The Bills lost their second “Monday Night Football” appearance of the 2023 NFL season on Monday against the Patriots, a game in which the weather had a greater impact than any individual player or coach.
That still didn’t stop Bills fans and neutral NFL observers from criticizing Buffalo coach Sean McDermott, whose coaching decisions again came under scrutiny on stage Monday night.
MORE: Final result of Bills vs. Patriots, results: Patriots hold out for win against Bills, remain top of AFC East
No McDermott play or decision stood out more than others in the Bills’ 14-10 loss, but rather a myriad of decisions and a lack of adjustments to the game that helped contribute to Buffalo’s loss. What happened against rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who attempted just three passes in the entire game, only makes the loss seem that much worse.
With that, here are McDermott’s coaching mistakes that helped contribute to the “Monday Night Football” loss to New England:
Porous rush defense
New England gave no indication that it would pass the ball on Monday. Patriots coach Bill Belichick clearly didn’t want to put Jones in a pitching position in weather that included 25-29 mph winds with gusts jumping 40-50 mph.
Yet even though there were no attempts to fool the Bills defense, New England largely did what it wanted on the ground, paving the defense 12th in the league rankings for 222 yards and a touchdown. on 46 carries. Damien Harris rushed 10 times for 111 yards and a 64-yard touchdown, while Rhamondre Stevenson rushed 24 times for 78 yards. Brandon Bolden also scored a successful 2-point conversion in the first quarter on a 2-yard sweep to the left.
Damien Harris is gone. 64-yard touchdown! # ForeverNE
– NFL (@NFL) December 7, 2023
McDermott had no answer for the rushing attack, schematically or otherwise, allowing the Patriots to get 4.8 yards per carry. That includes negative attack attempts from Jonnu Smith (minus 1) and Mones (minus 5). Without the rush to detract from the total, New England averaged 5.65 yards per carry. The Bills’ inability to stop the run finally proved the difference in the matchup.
MORE: How Mac Jones Helped the Patriots Win ‘MNF’ Over Bills With Just Three Pass Attempts
McDermott’s untimely defiance
McDermott cost his team a timeout, and one last chance to attempt a scoring lead, when he challenged the ball’s spot in a quarter and one from the Patriots late in the third quarter. It seemed as if Jones had made the line to win on the fourth-and-one quarterback break, and there wasn’t enough video evidence to suggest otherwise.
Unsurprisingly, the play stayed on the field, costing the Bills their first time out of the half. His second time-out came at first and a goal at the New England 6-yard line with 8:08 to play. Buffalo failed to score despite two treks into New England territory, leaving only one timeout after the two-minute warning. Those inopportune timeouts, especially as a result of the challenge, cost the team a chance to get one last chance to score the lead as the Patriots’ win worked its way to victory.
MORE: Patriots Own AFC Playoff Image, Pave Path to Buccaneers Super Bowl Rematch
Field goal attempt in windy weather
Unlike his Patriots counterpart, McDermott relied on his kicker to attempt a field goal in stormy conditions at Buffalo. The unfortunate decision came on the Bills’ penultimate offense, when a 33-yard field goal by Tyler Bass in the wind drifted to the right of the post to keep the score at 14-10.
Tyler Bass kicks a field goal to the wind and it’s not good pic.twitter.com/DBbQ34ZtSI
– Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) December 7, 2023
A successful field goal would have made it a one-possession game. Instead, Buffalo was forced to attempt a touchdown on his next drive, which ultimately ended in a fumble after Josh Allen’s pass was deflected.
– Jake “Iggy” Ignaszewski (@JakeIggy) December 7, 2023
It’s worth noting that Belichick didn’t have his field goal kicker attempt upwind, choosing to go for a (successful) 2-point conversion rather than the point attempt afterward. However, he allowed Nick Folk to shoot a 41-yard field goal into the wind at his back.
Those decisions finally proved the difference in the game. Speaking of which: Why didn’t McDermott go for a 2-point conversion on the Bills’ only touchdown?
MORE: Bill safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde were outraged with a question about quick defense against the Patriots
Bils PAT instead of 2 point conversion
Buffalo had a stroke of luck late in the first quarter after a cushioned punt by N’Keal Harry. That gave the Bills a shortstop at the Patriots’ 14-yard line, which they immediately converted into points on a 14-yard touchdown connection between Allen and Gabriel Davis.
– NFL (@NFL) December 7, 2023
This is where the problem comes in: why not try the 2-point conversion to tie the game rather than compete for the (successful) point attempt afterward? Had McDermott gone for the former, it would have put Buffalo in a position where it would only need one successful field goal attempt late in the game to tie the Patriots (the Bills entered the red zone twice in their last two series, getting as close to the Patriots as possible). the Patriots’ 6 and 13-yard lines, respectively).
McDermott may have had more faith in his offense to score points against the Patriots, but perhaps he should have realized that the weather would not abate and that prioritizing points over possible future scoring opportunities was more important. Even if the 2-point conversion failed, the Bills would have remained in the same position: needing two field goals or a touchdown to get ahead of New England. Risk-reward favored a more aggressive approach.
Josh Allen is no longer involved in the running game
The wind clearly had an effect on both teams’ play, though not so much for the Bills: They still allowed Allen to attempt 30 passes on the night. He completed 15 for 145 yards and a touchdown. That willingness to put the ball in Allen’s hand was admirable. But McDermott should have found ways to incorporate more engineered quarterback runs into the Bills’ offensive game plan.
As is, Allen finished the game leading all Bills running backs with 39 yards in just six attempts, including a 21-yard fight. His size and mobility would have been difficult to defend, even for the Patriots’ third pass defense. But McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll allowed Allen to air him despite the horrible pitching conditions, rather than allowing him to take a more double-threat approach.