The Buffalo Bills seemingly are at a crossroads after they were upset by the New England Patriots on Sunday, and the situation has head coach Sean McDermott searching for resolutions.
"We've gotta continue to find answers to some of the reasons as to why we're stubbing our toe," McDermott told reporters after the 29-25 loss. "We're not playing complimentary football. ... We're beating ourselves at times, and we're not linking up in all three phases to control a game."
Slow starts have been the bane of Buffalo's existence in the past three games, and its offense continued an alarming first-half trend against an opponent that limped into Sunday riding a three-game losing streak.
Josh Allen threw an interception on the first offensive play for Buffalo, which allowed the Patriots to take a commanding 10-point lead before the Bills gained a single yard. By putting up another first-quarter goose egg, the Bills extended such a result to its third consecutive game, and the three first-half points they mustered against the Patriots on Sunday brought Buffalo's first-half total to 10 in the past three games combined.
Compared to the Bills' quick starts through the first four weeks -- 34 first-quarter points scored and 67 total points in the first half during that stretch -- the worrisome trend was recognized by McDermott, but reasons as to why befuddled the head coach.
"I wish I could tell you," he said. "We talk about it, we talk about being more detailed, getting into a rhythm early, playing complementary football and all three phases working together. We haven't been able to get into a good rhythm, obviously."
Down, 22-10, in the fourth quarter, Allen and the offense eventually found their footing with consecutive TD drives that mirrored an offense that entered Week 7 ranked top five yards gained (374.8 per game) and scoring (28.8 per game). With a three-point lead late in the game, securing the win was essentially left to the Bills' typically stout defense, but Patriots QB Mac Jones went ahead and authored a comeback of his own, finding tight end Mike Gesicki for the game-winning TD to cap off an eight-play, 69-yard drive with 12 seconds remaining.
"When it comes down to it, I've got to close the game out," McDermott said of his defense.
There were several other miscues and faulty habits that aided the Bills' misery on Sunday -- a missed field goal before halftime, a turnover on downs in the fourth quarter, a 42% conversion rate on third down and a game-high nine penalties for 46 yards. McDermott recognized it all and wasn't shy to realize the inconsistent team in the mirror, but it would be convenient to find answers quickly with the Bills (4-3) entering a short week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) this Thursday night.
"It's not enough, we didn't do enough," he said. "We didn't put them in position enough, I didn't put the defense in position enough and then just overall didn't play complimentary football. ... We were shooting ourselves in the foot at times and put in some third-and-long situations. And then just overall got to close the game out."