But here we are. We’re wrapping up what has been an amazing September for the Bills. 

Allen – and the Bills in general – are now the stereotypical “media darlings” in NFL circles. 

Allen is suddenly an MVP candidate. The ‘Bills-could-make-the-Super Bowl’ bandwagon is growing stronger by the minute. I should be elated, perhaps overcome, with joy: My team and my city are finally relevant. 

But I can’t believe the Bills will live up to that hype. Not until I see better from Josh Allen than I did on Sunday. 

Late in the Bills’ 35-32 tire-fire win against the 2-0 Los Angeles Rams, the immaturity I’ve witnessed for three years returned to haunt the Buffalo Bills.

Everything I’ve grown to love about Josh Allen turned into everything I can’t stand about him. 

The Bills built a 28-3 lead on the back of Allen’s steadiness. He stood in the pocket, welcomed pressure, and got the ball out quickly over the middle. Everything was clicking— until it all unraveled. 

 It all unraveled when a well-thrown Allen pass was caught by Tyler Kroft, and then wrestled out of his hands by Rams safety John Johnson. 

It was a controversial call, at best. Allen became visibly upset, like most Bills fans, when officials announced their ruling of an interception. It fired him up. Allen was ready for revenge. 

And I have no problem with Allen getting angry, I was ready to punch a hole in the TV myself. But the best-of-the-best know how to control their fire. They can single-handedly shift the team mentality to an urgent coolness. A calm confidence. 

But it’s apparent Allen has not yet learned to control his fire. Instead, he panicked.

He started overthrowing receivers. He took too long to read coverages. He started running away from Rams defenders who weren’t really there. 

He lost his cool. 

In moments of crisis, Allen has always seemed to lose focus. He plays with his heart and not his head. His fundamentals, which I can tell Allen worked on in the offseason, are lost in the heat of passion.  

And I’ll give credit where it’s due- no matter what penalty was called at the end of the game, Allen still threw the game-winning touchdown to – guess who – Tyler Kroft. Someone must have sat him down for a second, refocused him, shown him what good leadership looks like. He calmed down, and he came in clutch to get the Bills to 3-0. 

But it shouldn’t have come to that.

In year three, I wanted Allen’s immaturity to end. Whatever progress Allen made fundamentally in the offseason won’t matter if he can’t improve his mindset come crunch time.

We all saw prime erratic Josh Allen on Sunday. And that worries me come playoff time. 

PAT MAHOMES – sorry, Patrick Mahomes – was responsible for three passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown, and 274 total yards in the first half of the Chiefs’ dominant 34-20 performance against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night. 

The Ravens couldn’t contain the Chiefs’ passing game in the first half. But it had more to do with the Ravens’ defensive strategy than their players. 

The Ravens blitz a lot, and Monday night was no different. I call it the Wink Martindale special.

 But this week, the Ravens’ tunnel-vision blitzing allowed Chiefs receivers the room to get wide open, exploiting the resulting lack of coverage. Mahomes took full advantage. 

 The Ravens beat themselves in the first half. They shot themselves right in the foot. 

ROCHESTER, NEW YORK NATIVE and Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, after he was placed on the Falcons’ COVID-19 reserve Friday. 

It would have been an easy knee-jerk reaction for the NFL to shut down all activity between the Bears and Falcons on Sunday. Take as many precautions as humanly possible. Wrap them all in bubble-wrap. 

But the NFL was smart enough not to panic. 

Instead, the NFL quickly responded by contact-tracing Terrell. Their conclusion: the Falcons and Bears were able to safely play their game on Sunday, 

We’ll see in the coming days if any more COVID-19 cases arise from either of these teams. But as of now, it looks like the NFL made an educated, common-sense decision. Good for them. 

Speaking of the Bears… quarterback Mitch Trubisky probably would have been better off Sunday if the game had been canceled. Head coach Matt Nagy yanked Trubisky early in the third quarter during the Bears’ 30-26 comeback win against the Falcons. 

Who completed the comeback? None other than Nick Foles himself. The God. 

The benching of Trubisky is a move Chicago fans have anticipated – and welcomed – for the better part of three years. It’s become obvious that when the Bears win, it’s in spite of Trubisky, not because of him. 

But did the Bears even give Trubisky a chance on Sunday? His coaches’ actions say that they did. 

His coaches have overseen his progression. They’re the ones who knew whether Trubisky’s last pass of the game – an interception – was caused by a lack of whatever it is that makes a quarterback good. 

Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s decision to pull Trubisky means that they’re just not getting through to him. And if that’s the case, we’ve probably seen the last of Trubisky with the Bears. 

NFL WEEK 3 COLUMN: Three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images

By Anthony Goss

Week 3 of the NFL season carried on some of the same dramatic flair seen in Week 2 (no, this is not just the Falcons blowing two 15-point leads in the fourth quarter). 

Ranging from last-second touchdowns to unfortunate mistakes, Sunday’s slew of games highlighted the success of a few great players, but also boiled the frustrations of the fanbases watching their teams continue to struggle, including the Vikings, Texans and Jets, just to name a few.

Week 3 also had a significant decrease in major injuries, which is a major plus after the notable amount of injuries sustained by big name players in Week 2. Here are three good things, three bad things and one thing to keep an eye on heading into Week 4.  

THREE GOOD THINGS 

Josh Allen Circles the Wagons 

This take may not be new to the fans in western New York, but after Sunday’s outing against the Rams, it is time for the rest of the league to take the Bills, and specifically quarterback Josh Allen, more seriously.

Give credit to the Rams for finding their way back from a 28-3 deficit to retake the lead, but this game was about Allen. In a marquee game, he delivered big time for the Bills, throwing for 311 yards and 4 TD, and running for one more. 

After the Rams took the lead with 4:30 left in the game, Allen marched down the field with a couple of huge throws to wide receiver Cole Beasley and capped off the 75-yard drive with a toss to tight end Tyler Kroft to seal the game.

Last week, the Bills found themselves down against the Miami Dolphins and Allen delivered. The Rams are a much better team than the Dolphins, but Allen’s poise has been mostly consistent against all opponents this year. If he can keep up this level of play, the Bills (3-0) can become real contenders in a loaded AFC.  

Russell Wilson is leading the MVP discussion 

There is not much else to say about Russell Wilson this season except that he has been stellar. Once again, Wilson showed he is operating on a different level, as he dissected and depleted a talent-lacking Cowboys defense to the tune of 315 yards, 5 TD and a passer rating of 130.7 in a 38-31 victory for the Seahawks.

Seattle’s offense has been electric this season with Wilson at the helm, posting over 30 points in each game. Somehow, Wilson has not received the MVP award in the past, despite his role in carrying the franchise successfully for many years, but that could change this season.

Wilson will need to keep posting similar numbers and playing at this level for the Seahawks to stay atop a daunting NFC West.  

49ers Complete Big Apple Sweep 

The 49ers arguably have been plagued the most by injuries early this season.

On Sunday, San Francisco took the field without Raheem Mostert, George Kittle or Jimmy Garoppolo, and still managed to hang 36 points on the New York Giants. The 49ers win on Sunday was an impressive response after an adverse week where several key players went down, including defensive end Joey Bosa, who may be gone for the rest of the season.

Squashing two of the worst teams back to back seems like a minor headline, but San Francisco will be glad to gather up wins like these to keep pace in the best division in pro football.  

THREE BAD THINGS 

Turn Up the Heat on the ATL Hot Seat 

If the NFL played three quarters, the Falcons would be sitting at 2-1 and tied for the lead in the NFC South. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and head coach Dan Quinn’s team has struggled mightily the last two weeks to finish football games.

After their debacle in Dallas, the Falcons headed home for what most thought would be a game for them to get back on track. Taking a 26-10 lead into the fourth quarter, it seemed like they were in a good spot.

Then, Nick Foles came in at quarterback for Mitchell Trubisky (which may be a permanent change). Foles rallied the Bears with three scores in the fourth, sending Twitter into another frenzy and the Falcons to a record of 0-3.

Granted, the team was without Pro Bowl wideout Julio Jones, but the defense struggled down the stretch and the offense could not make any winning plays to put the game out of reach. 

To make matters worse, Atlanta travels to Green Bay next Monday night to play a team averaging over 40 points per game. If Quinn fails to have his team ready, Aaron Rodgers and a potent Packers offense will not hesitate to send them to 0-4. 

NFC (L)EAST 

Once again, the NFC East is the worst division in football.

Starting at the top (surprisingly), the Washington Football Team is a young group not expected to do much, but quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the offense turned the ball over five times against the Browns. Defensive lineman Chase Young also went down with a groin injury, but it should not keep him out of action for a significant amount of time. 

