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.