Sean McDermott stayed in character after the Bills’ offensive debacle Sunday against the Bengals, maintaining his polite demeanor while reaching into his pocket for stock answers that offered very little insight about the game.
NFL coaches are like politicians in that way. They’re trained to move their lips and say nothing of consequence. But if you’re in my business long enough, and you listen closely enough, the message can be uncovered between ear-piercing clichés and words unspoken.
The Bills have serious issues going into their final exhibition as they ramp up for the regular season. It was obvious to anyone who watched the 26-13 loss Sunday at New Era Field, and it was confirmed no fewer than eight times by Buffalo’s second-year head coach afterward.
McDermott repeatedly said he needed to “look the tape” or “check the film” when asked about the Bills’ problems against the Bengals. It was a telltale sign that he was stalling. He needed another day to prepare a suitable answer in lieu of the truth.
Ah, yes, the tape.
It’s funny how players and coaches rarely need to examine “the tape” in victory but almost always do in defeat. The same people who remember every play in great detail after a win somehow suffer from severe short-term memory loss when games go the other way.
"There was a lot going on," McDermott told reporters Sunday. "We’ve got to make sure that we’re helping him with protection and catching the football and not beating ourselves with penalties. Let’s just start there, and the rest, we’ll look at the film."
McDermott didn’t need a full review Sunday to know his team was brutal against the Bengals. Major flaws persist along the offensive line, particularly on the left side. If you can see as much, and I can see s much, the coach shouldn’t need a full review to acknowledge the same.
He can spin his message however he chooses for the sake of team harmony, but the Bills are headed for trouble if their starters can’t block the Bengals and Browns in preseason games.
Josh Allen didn’t need to examine the tape to understand he held the ball too long, contributing to him getting sacked five times in the first half while he completed six of 12 passes for 34 yards. Give the kid credit for taking responsibility Sunday.
The rookie will learn soon enough that he can’t stand in the pocket and scour the field in the NFL the way he did last season at Wyoming.
Allen needs to make quicker decisions, definitely, but the offensive linemen also need to maintain their blocks longer.
Left guard Vlad Ducasse was over his head Sunday against the Bengals. It looked like a continuation from the Bills’ performance in Cleveland, where veteran AJ McCarron was injured. Allen was forced into a premature exit Sunday after smacking his head off the turf.
McDermott didn’t need the tape to show him guard John Miller wasn’t much better on the right side. Miller took two bad penalties and was getting blown off the ball, which explained why center Ryan Groy moved to guard and Russell Bodine was summoned to play center.
"We're going to look at the film to see exactly what was going on exactly inside," McDermott said. "I’ve got a pretty good feel for it right now, but in order to do a thorough and accurate evaluation, especially with interior line play, you’ve got to look at the film there."
Bodine had problems protecting the passer in Cleveland, prompting the Bills to turn to Groy against Cincy. Dion Dawkins played well last season, but he misses lining up alongside Richie Incognito. Eric Wood’s departure left the Bills with less talent and experience.
The Bills can expect more pressure when the regular season opens Sept. 9 against Baltimore. Defensive coordinators must be salivating over blitz packages they can throw at the Bills and their inexperienced quarterback of choice.
At this rate, they could be out of healthy QBs by October.
Receivers had a difficult time getting open, which contributed to Allen holding onto the ball longer than desired and breakdowns on the O-line. The Bills had too many penalties and too many plays for losses, which put pressure on the unit as a whole.
The defense gave up too many big passing plays, starting with Andy Dalton’s first pass of the afternoon that John Ross converted to a touchdown. Ross torched Vontae Davis down the sideline before turning him and Jordan Poyer inside out on his way to the end zone.
Dalton had little problem finding open receivers and wasn’t under the duress Allen endured. Cincinnati isn’t some powerhouse. The Bengals missed the playoffs last season along with the Browns, whose first team outplayed the Bills’ starters a week earlier.
Of course, that was quickly forgotten while people fawned over Allen’s solid performance against the Browns’ second-team defense and insisted he was ready to start in the NFL.
Nobody seemed to address the poor play of the offensive line even though it was just as obvious during a narrow victory in Cleveland as it was in a decisive defeat Sunday in Buffalo.
All they had to do was check the tape.