ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Evidently, the Super Bowl parade plans are on hold in Buffalo after the Bills’ so-called redemption tour hit a speed bump in Tennessee.
The soaring expectations of over-reaction Monday following last week’s convincing win over one Buffalo nemesis, the Kansas City Chiefs, gave way to the deadening thud of over-reaction Tuesday, after the Bills were pushed around in a 34-31 loss to another nemesis, the Titans.
As reality checks go, especially six weeks into the season, the truth might be somewhere in the middle for a team that should still be considered an AFC contender despite losing ground in the conference race.
Buffalo (4-2) enters its bye week knowing there aren’t many opponents who can match Tennessee’s Derrick Henry-led pounding running attack.
At the same time, the Bills have plenty to work on after their flaws were exposed in being yet again manhandled in Music City some 53 weeks after a 42-16 loss at Tennessee.
Monday night's outcome was a reminder of how games are ultimately decided in the trenches, with Buffalo coming up short on both sides.
The Bills’ defensive front was once again trampled by Henry, who scored three times, a year after stiff-arming the Titans to victory.
Just as much of a concern was how Buffalo failed to generate pressure against an injury-depleted Titans offensive line, which entered the game having allowed a league-high 20 sacks.
“There’s no excuse for it. They just out-executed us,” linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said.
In the meantime, Buffalo’s offensive front sagged at critical junctures, highlighted by Tennessee’s Jeffery Simmons helping to prevent Josh Allen’s attempt to convert fourth-and-inches at the Tennessee 3 in the final seconds.
That, however, wasn’t the only instance. Buffalo settled for field goals on its first two drives inside the Titans 20. Each possession featured running back Zack Moss being stopped for 2 and 3 yards on second-down carries.
Buffalo’s two losses, including a season-opening 23-16 dud against Pittsburgh, followed similar scripts.
The offense lacked finish in the red zone. Buffalo scored touchdowns on two of five trips inside the Titans 20, after being limited to one TD on four drives inside the Steelers 20.
The defense had difficulty generating turnovers. Buffalo has one takeaway, Micah Hyde’s interception against Tennessee, in its two losses, as opposed to combining for 15 in its four wins.
If there is a bright side, the Bills entered their bye week last year following a heart-wrenching 32-30 loss at Arizona. The game was decided on DeAndre Hopkins out-leaping three defenders in the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown catch with 2 seconds remaining in Week 10.
Buffalo didn’t lose again until a 38-24 decision to Kansas City in the AFC championship game.
Allen’s ability to spread the ball in completing passes to nine receivers, including a 1-yard TD to tight end Tommy Sweeney. His 35 completions were a career high and tied for third most in team history.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Defending against the play-action pass. Buffalo’s inability to contain Henry left the defense flat-footed once Ryan Tannehill began faking handing the ball off and then finding receivers open over the middle. After going four of 12 for 71 yards and an interception in the first half, Tannehill completed 14 of 17 for 145 yards in the final two quarters.
The game-plan handcuffs on Cole Beasley were removed, with the receiver finishing with seven catches for 88 yards an a touchdown. He had combined for three catches for 21 yards in his previous two outings.
The Bills chalked up Beasley’s two-game dip on being game-plan related. Curiously, the uptick in production came after Beasley deleted his Twitter account, and after he caused a stir two weeks ago by questioning Bills fans for booing him for being an outspoken vaccination critic during a 40-0 win over Houston.
Rooke DE Greg Rousseau was out of position in failing to contain the left edge when Henry bolted through a huge hole for his 76-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage after Buffalo built a 6-0 lead.
TE Dawson Knox broke his right hand in the third quarter with coach Sean McDermott unable to provide a timetable of how much time he'll miss. Despite the injury, the right-handed Knox still completed a pass to Allen on a 2-point conversion.
16-15 — Allen’s record, including 0-2 in the playoffs, when committing a turnover. His interception in the second quarter led to Tannehill scoring on a 4-yard run to put the Titans up 17-13.
Buffalo’s next three opponents currently have a combined record of 3-14. After hosting Miami (1-5) on Oct. 31, Buffalo travels to play Jacksonville (1-5) and the New York Jets (1-4).
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John Wawrow, The Associated Press