Critics begin turning up the heat on Bills coach McDermott after latest last-minute collapse
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — There’s no nickname yet for Buffalo’s latest last-minute collapse. For a growing number of Bills fans, it’s one too many to occur under Sean McDermott.
Whether fair or not, frustration has set in among those who turned to social media, ready to turn the page on the seventh-year coach following a 37-34 overtime loss against the NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
It was an outing in which the Bills squandered a 10-point half-time lead, surrendered a tying 59-yard field goal with 20 seconds left, and then, after settling for a field goal in OT, were unable to prevent Jaylen Hurts from scampering into the end zone to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive.
The ending was far too predictable for a team whose losses have become easily identifiable.
There’s “13 Seconds,” reflecting the amount of time left in regulation for the Chiefs to set up a tying field goal in a 42-36 overtime win in a 2021 season playoff meeting.
There was the “Hail Murray,” named after Kyler Murray’s desperation touchdown heave to DeAndre Hopkins to seal Arizona’s 32-30 win in 2020.
And don’t forget this season’s “12 Men,” in which Denver’s Wil Lutz missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt before hitting his do-over from 36 yards as time expired after the Bills were flagged for too many men in the Broncos’ 24-22 win.
Each loss tarnishes what is McDermott’s otherwise strong resume that began with Buffalo ending a 17-year playoff drought during his first season in 2017. The Bills have qualified for the playoffs five of six times, and are three-time defending AFC East champs.
The only Bills coach to enjoy a better run was Hall of Famer Marv Levy, whose teams qualified for the playoffs eight times and lost four straight Super Bowl appearances during his tenure spanning 1986-97.
While some of the blame falls on McDermott, there remains plenty of good the coach has accomplished in keeping his team afloat — but barely — as Buffalo (6-6) enters a much-needed bye week.
In taking over the defensive play-calling duties, McDermott can be credited for keeping a patchwork unit competitive despite missing three key starters since Week 5.
It’s a unit that, before the loss to the Eagles, was allowing 19 points a game. And even against Philadelphia, the Bills gave up 303 yards offense through regulation and forced the Eagles to punt five times.
McDermott was also decisive in addressing his team’s midseason offensive slump by firing coordinator Ken Dorsey. The Josh Allen-led attack has regained its dynamic identity by combining for 66 points and 898 yards in its past two outings under interim coordinator Joe Brady.
The issues, meantime, are in the small details.
Penalties were a problem Sunday, with Buffalo flagged 11 times, though at least one was questionable.
Tyler Bass had a 34-yard field-goal attempt blocked and also missed from 48.
Brilliantly as Allen performed against Philadelphia, two of his passes played roles in the loss, too.
His fourth-quarter interception led to the Eagles going ahead 28-24. And Allen’s miscommunication with receiver Gabe Davis — Allen expected Davis to cut inside rather than out — led to an incompletion rather than game-deciding touchdown on third-and-6 from Philadelphia’s 22 in overtime. Buffalo settled for a field goal.
And McDermott can be second-guessed for his time-management decisions.
He wasted a timeout in a bid to “ice” Jake Elliott before the Eagles kicker lined up for his tying attempt. That left Buffalo with just one timeout, leading to McDermott’s decision to have Allen kneel with 20 seconds left in regulation rather than attempt to drive into field-goal range.
McDermott said he was concerned about the rainy conditions and the Eagles’ pass rush potentially causing a late turnover.
Taking the ball out of his best playmaker’s hands, however, was open to second guessing.
“I’m rolling that back a million times in my mind and hopefully we’re in that situation again,” McDermott said.
As for his critics?
“It’s understandable that they’re antsy,” McDermott said. “And listen, no one’s more frustrated than I am. I can promise you that. We’re working hard at figuring it out.”
Imaginative offensive play calling. Allen finished 29 of 51 for 339 yards by completing at least five passes to four receivers. He also let loose his running prowess with a season-best 81 yards on nine carries and two scores.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Clutch plays. The Bills have lost their last six overtime games, including playoffs, since Allen’s arrival in 2018. And they’re 2-6 in games decided by six points or less this year.
Davis. A week after not being targeted, the fourth-year receiver finished with six catches for a season-high 109 yards and a touchdown.
Bass. The usually reliable fourth-year kicker has missed five of 23 field-goal attempts, one miss short of matching a season low set in his rookie season.
None reported from the game, while S Taylor Rapp (neck) and CB Dane Jackson (concussion) will get an extra week to heal.
1-5 — Allen’s record this season — and 12-18 overall — when committing a turnover in the second half.
A week off to rest before facing a grueling stretch that begins with a trip to Kansas City, followed by a home game against Dallas.