Two weeks into the season, with two losses by a combined 55 points, the Bills are unraveling.
Following an embarrassing 47-3 loss to Baltimore in the opener, the Bills fell behind 28-3 in the second quarter to the Chargers in their home opener Sunday, and boos were raining down from the sellout crowd. And then it got worse.
At halftime, cornerback Vontae Davis, a fading 10th-year veteran to be sure, quit. He was not hurt, he was not benched, he, as Sean McDermott said, “pulled himself out of the game.” Meaning, he pulled off his uniform, put on his civilian clothes, and left New Era Field. He later announced via Twitter that he retired.
“I don’t have nothing to say about Vontae, I’m going to give him a little more respect than he showed us today as far as quitting on us in the middle of the game,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said before going back on his word and adding more. “Never have seen it, Pop Warner, high school, college, pros, never heard of it, never seen it. Completely disrespectful to his teammates. He didn’t say nothing to nobody. You know as much as I know. I found out going out for the second half of the game. They said he’s not coming out, he retired. That’s it.”
On Monday, McDermott was asked if he’d spoken to Davis since his departure and he said he had not.
“I didn’t feel a need … I’m focused on my team right now,” McDermott said. “There’s no need to address it because we’re moving on. That’s what a team does, this is not going to become a distraction moving forward. The Vontae situation, his actions have spoken, he’s retired.”
With Davis quitting and Phillip Gaines suffering a dislocated elbow in the second quarter, the Bills had only two healthy cornerbacks the rest of the day – starter Tre’Davious White and backup Lafayette Pitts. Rookie nickel cornerback Taron Johnson has a shoulder injury that left him inactive, and McDermott said he remains “day to day.” The only other corners on the roster are practice squad players Ryan Lewis and Levi Wallace, so it would seem the Bills have to scour the waiver wire to find replenishments.
There’s a chance Johnson and Gaines can return this week for the Bills’ game in Minnesota, but McDermott said he and general manager Brandon Beane will be discussing what they need to do to bulk up the position without getting into specifics regarding how they would do it.
The cornerback situation wasn’t all of the drama for the Bills. Having watched his defense give up 75 points in the first six quarters of the season, McDermott took over the defensive play-calling from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in the second half. The Bills played much better, giving up just three points, four first downs and 68 yards, but that could probably also be partially attributed to the Chargers taking their foot off the gas pedal.
“I think we just played with a little bit more pride and a little bit more execution in the second half,” said Alexander. “We were able to get off the field. Obviously, there were some big plays by Jerry (Hughes), Trent (Murphy), the defensive line, getting some tackles for losses, some sacks.”
Monday, McDermott said, “Leslie and I are still working through that. Either way, Leslie is going to be a big part of what we’re doing. In terms of the play-calling, we’re going to do what we need to do to win games and improve. We look at every corner to improve, we all have to do our job better. Nobody said this was going to be easy and that’s what we’re going through right now. We did some good things at times, obviously in the first half it wasn’t good enough; you can’t give up 28 points and give yourself a chance to win. In the second half I was very pleased with the way guys were flying around and they were having fun out there so that was good to see.”
Frazier said of the situation, “It’ll work itself out.”
QB Josh Allen made his NFL starting debut and completed 18 of 33 passes for 245 yards with one TD and two interceptions. He was also sacked five times for 36 yards and put up a QB rating of 63.3.
RB LeSean McCoy was held to 39 yards rushing, 27 coming on one play, before suffering cracked rib cartilage when teammate Ryan Groy fell on him. McCoy’s status for Week 3 in Minnesota will be evaluated later in the week, but that’s a tough injury to play with.
CB Phillip Gaines suffered a dislocated elbow in the second quarter and could not finish the game. His status is unknown for this week.
WR Kelvin Benjamin had yet another uninspiring performance as he caught just two passes for 19 yards, the second being a three-yard TD reception in garbage time in the final minute.
RB Taiwan Jones suffered a bloody head injury when his helmet came off and he was nailed while trying to return a muffed punt out of the end zone.
DE Jerry Hughes had a solid game as he recorded his first sack of the season, had three QB pressures, and also was in on six tackles playing 61 percent of the defensive snaps.
LB Lorenzo Alexander was in on seven tackles, had a sack, two tackles for loss, and also broke up a pass while playing 56 percent of the defensive snaps.
RB Chris Ivory has played a very limited role in the first two weeks, but he did score the Bills first touchdown of the season with a one-yard run in the third quarter.
WR Zay Jones caught a career-long 57-yard pass from Josh Allen, but had only one other reception for six yards.