Dallas has shown some good in the early stages of the Mike McCarthy era, but a lot more disappointment. Kellen Moore’s play calling has come into question on offense, but the defense has been nothing short of atrocious. Byron Jones’ departure has hurt the secondary, which has a myriad of injuries and inconsistent play from young players has resulted in Mike Nolan’s bunch giving up an average of 277 pass yards per game and 32.3 points per game.

Dak Prescott has played well for the most part, but a banged-up offensive line has underperformed expectations. There is time for the Cowboys to try and fix some of these issues, but this team has disappointed in the early stages of the season.

The Eagles disappointed once again, unable to beat Joe Burrow and the Bengals at home. Carson Wentz continued to struggle and turn the ball over, adding two more interceptions to his season total, but managed to run for a touchdown that ended up being the last score in a 23-23 tie.

The Eagles are a bad football team, but the Giants look even worse, sitting at 0-3. Losing running back Saquon Barkley has not helped, but their offense is extremely lacking so far, ranking near the bottom of the league in team offense and only averaging 272.3 yards on offense.

Despite this horrendous start for the division, Dallas still looks like the best team and should win the division, but whoever wins may not finish with a record over .500.  

Cooldown for Kyler 

The Lions shocking victory fell a little under the radar Sunday afternoon, as Matt Prater booted Detroit to its first win of the season.

More than anything, this game showed second-year quarterback Kyler Murray still has lots of room to grow. Murray threw for 270 and two touchdowns, but his three interceptions proved costly for the Cardinals.

Murray has been electric this season, and his touchdown run exemplified this explosiveness, but Sunday showed some flaws he has as a young quarterback.

Murray rushed some throws and made some poor reads, but these mistakes take very little away from him as a player. If anything, he will use this game as a lesson to grow. 

The Cardinals are still a very talented group, and Murray’s connection with newly aquired wideout Deandre Hopkins continues to demonstrate the incompetence of Texans coach Bill O’Brien (who infamously traded Hopkins away).

Regardless, Kliff Kingsbury’s team is an exciting storyline early in the season and should play a role in shaping the NFC playoff picture. Sitting at 2-1, the Cardinals now head out of the desert for a three-game road trip against teams all with losing records.  

Keep an Eye On: Status of Michael Thomas 

The New Orleans Saints sit at 1-2 after falling to the Packers on Sunday night. While a single WR should not be the deciding factor for a Drew Brees-led offense, Thomas’ presence has certainly been missed. 

Thomas, the NFL’s leading receiver a year ago, has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain.

Thomas presents a downfield threat for the Saints that other wideouts on the roster just can’t provide. The offense was better against Green Bay than it was against Vegas a week ago, but if the Saints are going to win the NFC South and an aging Drew Brees can be the best version of himself, Thomas needs to be on the field. 

The Saints have other issues besides the missing Thomas-Brees connection, but having him back will elevate Brees’ game and take the pressure off of running back Alvin Kamara to provide in the passing game. The Saints head to Detroit next week and will try to get back to .500 as Thomas’ injury status remains in question. 

NFL WEEK 2 COLUMN: Allen leads Bills, Chargers can’t finish, league fines coaches for mask violations

photo: Eric Espada/Getty Images

By Nic Gelyon

Josh Allen now has two plays that Bills fans may never forget. 

T-shirt worthy plays, if you will. 

First, the game: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who completed 65% of his passes only three times in 2019, now has a 70.37 completion percentage through two games in 2020.

Allen threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns in Buffalo’s 31-28 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, a game in which the Bills were missing Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano: two of their key defensive players.

Now, the play. 

It was not an incredibly important time in the game. The Bills were up 17-7 with a minute and two seconds left in the first half. 

Facing a third down from their own 33-yard line, Allen dropped back to throw and proceeded to escape from the Miami defensive front to his left. 

Anyone who has ever seen Josh Allen run knows the Dolphins were now in trouble. Allen still looked to pass, though, and pump-faked before realizing he was out of options.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy barreled ahead at Allen, and after colliding head-on, they were both headed for the ground. Allen’s hands met Van Noy’s chest while Van Noy’s arms surrounded his shoulders. A perfect tackle in the making.

Allen’s down… But he’s not.

Van Noy loses his grip on Allen, who is still standing but almost on the ground himself. The perfect combination of flash and might, Allen proceeds to run right through Emmanuel Ogbah, and into the arms of several other Dolphins defenders.  

We don’t need to talk about the fact that Allen could have destroyed his throwing arm on this play, or that he almost fumbled the ball toward the end.  

