It’s nearly December in Western New York, which means it’s the time of year where we get to watch Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen look sad on the sidelines after his Herculean efforts go for naught in his team’s latest excruciating loss.
That’s exactly what Bills fans were treated to on Sunday afternoon, with Buffalo dropping a 37-34 overtime decision to the Philadelphia Eagles to fall to 6-6 on the season.
Allen put forth a vintage performance, accumulating 339 passing yards, 81 rushing yards, and four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) in the losing effort. He threw a go-ahead score to receiver Gabe Davis with less than two minutes remaining, but it was an overtime miscommunication between those two that turned a walk-off touchdown into merely a go-ahead field goal in the extra session.
And then the Sean McDermott defense stole the show for the Eagles.
Here are three things we learned from this back-breaking defeat for the Bills.
McDermott’s D disappears in OT — again
One might have expected the Bills to give up points in bunches in this game. They did. One might be willing to excuse this, given the volume of injuries the team has sustained on that side of the ball this year. But now that the Bills have fallen to 0-6 in overtime games in the McDermott-Allen era, it’s also fair for one to wonder if anything would have been different with a defense at full strength.
This was the first time that Allen and the offense provided points for the McDermott defense in overtime, and it still did not matter. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles marched 75 yards in nine plays, with blazing efficiency, with Hurts housing a run from 12 yards out to seal the win. It’s merely the latest in a long line of terrible performances by the McDermott defense in these situations.
Here’s the stat line: McDermott’s defense took the field in five of those six overtime losses (their Week 1 loss to the New York Jets this season was won on a punt return score). In those five games, the McDermott defense has forced one stop in six possessions — in their Wild Card playoff loss to the Houston Texans, all the way back in 2019. On those six possessions, the McDermott defense has yielded 384 yards (at 8.2 yards per play) and 24 points.
If this keeps up, the lasting memory of Allen’s Bills career will be of him repeatedly staring on helplessly from the sidelines as the defense blows another game.
Let’s just keep dumping on the defense, actually
Credit where it’s due: McDermott’s defense had Philly dead to rights in the first half, bottling up Hurts and the Eagles’ passing attack en route to a 17-7 halftime lead.
… and then they gave up 30 second-half points, including 17 points in the fourth quarter and the score in overtime.
McDermott has been quick to defend his defense in games where Buffalo’s offense has let down this season — and there have been more of those than anyone would like. But on this day, Buffalo’s much-maligned offense put up 34 in a tough road environment, in a driving rain storm, and there was no complementary play from the defense to pull out the win.
Don’t count Buffalo out yet, though
The Bills get the pleasure of carrying this vile feeling into their bye week, knowing full well that they need to be essentially perfect in their final five games of the season in order to sneak into the 2023 NFL playoffs. They were not perfect in Philadelphia — far from it in all three phases, but specifically defensively — but they certainly showed signs of life.
Allen does seem to have finally snapped out of his mid-season mind fuzz, having strung together two excellent outings since the team switched offensive coordinators. As long as Allen and the offense are playing efficiently and scoring points in bunches, the Bills are fully capable of beating anyone.
It’s just now a matter of whether they can beat everyone. The Bills’ margin for error has never been thinner. And there’s every chance that the margin will continue to shrink during their weekend off.