Sal's Sticks: Chargers at Bills

September 16, 2018 - 11:12 pm
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Orchard Park, NY (WGR550) - The Bills fell to 0-2 here at New Era Field Sunday afternoon after a 31-20 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.  Another rough loss and that means, again, I start with the negatives.
 

BEHIND THE STICKS

CB Vontae Davis

What else is there to do with someone who outright quit on his teammates in the middle of a game? By all accounts, that’s what Davis did when he took himself out and did not return for the second half, even after teammates let it be known that he was needed due to injuries and them being down another cornerback. Several players made it very clear they were upset and felt disrespected by Davis and his actions.  The ten year veteran announced his retirement about two hours after the game.

Running game

Once again the Bills had trouble running the football. Their goal in this one was to get LeSean McCoy going to take some pressure off rookie QB Josh Allen. But that never happened. They finished with a total of 84 yards on 22 carries, only a 3.8 yards per carry average.

First half run defense

What made matters worse for the Bills not being able to run the ball was that they were letting the Chargers basically run at will throughout the first half. Los Angeles just got big chunks in the run game consistently, averaging a whopping 7.1 yards per carry and totaling 106 yards in the first half.

Pass defense

Just like last week, it seemed there were receivers running or standing free all day in the Bills' secondary.  Chargers QB Philip Rivers was a machine throughout the game, completing 23 of 27 passes for 256 yards and three TDs. The Bills had no answer for him or the wide receivers who were creating mismatches all afternoon.

Not downing punt inside 5 yard line

This is a very specific negative, but one that’s important. Early in the fourth quarter, while the Bills were trying to mount a comeback, punter Corey Bojorquez booted a terrific punt that bounced inside the Chargers’ 10 yard line and then took a couple hops before getting to the goal line. Several Bills’ special-teams players were in position to grab it at the two or even one yard line, but none did. L.A. got the ball at the twenty on the touchback.

Offensive line

Another five sacks allowed.  Only 3.8 yards rushing per play.  The offensive line had issues once again.  The Chargers really came after Allen, blitzing linebackers and safeties and at times it looked like the Bills OL had no idea how to handle them.

RB/PR Marcus Murphy

Murphy had a rough day, especially holding onto the ball.  He muffed two punts (the Bills recovered both) and dropped one pass.  He also only had six yards on three carries running the football.

Third down offense

It got better in the second half, but the Bills started the game 0-for-6 on third downs.  Overall, they finished 5-for-14 (33%) on the day.

LB Tremaine Edmunds' pass coverage

The Chargers looked to clearly be targeting the rookie in the passing game, and he looked lost at times, chasing players running free through the middle or even out of the backfield.  

Officials

They didn’t cost the Bills the game, I’ll make that clear.  But it was frustrating seeing so many inconsistencies by the stripes.  For both teams.


AHEAD OF THE STCIKS

QB Josh Allen 

The numbers weren’t eye-popping by any stretch, and he certainly made some mistakes.  But in his first pro start, Allen didn’t look overwhelmed or panicked.  He stood tall in the pocket, threw some lasers we’ve come to expect, and showed a lot of mobility and toughness.  For the day, Allen finished 18-for-33 for 245 yards, one TD and to interceptions.  He also ran for 32 yards.  It wasn’t a terrific debut, but it was good enough to allow Bills’ fans to feel good and hopeful.

Third quarter defense

The Bills came out of the locker room looking really good.  They marched down the field and scored a touchdown on offense, but then forced three straight three-and-outs by the Chargers, all in the third quarter.  The Chargers had a total of four yards of offense in the third quarter.

LB Lorenzo Alexander

For the second week in a row, Alexander turned in a solid performance and did his part.  The veteran finished with seven total tackles, including two for a loss, and added a sack, a QB pressure, and a pass breakup.

DE Jerry Hughes

Hughes was close to getting to Rivers often, especially applying pressure in the second half.  He finished with six total tackles, including one for a loss, a sack, and three official QB hurries.  


THE BIG PICTURE

Going into this game, I felt most Bills fans would come out feeling o.k. even with a loss if Josh Allen looked good and gave a reason to be hopeful.  Did he do enough to satisfy that?  That’s open to everyone’s own interpretation.  But with every loss, this season becomes more about developing Allen and building a roster and offensive philosophy around him more than it does about wins and losses.  We aren’t at that point yet.  But at 0-2 and the Vikings an Packers on the horizon, it feels like that’s getting close.

The more disturbing part of the first two games is that the Bills’ defense has given up 78 points.  The head coach made his name and career coaching that side of the ball and for that group to have as many issues as they have so far is a mystery.  Sean McDermott took over the defensive play-calling duties from Leslie Frazier Sunday.  Whether it had something to do with it or not, they certainly played better in the second half.  

That’s not the absolve the offense, of course.  The most frustrating and worrying part with that side is that they are supposed to be a team built on running the ball and not making their QB have to put too much on his shoulders.  Well, two games in and it’s been completely the opposite so far.  The Bills are having a lot of trouble getting the ground game on track.  If that continues to be the case, they aren’t doing their rookie QB any favors.  Allen needs a running game to lean on so he doesn’t have to be pressured into making plays and an let the game come to him.

But it looks like he just might have to be The Man already.  And I don’t just mean as far as relying on him to make plays in the passing game in order to help the running game, instead of vice versa.  I mean this season is already close to getting to the point that it might start taking on a different purpose - focusing on Allen’s development.  Wins would still be great, and it’s only two weeks in.  The Bills should - and will - show up this week and start preparing to beat the Minnesota Vikings.  But the reality that is staring them right on the face is that they have too many issues on both sides of the ball that need to get fixed quickly.  

Even those who expected this team to be poor this year probably did envision such a rough start.  But here they are.  0-2, with two NFC powers - on the road - the next two weeks.   They’re staring at 0-4 right between the eyes.  No one wants that.  Not the owners.  Not the coaches.  Not the players.  Not the fans.  They all want to win.  They also want to look at Allen and feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel just based on what he does.  He can really give them that feeling over the next two weeks, which can make this entire season feel a lot different than where it appears t be headed, so far.



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