On Sunday afternoon in Buffalo the Bills gave away a game to the Kansas City Chiefs courtesy of bad coaching, failed execution, and mistakes. It was a game that the Bills should have won. It was a game that the Bills dominated for most of the afternoon. And it was a game that could very well come back to bite the Bills in their proverbial back-end on their quest to make the NFL playoffs.
The most aggravating aspect about yesterdays loss is that the Bills had no business losing to the Chiefs. They had outplayed them for the majority of the afternoon and the Bills defense was shutting the Chiefs offense down. Then the 4th quarter happened. Really the game was “lost” when Bryce Brown fumbled the ball en route to the end zone and then Scott Chandler was unable to fall on the ball as it sit in the end zone costing the Bills a touchdown and all momentum in the game. But that aside the Bills still had control of the game into the 4th quarter but instead of hammering out a win, they threw up down the front of their jerseys and lost a game they needed to win.
I might sound harsh here, but the Bills needed that game yesterday. Their December schedule is anything but easy and when you have a team on the ropes at home in the 4th quarter you need to deliver the knockout blow and win the game. Instead mistakes, bad coaching, and blunders cost the game. These are the types of games you need to win, especially when you have a short week ahead traveling onto the road to play a divisional opponent. It stings, and it should. Bills fans deserve a better outcome than they got yesterday.
The biggest problem I had with yesterdays game was the coaching mistakes. The Bills had two opportunities to go for it on 4th and 1 in the second half and they punted both times. Statistics show that teams convert 88% of 4th and 1 plays. 88%!! How do you punt it both times in that situation? I understand that on the second 4th and 1 the Bills got called for a bogus false start penalty, but Fred Jackson said in his post game comments that the plan was to try and draw the Chiefs offside the entire time and that they were not going to run a play anyway. That boggles my mind. If you don’t trust your running backs to convert a 4th and 1 than you need new running backs. It’s inexcusable.
Here’s an even better idea…why not use EJ Manuel on 4th and 1 and run a quarterback sneak? He’s done it before!! Instead it all boils down to bad coaching and decision making on the coaching staffs part. You need to be able to trust your players to be able to convert a play that is almost always converted. You need to go for the jugular when you have a team on the ropes at home in a huge game that could end up deciding a Wild Card Playoff spot.
Despite all of the horrible mistakes and blunders in the second half, the Bills still had a chance to pull out a win at the end of the 4th quarter. The defense forced a punt and the Bills moved the ball to the Kansas City 15 yard line and had a 1st and 10 and over 4 minutes left to score a touchdown and take the lead. The next 4 terrible plays could be what costs the Bills a playoff spot. And I’m not even kidding.
When you have the ball on the 15 yard line and its 1st and 10, you have to know that you can get a first down and NOT have to score a touchdown. It sounds simple, I know, but then why do you dial up 4 straight pass plays INTO the end zone?! One of the biggest weapons you had all day was the screen pass to Bryce Brown and yet his name was not called once in those series of plays. You have a massive tight end who is a huge red zone threat and yet his name was not called once in those series of plays. 2 forced throws to Sammy Watkins on the same exact play call, one forced ball to Chris Hogan that was nearly intercepted, and another poor throw that missed a wide open Chris Hogan that would have resulted in a touchdown, and 4 plays later the Bills had lost the game.
We have all been (and rightfully so) critical of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s play calling this season. For the most part he called a fairly good game on Sunday. And then he spit the bit when the game was on the line. The plays he called from the 15 yard line were outright terrible. Why not run the ball at least once? Why not run a screen play or a crossing pattern? Instead he dials up four straight fade routes into the end zone. I just don’t get it.
Most of all, the biggest mistake was going for it on 4th down. You HAVE to kick the field goal on 4th down in that situation. You kick the field goal and you put yourself in the position of only needing one more field goal to win the game. When you have Dan Carpenter on your team, you give him that chance. The Bills defense was playing great yesterday. You need to trust your defense to get that ball back and give you the chance to get into field goal range and win the game.
The worst part about going for it in that situation was that it was 4th and 10. 4th and 10’s are not converted very often. And how can you at all rationalize not going for it on 4th and1 twice, but going for it on 4th and 10? Just ridiculous. It shows very little football acumen, and for a coaching staff that NEEDS to make the playoffs to save their jobs, it really looks even more foolish.
I understand I might be more negative than usual, but it’s Monday after the most painful loss of the season. I’ll get over it. And yes, I still believe that the Bills can make the playoffs. You have two winnable divisional games coming up (Miami on the road and the Jets at home). If you win them both you are 7-4 and find yourselves hosting the Browns in what will be a HUGE game in the AFC. But for now, I need to vent and I need to report why the Bills lost yesterday.
Now, let’s get to our gassers:
1) Doug Marrone: Doug Marrone had his worst game of the season yesterday. His “fourth down decision making” was horrible, and his decision to go for it as opposed to kicking the field goal late in the 4th quarter was just awful. Marrone needs to do better because if he doesn’t than it will be another playofless season for the Bills.
2) Scott Chandler: You HAVE to fall on that ball in the end zone. Yes, Brown shouldn’t have fumbled the ball, but that happens. When the ball is sitting in the end zone and all you have to do is fall on it for a touchdown, than you fall on it. NOT try to pick the ball up. You don’t need to pick the ball up to score the touchdown. It’s simple fundamentals! Chandlers offensive pass interference penalty was another killer. At first I thought it was a bad call, but upon further review he did push off the defender. Not a good game for Chandler.
3) Leodis McKelvin: His fumble was a killer. Two plays after he fumbled a punt the Chiefs took the lead. If he secures the ball the Bills very well might win the game. McKelvin should have called for a fair catch on the play, and even more so he should have secured the ball going to the ground. A veteran like McKelvin should know better in that situation.
4) Nathaniel Hackett: Hackett finds himself on this list often, and for good reason. He started off well enough, but finished terribly. His play calling at the end of the 4th quarter at the 15 yard line was terrible. The Bills also passed way to often on an afternoon when the running game was actually working quite well. Kyle Orton was off yesterday and Hackett should have recognized that and run the ball more. This guy just doesn’t get it.
5) Lee Smith: This guy had a bad game right from the start. He dropped three passes, got called for two penalties, and was terrible in pass blocking yesterday. Smith might find himself inactive for Thursdays game in Miami, and if he does, he earned it.
It’s very easy to sit here and kill your team after they lose a heartbreaking game to a very good team like the Chiefs. But when you know they should have won the game, you need to call them out. At the end of the day I do still believe that the Bills will make the playoffs this year. And if they don’t then changes will be made. And when you look at yesterdays performance from the coaching staff, maybe they should be.
Regardless, the Bills play a HUGE game on Thursday against the Dolphins. The Bills NEED to win Thursday if they want to make the playoffs, because the AFC is very competitive this year and most importantly, the Patriots have a very tough game this week on the road in Indianapolis. If the Bills win Thursday and the Colts beat the Patriots, than the Bills will only be a game out of first again.