ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Sean McDermott was short on answers on what has gone wrong with Buffalo’s suddenly slow-starting offense. And the Bills are short on time to fix the issues before hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
What was chalked up as being jet lag in a loss to Jacksonville at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London three weeks ago, is approaching a crisis for Buffalo (4-3).
Starting with the Jaguars, the Bills have combined to score 10 points in the opening half of their past three outings. Buffalo is 1-2 over that stretch and would have been 0-3 if not for a pair of goal-line defensive stops in a 14-9 win over the Giants.
And it might have been too much to ask of an injury-depleted defense missing three starters and still easing back Von Miller to produce a third goal-line stop which resulted in the Patriots scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the final seconds of a 29-25 win on Sunday.
Certainly, poor tackling was an issue for Buffalo in allowing Mac Jones to secure coach Bill Belichick's 300th career win on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the span of 1:46.
More baffling is how Josh Allen and the offense failed to show up in a first half in which it scored three points and opened with a first-snap interception, which New England turned into a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead with 6:58 left in the first quarter.
“I wish I could tell you. I really do,” McDermott said of his offense’s early sputters.
Allen couldn’t put a finger on it, either, saying more film watching is in order.
“It’s a long season,” Allen added. “It feels pretty bleak right now, but we’re going to figure it out.”
Whatever deep dive McDermott said he and his offensive staff were going to conduct to identify the issues last week apparently didn’t go deep enough. And so much for Allen suggesting the criticism directed at second-year coordinator Ken Dorsey as being misguided.
Something is not getting through.
The offense has appeared static, with Allen having difficulty hitting receivers in stride, and most of his throws directed toward the sideline. Of Allen’s 17 attempts in the first half Sunday, he completed all three over the middle, including an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox but negated by an offensive pass interference penalty on Latavius Murray.
The Bills have appeared reluctant to change tempo to keep defenses off balance until they’re in desperation mode. And it’s becoming abundantly clear the team has pulled in the reins on Allen from taking off and running either by design or out of necessity after the quarterback hurt his throwing shoulder two weeks ago.
Allen’s 148 yards rushing through seven games are the fewest of his career.
Dorsey is on the hot seat because the current issues the Bills are facing are similar to ones the offense endured in the second half of last season.
McDermott reiterated his confidence in Dorsey following the loss to New England.
With four other coaches on Buffalo's offensive staff with experience as NFL coordinators, the question becomes how many more votes of support does Dorsey get?
Fourth-quarter scoring. Having to play catch-up in each of its past three games, Buffalo has scored 42 of its past 59 points in the final quarter.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Crossing midfield. In its past three outings, Buffalo has crossed an opponent’s 50 on 16 of 27 drives. During its three-game winning streak, capped by a 48-20 rout of Miami on Oct. 1, Buffalo crossed midfield on 23 of 27 possessions.
TE Dalton Kincaid. The rookie first-round pick caught all eight attempts thrown his way for a team-leading 75 yards.
Allen. The quarterback put his team in a hole with his opening-drive interception. Allen's career record dropped to 32-23 in games he commits a turnover, including 2-3 this season.
Knox is out indefinitely after McDermott said the tight end will require surgery to repair a wrist injury the fifth-year player initially suffered two weeks ago.
6 — Number of snaps Miller played in his third game since being activated after recovering from right knee surgery. That’s a drop from 27 last week and 20 in his debut against Jacksonville. “It’s going to take some time, and I think that’s just being realistic about it,” McDermott said.
Quick turnaround to face the Buccaneers (3-3), who have allowed 55 first-half points, tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL.
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