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HipKat

Bills' pattern of close-out struggles continues

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The haunting memory of what happened two weeks ago in Arizona apparently wasn't enough to scare the Buffalo Bills into doing a better job of closing out games.

They almost let another one get away from them Sunday.

"We've definitely got to clean that up," running back Devin Singletary told reporters on a video call after the 27-17 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers at Bills Stadium. "We can't have that, especially on the back end of the season, trying to go where we're trying to go."

For all of the reasons the Bills should feel good, if not great, about being 8-3 and in first place in the AFC East, there's at least one that should have them more than a little worried.

Sunday marked the seventh time this season they have allowed second-half leads to shrink or disappear. Only once, against the Cardinals, did it result in a loss. That came when DeAndre Hopkins pulled down a 43-yard desperation heave from Kyler Murray with two seconds left after the Bills had taken a four-point lead 32 seconds earlier.

The final seconds Sunday were eerily similar, with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert completing a 55-yard bomb on fourth-and-27 to Tyron Johnson that the receiver caught at the Buffalo 2 while surrounded by defenders.

 

The Chargers (3-8) failed to score as time ran out, but that doesn't change a troubling pattern as the Bills enter the final five games of the regular season.

"If I'm laying on the ground one of these days, you'll know why," coach Sean McDermott told reporters. "It would be nice (not to squander leads), it would be nice."

McDermott then removed his cap to reveal his bald head.

"Look at this," he said with a smile. "I came to Buffalo with a full head of hair."

How does the team learn how to put games away sooner?

"Well, I think number one, you can't turn the ball over," safety Micah Hyde told reporters. "Defensively, you can't give up big plays. They had fourth-and-long, you’ve got to be able to knock the ball down. They got a flag, went back and do it again. You've just got to be able to knock the ball down down.

"It's as simple as that."

So far, though, the Bills have made it look exceptionally difficult.

 

For a variety of reasons – turnovers, penalties and defensive breakdowns primary among them – they consistently lose control of games through the final two quarters. All three played a role Sunday in the Bills allowing an 18-point lead – 24-6 – early in the third quarter to suddenly become seven points – 24-17 – early in the fourth.

The Bills had three turnovers – fumbles by Devin Singletary and Josh Allen, and an Allen interception – on three consecutive possessions in the fourth. They also had nine accepted penalties for minus-85 yards. That included two 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. One was on Allen for intentionally spinning the ball to taunt a Chargers defender after the QB's TD run, and the other was on running back Zack Moss, though that seemed like a mistake by the officials. 

 

The Bills have celebrated enough victories to currently own the fourth seed in the playoffs. The Tennessee Titans, who lead the AFC South at 8-3, have the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Hyde was right when he said, "The good teams are able to finish with wins. You know, we did that today. So you can say we didn't finish, but obviously we did, we got the W." 

Among the Bills' eight wins, Sunday's 10-point differential equaled their largest margin of victory of the season. They also beat the New York Jets by 10 in the season opener and the Seattle Seahawks by 10. 

 

However, the trend could prove costly as the Bills look to widen their one-game lead over the Miami Dolphins in the division and improve their postseason position.

Of the Bills' remaining opponents, the 10-0 Pittsburgh Steelers present the most daunting challenge. Still, even against lesser teams, the Bills consistently find ways to make things tougher on themselves than necessary. 

Consider:

Sept. 20 vs. the Dolphins. The Bills lead 24-20 with 5:55 left in the fourth quarter and increase their advantage to 31-20. The Dolphins close to within 31-28 with 49 seconds left, but the Bills hang on for the win.

Sept. 27 vs. the L.A. Rams. The Bills lead 28-3 with eight minutes left in the third quarter. The Rams come roaring back to move in front 32-28 with four minutes remaining in the game. The Bills pull out a 35-32 victory on a Tyler Kroft touchdown catch with 15 seconds remaining. 

Oct. 4 vs. the Las Vegas Raiders. The Bills lead 17-6 with four minutes left in the second quarter. The Raiders cut the margin to 17-16 midway through the third before the Bills open a 30-16 advantage with two early fourth-quarter touchdowns on the way to a 30-23 win in which the Raiders scored on a touchdown pass with 1:29 remaining.

Nov. 1 vs. the New England Patriots. The Bills lead 14-6 early in the third quarter and 21-14 with 13:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Patriots tie the score at 21-21 before the Bills escape with a 24-21 victory sealed when defensive tackle Justin Zimmer forces Cam Newton to fumble.

Nov. 8 vs. the Seattle Seahawks. The Bills lead 27-10 with 11:55 left in the third. Seattle cuts the margin to 27-20 before the third quarter ends, but the Bills win 44-34.

Nov. 15 vs. the Cardinals. The Bills lead 23-9 with 9:52 left in the third. The Cards take a 26-23 lead in the final seconds of the third quarter. The Bills eventually lose.

"I think we're learning and growing through some of these," McDermott said. "We've got to do a better job of taking care of the football. And then the penalties hurt us. ... We definitely can clean some things up in the fourth quarter there.

"Again, it comes back to the ball. The ball keeps people in games and we have to do a good enough job with the ball. I do think there were a lot of good things. It's hard to win in this league, man. It's good to be 8-3."

Singletary was part of a "good thing" that happened Sunday. He had 82 of the Bills' 172 rushing yards, their second-highest total of the season. The commitment to the run provided some much-needed balance to an offense that otherwise lacked the explosive passing attack featured in most of the Bills' wins.

Singletary's focus, though, was on what he believes will be the primary talking point before next Monday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers and all of the games thereafter.

"I'm pretty sure that's going to be (among) some things that we work on going forward to clean up," he said. "We can't have that on the back end. We've got to be able to make it a little easier to close these games out."

 

 

 

 

 

 


“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

 

Twitter: @HKTheResistance

 

HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

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I'm just not on board with all of this "close a team out" stuff.  I watch the rest of the league and it just seems that most games are close...even when one team leads by 14 points.  This is a different NFL.

Take the six games listed there.  I'll say that the Rams game and the Cards game both fall into the category of not being able to step on a teams throat.  But the Bills, in my opinion, absolutely closed out the Dolphins and Raiders.  If you have a multiple score lead and the other team scores in garbage time (less than 1 minute left) to then be able to attempt an onside kick with very little time remaining, you beat that team pretty comfortably.  Look at a win probability graph for those two games and I'm sure Buffalo had an insanely high chance of winning late in those games. 

The other two, the Pats and the Seahawks....well the Pats game was pretty close throughout.  And this just in: New England doesn't suck.  They've beaten the Ravens and Cards...they can play.  The Seahawks game...what did anyone expect to happen.  They score 30+ all the time.  Up until that game their lowest output was 27.  So they get their points.  It's like a golfer who is going to shoot 62 every time he plays...even if he makes pars early, the birdies are coming.  That's what it's like playing teams like the Seahawks and the Chiefs.  

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