Let me say something positive about the Bills before getting into the unsightly mess on display Sunday: The Bills have a proud collection of players on defense who were playing at a championship level before entering Lucas Oil Stadium.
Kyle Williams has been the heart and soul of the defense. He has played better in some games than others over the years, but his effort never wavered. Lorenzo Alexander is a consummate professional, Tre’Davious White a true young talent and rising star. Jerry Hughes is a passionate if temperamental pass rusher.
The primary reason the Bills have won two games this season was because of their defense. If they had any semblance of an effective passing attack, any hint that the offense could score with any consistency, they might actually be 5-2 rather than 2-5. Man, is this offense ever brutal.
Every man has his breaking point, as they say. The Bills defense was rated third-best in the NFL and needed to maintain a high level just to keep the offense in games. But it was fantasy to believe they could sustain their greatness over the final 14 weeks.
The Bills looked befuddled and demoralized Sunday while surrendering 24 points in the second quarter in a 37-5 loss to the Colts. You could see this one coming after a fantastic effort in defeat last week against Houston, their fourth consecutive strong performance.
Nathan Peterman’s pick-six didn’t simply lose the game last week. The interception ripped the heart out of the defense, too. An exhausting month was bound to catch up to the unit. It unraveled when Indy scored on four consecutive possessions in the first half.
The Bills for weeks have been playing against two offenses: The opposition and their own. They were susceptible to getting exposed at some point before Indianapolis, which had piled up points but failed to prevent them, had its way with Buffalo.
The Colts practically disregarded the Bills’ offense Sunday. Do you blame Indy? It’s why they didn’t hesitate when faced with a fourth-and-one situation from their own 47 in the first quarter. Frank Reich wasn’t worried about giving the Bills a short field if the decision failed.
Indianapolis picked up the first down and continued driving. Sure enough, Luck found tight end Erik Swoope with a 17-yard touchdown pass over the middle to give the Colts an early lead. That what good offenses do, and Indy has one.
What can you say about Derek Anderson?
The 35-year-old quarterback was placed in a terrible situation Sunday while making his fifth start since 2010. He was vacationing with his family two weeks ago. Buffalo signed him to serve as a mentor to Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman, not become their starting QB.
Peterman has been so dreadful that Sean McDermott had little choice Sunday. He had to hand the offense to Anderson even though Peterman was healthy and had a better grasp of the playbook. The Bills were averaging 123 yards in net passing through the first six weeks, their lowest per game since 1974 and less than half of the NFL average.
Buffalo had nothing to lose – other than another football game. But what message does it send to a team when McDermott and GM Brandon Beane, who preach respecting the football, show utter disrespect for the most important position on the field? Their mishandling of their quarterbacks practically begged for a defensive letdown.
Anderson was looked like the part of an NFL quarterback, unlike the rookie Allen and the overwhelmed Peterman. Anderson didn’t abandon the pocket. He made several string throws while under siege, including a pass to Charles Clay that the tight end fumbled away in the second quarter. Luck found Marlon Mack on a 29-yard catch and run for a TD.
Anderson completed 20 of 31 passes for 175 yards, one interception that led to a field goal late in the first half, a fumble that led to Luck’s fourth touchdown pass and a 30-5 lead in the fourth quarter and another pick that led to Mack’s second touchdown. Anderson was no match for Luck and the Colts’ offense.
Luck was averaging 48 attempts per game, the most in NFL history, going into the game. He was 17 of 23 for156 yards and the four TDs. He didn’t throw for big yardage by his standards, but he picked apart the Bills’ when needed. He threw three touchdown passes in the second quarter and helped maximize the running game with Mack.
The result was predictable.
Buffalo already had enough dysfunction on offense. The last thing they needed was an injury to LeSean McCoy, their most dynamic player since for the past four seasons. He was sidelined on the Bills’ first drive, leaving them even more shorthanded.
Rest assured the defense was paying attention. They had the worst quarterback situation in the NFL before signing a 35-year-old backup off the street. They had the worst receiving corps in the NFL, too. Their top offensive player, and only true weapon, was injured.
The Bills have a championship defense and a junior varsity offense. The "D" buckled Sunday, and it could get worse. The Patriots are coming to town next week for Monday Night Football.