Allen, if he continues to be a combination of physical dominance and passion for his team, showed Sunday afternoon that he may just be unstoppable. And he never showed it more than with one minute to play in the half, deep in his own zone, up by ten against a mediocre Dolphins team.  

That speaks volumes.

TO THE WEST, the Los Angeles Chargers – for the umpteenth year in a row – continue to suffer massive collapses at the end of games.  

They did it again on Sunday. The Chargers, up 17-0 against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, let KC score 17 unanswered points before allowing a last-minute Harrison Butker field goal to win it for the Chiefs in overtime.  

This was always an issue that fell on the lap of former Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, or Mike McCoy, or Marty Schottenheimer. Any one of the Chargers’ old guard. 

But they aren’t in Los Angeles – or San Diego – anymore.  

So, who is to blame for the Chargers’ misfortune? I personally tend to believe that teams have a personality. The Patriots are smarter than you. The Seahawks are tougher than you. The Rams are flashier than you.  

The Chargers cannot finish a close game. 

I RETWEETED ESPN’s Adam Schefter Sunday night, after he jokingly said that Seattle and New England were winning awards for ‘best drama’.  

He’s not lying though.  

“Sunday Night Football’ gets it right, it seems, every single weekend. And I understand that it’s the NFL who decides which primetime games go to which network, and that they seem to give the best games to NBC. 

But the NFL puts those games on Sunday night because of the effort NBC puts in to making their broadcast better than everyone else’s. 

By the way, Sunday Night Football has won 10 “Outstanding Live Sports Series” Emmys over the past 12 years. And, per Deadline, they beat the Emmys in the ratings by about 7 million viewers Sunday night. 

SUNDAY afternoon, the NFL, guns a-blazing, up and fined Kyle Shanahan, Vic Fangio, and Pete Carroll for not wearing masks during their respective games. 

All three wore neck gaiters, well, around their neck. All while continuing to prowl the sidelines. 

This raises a few questions: one, should the NFL ban the neck gaiter? Because it’s obviously become more of a scarf than a protection device for NFL coaches.  

Two: what’s the issue with the neck gaiter and the headset? Can you not communicate through a gaiter for some reason? I ask because I find I can hear and talk just fine through a gaiter. And you know, I can do the same through a regular mask, as well.  

A point I saw all over NFL Twitter on Sunday night was, that shouldn’t the NFL have called to teams during these games to get coaches to put their masks on?  

The answer, for me at least, is no. Because the NFL is allowing fans into stadiums, and lots of them. Because the NFL doesn’t – and never will – care about the optics of anything they do. Because the NFL is consistently late to the party on the issues that matter most, to their players and their fanbase.  

Because no matter how long we had to watch Pete Carroll’s gum-chewing, mask-less face parading the sidelines Sunday night, nothing was going to take the wider, general focus off the football game. And that is what makes the NFL indestructible. 

Opinion: Watson’s column ignores the positives

By Josh Svetz

It’s been over 17 years since the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs and most people, whether they root for the Bills or not, are happy.

Well, most people.

Just three days after the Bills clinched their first playoff birth since 1999, Rod Watson, a political columnist for the Buffalo News, wrote a controversial column essentially telling fans to “get a life,” specifically to focus on the real issues and stop obsessing about a football team’s accomplishments.

While we can all understand the importance of real issues and taking the time to pay attention to them, that doesn’t need to bleed into simple enjoyment of entertainment.

Carole McNall, an assistant professor at Saint Bonaventure University, said the article fell into the trap of the “either/or mentality.”

“Increasingly today, we set things up as either/or: either you like this thing or that, either you care about this thing or you care about that one,” McNall said. “The excitement I feel over the success of a team I’ve cheered for most of my life doesn’t erase the concern I feel about the issues Watson cites.”

McNall, a diehard Bills fan, brings up an interesting point.

Just because a fan base is excited about an athletic achievement doesn’t mean they’re ignoring the issues 24/7.

In fact, some philanthropic good came from the Bills making the playoffs.

After the Bills beat the Miami Dolphins, they still needed the Baltimore Ravens to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals.

That’s exactly what happened when the Bengals won off a miracle touchdown pass from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd.

Hours after the win, Bills fans thanked Dalton by flooding donations to his and his wife’s foundation, which provides support to seriously-ill and physically challenged children and their families in Cincinnati, Ohio and Fort Worth, Texas.

The output was enough for Dalton and his wife, J.J., to personally thank the fans for the over $315,000 in donations, ironically being published in the Buffalo News.

Yet, Watson failed to mention such in his column, something that bothered St. Bonaventure senior and Bills fanatic, Emmy Kolbe.

