ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen provided a series of mixed messages when assessing the yo-yo-ing state of the Buffalo Bills offense on Thursday.
At one point, the fourth-year starter was defiant in responding to a question of where the Bills' mojo had gone, by saying: “We still got it.”
Moments later, Allen was conceding the offense was in a rut.
“You got to celebrate when you win, and you got to learn when you lose,” he said. “That’s something we’re dealing with, and we’ve got to pull through this rut that we’re in.”
The responses mirror the up-and-down production of a unit which has gone from averaging 34 points and 412 yards through its first six games, to 22 points and 340 yards over its past six following the team's bye week.
The struggles coincide with Allen losing his footing and failing to convert fourth-and-inches at the Tennessee 3 in the final seconds of a 34-31 loss to the Titans on Oct. 18.
Add it up, and the offense's statistical drop-off is among several reasons behind the Bills (7-5) losing four of their past seven, ceding the AFC East lead to New England (9-4), and dropping to seventh in the conference standings, with numerous playoff tiebreakers now falling against them.
“We’re extremely hungry. I think there obviously is a sense of urgency of what we need to do,” Allen said. “There’s no panic in our locker room. We’re extremely united right now with what we need to do.”
They had better be in preparing to play at Tampa Bay (9-3) on Sunday. The emphasis will be on Allen to keep pace in a game in which Buffalo’s defense should have its hands full attempting to contain Tom Brady and the NFL’s top-scoring offense.
Buffalo is coming off what coach Sean McDermott called a “sloppy” outing in a 14-10 loss to New England on Monday night. Though the wintry elements and 40 mph wind gusts played a major factor, what couldn't be overlooked was Buffalo's failure to take advantage of positive field position.
The Bills managed just 10 points despite enjoying an average starting position at their own 40, and four drives inside the Patriots 20. Tyler Bass missed a 33-yard field-goal attempt into the wind, and the Patriots' victory was sealed when Allen’s pass was batted down at the goal line on fourth down with 1:55 remaining.
A contributing factor was the pedestrian state of a running attack which is over-reliant on Allen’s mobility. The quarterback finished with a team-high 39 yards on six carries, while Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and Matt Breida combined for 60 yards on 19 carries.
The loss to New England wasn’t an outlier. Buffalo managed just 301 yards in a 9-6 loss at Jacksonville on Nov. 7, and 307 in a 41-15 loss to Indianapolis three weeks ago.
Allen’s efficiency has become a concern, with the quarterback combining for nine touchdowns passing and nine turnovers (seven interceptions and two lost fumbles) in his past five.
Overall, the Bills haven’t overcome a second-half deficit, while squandering second-half leads twice this season. And Buffalo is 2-5 in games in which the offense fails to score a touchdown on its first possession.
Consistency in execution was stressed by Allen and McDermott as reasons behind the offensive struggles.
What’s worrisome is how an offense, which returned mostly intact a year after setting numerous franchise scoring and passing records, is still dealing with lapses in execution entering Week 14.
“Really, what I’m focused on is this game this week, and our level of execution,” McDermott said in refusing to look back.
Allen called it a matter of preparation, correcting mistakes and going back to the basics in leaning on the offense’s strengths.
“We want to go out there and prove what type of team we are, not to you guys or anybody else, but to ourselves,” Allen said. “We know the type of guys we have in this locker room, and the team we can be.”
NOTES: DT Star Lotulelei did not practice because of a toe injury. ... DT Ed Oliver (chest) was added to the injury report on Thursday and listed as being limited in practice.
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