ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)The Buffalo Bills have a long way to go to show whether they’re for real.
After a surprising 5-1 start, the Bills received a wake-up call in a 31-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. It was an afternoon where the Bills were dominated on both sides of the ball, leading to far more questions than answers.
”They punched us in the mouth and we have to answer a little better than that,” said quarterback Josh Allen.
The loss was a missed opportunity for a franchise that has routinely struggled to turn the corner with just one playoff appearance since 2000.
Buffalo squandered a chance to open 6-1 for the first time since 1993, when the Jim Kelly-led team made its fourth consecutive – and final – Super Bowl appearance.
The dud against the Eagles follows a recent trend in which the Bills have missed the playoffs each of the past two times they’ve opened at 4-1 or better, including turning a 5-1 start into a 7-9 finish in 2008.
”It’s frustrating. There’s no fingers pointed,” center Mitch Morse said. ”I think the whole team knows that there’s a sense of urgency that every person has a part to play in executing better. For right now there’s no panic, it’s just a sense of urgency.”
The Bills were undone at both lines of scrimmage. They couldn’t run the ball and couldn’t stop the run.
Buffalo, which entered the game with the NFL’s third-best defense, allowed 371 yards offense, including a season-worst 218 yards rushing. The Eagles’ three touchdowns rushing were the most Buffalo’s allowed since a 2018 season-opening 47-3 loss at Baltimore.
The 156 yards rushing the Bills allowed in the second half alone were more than they’ve surrendered in one game this season. And it came on a wet, windy day in which both teams were expected to run the ball.
”They controlled the line of scrimmage,” coach Sean McDermott said. ”I’m concerned any time a team can run the ball like that on our football team. It’s concerning.”
The turning point came at the start of the second half when rookie running back Miles Sanders burst down the left sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. Fellow running back Jordan Howard set the tone by taking out Bills linebacker Matt Milano with a crushing block on the pivotal play.
Sanders finished with a career-best 74 yards rushing and Howard had a team-leading 96, and a touchdown.
”They came in and they handed it to us today,” safety Jordan Poyer said. ”Credit to them. We weren’t able to stop the run, they were able to get some explosive gains in the pass game, in the screen game. It’s something we’ve been talking about for weeks now. Tough loss, but this won’t define us. A lot of football left to be played.”
Buffalo’s offense had little in response. After opening 13 of 21 for 160 yards and two touchdowns, Allen closed completing 3 of 13 attempts for 9 yards over Buffalo’s final six possessions.
Allen also lost a fumble at his own 24, late in the first half which led directly to Carson Wentz hitting Dallas Goedert for a 5-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles up for good.
”I have to find a way to allow ourselves to get better moving the ball and then putting some points on the board, and a performance like this won’t cut it,” Allen said.
Of Buffalo’s first seven opponents, the AFC-leading New England Patriots were the only ones to enter this weekend with a winning record. The Bills’ schedule remains favorable, with their next four games against Washington, Cleveland, Miami and Denver.
”We lost a game, man. It happens,” receiver Cole Beasley said. ”You’re in the NFL. There’s not many teams that win every game in the NFL. I don’t know, maybe there’s been two in a season? It happens.”
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