I’m not sure what Watson defines as ‘a little perspective,’ but I’d say that’s a huge, beautiful success.” Kolbe said. “It’s a great snapshot of the good Bills Mafia can do for surrounding communities.”

Good deeds aside, another conversation arises from the idea of escapism.

In our world, where media dominates our lives and we can access news within seconds, sometimes it’s nice to just shut off for awhile and enjoy a beloved sports team achieving a great feat, especially when it ties into the culture of the city itself.

Nate Discavage, a graduate of Saint Bonaventure University, isn’t a Bills fan, but spending part of his life in Western New York has made him aware of the Bills’ cultural significance.

“I understand that not everybody is a sports fan,” Discavage said. “But, the Bills are so ingrained in the local culture that Watson has to be aware of the impact of everything around him.”

For Buffalo native Reid Okoniewski, he thought the column misrepresented the fans.

“The fans of the Bills know what the city [of Buffalo] has to offer, especially what we pride ourselves in,” Okoniewski said. “When he talks about taking pride in the history of Buffalo, he shoves aside a cornerstone of Buffalo pride, the sports.”

But maybe the largest blind spot Watson failed to address was family impact.

Mike Hogan, a freshman at Saint Bonaventure University, wasn’t even alive the last time the Bills made the playoffs.

He doesn’t remember Jim Kelly or Thurman Thomas, he remembers Drew Bledsoe, Trent Edwards and Kyle Orton.

His family are Bills fanatics, especially his dad.

His dad got to live in the time where the Bills went to four Super Bowls, but Mike didn’t.

He watched losing. So much losing that he wondered if he’d ever see winning.

“I can remember most of the drought and asking my dad, ‘are we ever going to get to watch a playoff game together?’ Hogan said. “I’ll finally get to have that experience with my father that I’ve waited to have all of my life, watching a Buffalo Bills playoff game with the man who taught me the ups and downs of being a Bills fan.”

Watson’s column asks the reader to have “a little perspective.”

As a Pittsburgh Steelers fan from Northwest Pennsylvania, who’s in the past been annoyed by Bills’ fans over-hopefulness and over-emphasis on the team, similarly to Watson, here’s my perspective.

It’s brought a city together, raised money for charity, fostered community, made people happy and bonded families.

At the end of the day, there’s no harm in that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Sports Buzz 12/2/15: Bills’ playoff hopes dwindling; Sabres looking competitive

By Anthony Sambrotto @asambrotto95

The Buffalo Bills’ season is on life support. After a crushing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday to send them to 5-6 on the season, the Bills need to win out to have a realistic chance at their first playoff berth in 15 years. The team is still in the hunt for an AFC wild card slot, but needs to leapfrog three other teams first.

The Bills head back to Ralph Wilson Stadium this Sunday, but will have the 6-5 Houston Texans waiting for them. The Texans defense, led by two-time Defensive Player of the Week J.J Watt, leads the league in least points allowed per game and sacks since week eight. They have held the high-powered New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals to six points each in recent games and will pose a tough task for Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is coming off one of the best games of his short starting career, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions for 291 yards against the Chiefs.

The Bills were forced to perform a slew of transactions this week on the defensive side of the ball. Pro bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury, and his backup Alex Carrington is also done for the 2015 campaign with a torn quad. The Bills also released linebacker A.J Tarpley, who missed several key assignments on Sunday. Replacements for the Bills include the newly-signed DE Lavar Edwards, DT T.J. Barnes and LB Kevin Riddick. Also receiving a promotion is rookie linebacker Tony Steward, who will start for Nigel Bradham this week.

After Sunday’s game, the Bills hit the road for two straight against Philadelphia and Washington.

The other professional team in Buffalo has been playing much better over the past week. After losing six straight, the Sabres have points in three consecutive games.

Buffalo lost a thrilling 5-4 shootout decision to the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night. Buffalo fell behind 2-0 early, but battled back behind two goals from Evander Kane and three assists from defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres had a great chance to end the game in overtime with a power play that saw Kane rip a shot off the post, but ultimately the game went to a shootout, where Detroit’s Brad Richards scored the only goal.

The Sabres get a few days off before hosting the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

Despite this being termed a “rebuilding” year from the Sabres’ brass, they sit at 23 points through 25 games, better than three other teams in the Eastern Conference.

Center Ryan O’Reilly leads the Sabres in scoring with 20 points, but Ristolainen, who has four points over his last five games, is close behind with 17 on the season.