The Bills lost their second “Monday Night Football” appearance of the 2021 NFL season to the Patriots on Monday, a game where the weather was more of an impact than any individual player or coach.
That still didn’t stop Bills fans and neutral NFL watchers from criticizing Buffalo coach Sean McDermott, whose coaching decisions came under scrutiny Monday night.
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No single game or decision from McDermott stood out more than others in the Bills’ 14-10 defeat, but rather the myriad of decisions and lack of in-game adjustments that contributed to Buffalo’s defeat. That it happened against rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who only attempted three passes in the entire game, only makes the defeat seem much worse.
Here are the McDermott misfires that contributed to the Monday Night Football loss to New England:
Porous rush defense
New England gave no indication that the ball would pass on Monday. Patriots trainer Bill Belichick clearly didn’t want Jones to be able to throw weather with winds of 25 to 29 mph and gusts that jumped to 40 to 50 mph.
While there were no attempts to fool the Bills defenses, New England on the ground largely did what it wanted, leveling the league’s 12th rush defense for 222 yards and a touchdown at 46 carries. Damien Harris stormed 10 times for 111 yards and a 64 yard score, while Rhamondre Stevenson ran 24 times for 78 yards. Brandon Bolden also made a successful 2-point conversion after a 2-yard throw sweep to the left in the first quarter.
McDermott had no answer to the frantic attack, schematic or otherwise, and let the Patriots get 4.8 yards per carry. That includes negative rush attempts by Jonnu Smith (minus-1) and Mones (minus-5). Without these rushes affecting the totals, New England averaged 5.65 yards per carry. The Bills’ inability to stop the onslaught ultimately proved the difference in the matchup.
MORE: How Mac Jones helped the Patriots win Bills with just three pass attempts to “MNF”
McDermott’s Premature Challenge
McDermott cost his team time off – and one last attempt at a green game – when he challenged the point of the ball on a Patriots fourth-and-one sneaker late in the third quarter. It seemed like Jones had hit the line to win with the fourth-and-one quarterback sneaker, and there wasn’t nearly enough video evidence to suggest otherwise.
The game was on the field as expected and cost the Bills their first time-out at halftime. Her second timeout came with the first and the goal at the 6-yard line in New England with 8:08 before the end of the game. Buffalo failed to score despite two hikes deep into New England territory and only took a break after the two-minute warning. These premature time outs – especially due to the challenge – cost the team the chance to get one final shot at a starting shot as the Patriots’ victory knelt to victory.
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Field goal attempt in windy weather
Unlike his fellow Patriots, McDermott trusted his kicker that he would attempt a field goal in stormy conditions in Buffalo. The ill-fated decision fell on the Bills’ penultimate offensive attack when Tyler Bass turned the 33-yard field goal to the wind to keep the score at 14-10.
A successful field goal would have made it a one-possessed game. Instead, Buffalo had to attempt a touchdown on the next drive, which ultimately resulted in a turnover at Downs after Josh Allen’s pass was deflected.
It is worth noting that Belichick did not have his kicker attempt against the wind and opted for a (successful) 2-point conversion instead of the point after the attempt. However, he did allow Nick Folk to roar a 41-yard field goal with the wind behind him.
These decisions ultimately proved the difference in the game. Speaking of which: why didn’t McDermott bet on the 2-point conversion in the lone touchdown of the Bills?
MORE: Bills backs Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde enraged over the question of the rush defense against the Patriots
Bills’ PAT instead of 2-point conversion
Buffalo got lucky late in the first quarter after a subdued punt from N’Keal Harry. That gave the Bills a short field at the Patriots’ 14-yard line that they instantly converted into points with a 14-yard touchdown connection between Allen and Gabriel Davis.
This is where the problem comes in: why not try the 2 point conversion to tie the game instead of vying for point (winning) point at a time? Had McDermott gone for the former, Buffalo would have only needed one successful field goal attempt late in the game to tie the Patriots (the Bills hit the red twice on their last two drives, getting as close as 6 and 13 – yard lines of the patriots).
McDermott may have had more faith in his offensive to score points against the Patriots, but he should perhaps have realized that the weather wasn’t going to let up and that it was more important to prioritize points over possible future scoring opportunities. Even if the 2-point conversion failed, the bills would have stayed in the same position: it took two field goals or a touchdown to overtake New England. The risk-reward ratio favored a more aggressive approach.
Josh Allen is no longer involved in the running game
The wind had a significant impact on both teams’ game announcements, if not nearly as strong for the Bills: They still let Allen try 30 passes that night. He completed 15 for 145 yards and a score. This willingness to get the ball in Allen’s hands was admirable. But McDermott should have found ways to incorporate more designed quarterback runs into the Bill’s offensive schedule.
As it stands, Allen finished the game at the top of all Bills rushers with 39 yards in just six tries, including a 21-yard scramble. His size and agility would have been difficult to defend even for the Patriots’ third-placed pass defense. But McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll allowed Allen to ventilate despite the dire throwing conditions, rather than having him take a more dual approach.