With such promising hopes for a playoff bid, the Buffalo Bills find themselves falling further and further away from that dream with a devastating loss to the Cleveland Browns. Despite holding a 6-3 record, which includes last week's loss, losing to a team who previously held a 4-game losing streak is unacceptable. If this team wants to be seriously recognized as a playoff contender, they're going to have to hunker down and get ready for the second half of the season.
After entering the week as a clear front-runner for one of the AFC's two wild-card spots, the Bills' loss makes things interesting as the Colts, Raiders, and Jaguars are now all within a game of Buffalo. The Bills play the Dolphins and Broncos in their next two games before facing a tough stretch against the Cowboys, Ravens, and Patriots in a four-week span.
Here are my takes on the game:
Describe the game in a few words - Hold on to your seats. Buffalo's defense was carved up by a struggling Cleveland team to the tune of 368 yards. With the NFL's top two offenses (Dallas, Baltimore) remaining on their schedule, the Bills may have a bigger problem than they're willing to admit.
Game-changing play - I'll take 'Things an Offensive Lineman Shouldn't Do with a Loose Ball' for $800, please. Jon Feliciano nearly saved the Bills' day in the fourth quarter, after a Browns defender punched the ball out of Josh Allen's grip at the 8-yard line. Feliciano, Buffalo's starting right guard, decided against falling on the ball as most players are taught, opting instead to somersault over the ball, pluck it off the ground and roll into the end zone. He was ruled down by contact at the 1-yard line but it didn't matter -- Allen punched in his second touchdown of the game two plays later for the go-ahead score. However, the score was nullified when the Browns scored the winning touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Scary truth: Allen can no longer be described as "struggling" with his deep-ball accuracy; doing so implies that he's had at least minimal success. Allen is instead failing with his deep-ball accuracy after missing on four such passes Sunday afternoon -- two of which won't count against the stat sheet thanks to a pair of Cleveland penalties. The second-year quarterback continues to shine with his intermediate throws but his inability to connect on a single pass beyond 30 yards this season has graduated from "troubling trend" to "crippling concern."
It's not over yet, and we are holding onto the number 2 seed currently in the AFC, but if we are going to make a push this postseason we're going to have to do it sooner rather then later. It starts now, turning it around next week with the Dolphins. Let's circle the wagons Buffalo.