Instant reactions: Bills blown out in disastrous home loss to Colts
ORCHARD PARK – If anyone was doubting the veracity of the Buffalo Bills being the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, congratulations to you because you were right.
They aren’t even close to being that team and that was plainly evident at rainy Highmark Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to their well-deserved 41-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Bills aren’t even the best team in their division, let alone the conference. They now trail the red-hot New England Patriots by a half-game, something I’m pretty sure not one member of BillsMafia saw coming in 2021.
Their 0-6 loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago was egregious, but you could perhaps chalk that one up to just one of those days, which every team in the NFL has from time to time. Instead, that may have served as a harbinger of things to come.
This loss to the Colts felt worse because Indianapolis dominated the Bills in every phase and in doing so, made the Bills look like pretenders in the chase for the Super Bowl championship that has eluded this franchise for the entirely of its existence.
Here are three immediate reactions to what we just witness:
1. The Buffalo Bills strength of schedule is telling
This has been a concern I’ve had for most of the season. Outside of their victory in Kansas City, which came at an odd moment in time when the usually dynastic Chiefs were in a true tailspin, the Bills have beaten nobody. And that continued.
In addition to the Jaguars, the Bills had lost to the Steelers and Titans, both of whom are in the playoff hunt, and now, so are the Colts after their manhandling of Buffalo.
The Bills have played the role of bully this season – they beat up on the weaklings like Miami (twice), Washington, the Jets and Houston, but can’t stand up and go toe-to-toe when the competition gets tougher.
Guess what. If the Bills make the playoffs, which right now is certainly not a given, this is the kind of team they’re going to be facing, teams that will punch them in the mouth and keep punching until they fight back.
The Bills got smacked in the mouth early Sunday and pretty much covered up and cowered in a corner the rest of the way.
And imagine this if you will. Even with an easy schedule, the Bills finished 1-3 against the AFC South and are now 6-4.
2. Josh Allen had another bad day
When we break down the problems for the Bills offense in this game, we can talk all we want about the offensive line, or the Bills continued lack of a viable running game, and that’s fine. But the bottom line is this: If Allen has a bad day, as he did in Jacksonville and against Indianapolis, this team is in trouble, and he had a bad day.
He was thrust into an immediate 14-0 hole because the Buffalo defense got trampled on the Colts’ first two possessions – a recurring theme throughout. But when Allen directed an 11-play, 73-yard drive that ended with his well-thrown six-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs early in the second quarter, the Bills were right back in the game.
From that point forward, Allen did basically nothing until garbage time commenced with the Colts in front 38-7.
He threw two interceptions and very nearly had a third before replay correctly pointed out that the ball hit the turf. He finished the day 21 of 35 for 209 yards.
3. Another lesson in why stats don’t generally matter
The Bills defense has been pounding its chest all season as it has lived at the top of the rankings for fewest points and yards allowed. But again, it all goes back to who they have played this season.
Outside of Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs, consider the other five quarterbacks they vanquished. For Miami it was Jacoby Brissett and Tua Tagovailoa; for Washington it was Taylor Heinicke; for Houston it was Davis Mills; for the Jets it was Mike White.
And then in the two games where they played against a top notch running back, they got embarrassed. Derrick Henry of the Titans gouged them for 143 yards and three touchdowns and Jonathan Taylor ran for 185 yards and four touchdowns.
Is this a good defense? Yes, it is. But let’s stop short of making comparisons to the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens. This defense still struggles against big, tough power teams and that’s what the Titans are, that’s what the Colts are, and now, that’s what the Patriots are.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.