BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Pick your poison. That about describes the different ways the Bills hurt themselves on Sunday that led to the 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Offensive miscues, penalties and mistakes in all three phases each played a big factor in the opening-week defeat.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the offense appeared out of synch for the majority of the game. Despite having nearly the same cast of characters on that side of the ball, the Bills just couldn’t seem to keep the offense on the field. Other than the first drive and the last drive of the first half, the offense couldn’t put up points in the first two quarters. Three punts and fumble were bookended by a field goal thanks in part to a great kickoff return and a touchdown that gave fans flashes of the offense they saw all of last year.
There was one opportunity for the Bills to score when Josh Allen had Emmanuel Sanders deep for what would have been a touchdown. The ball was overthrown just barely, but enough to hit the ground and fall incomplete.
“I got to figure out how to get something going,” Allen said. “We just didn’t have everything today and again early on just finding some things, missing Emmanuel on the deep throw obviously that’s what I want back. When a defense like this gives you that type of an opportunity you’ve got to execute and make those plays happen.”
Penalties also crushed the Bills on both offense and defense. Eight times they were flagged, and of those eight, four were holding calls just on offense. Defensively they were called for two holds as well.
“We were beating ourselves with holding penalties,” head coach Sean McDermott said. “It was eight penalties and a lot of those were holds offensively so we can do a better job, I can do a better job.”
Two other times they were hit with holding penalties, but they were declined so they don’t officially count in the stat sheet. Mitch Morse had one of the holding calls against him.
“It just comes down to discipline, right?” Morse said. “I know from mine, I just need to bring my feet, cover them up and got a holding call, it was legit and I think that’s just one of those things that will come down to accountability.”
What made some of those plays worse was that they came at inopportune times.
“The unfortunate thing is most of those holding calls came with chunk plays,” Morse said. “So not only did we go backwards, but this game is a game of momentum and for the most part we kind of shot ourselves in the foot today.”
While they played a great defensive game overall, one error cost them in the 4th quarter. Levi Wallace was hit with a defensive pass interference call after a stop on third down. It would have sent the Steelers to the sideline, but instead it sent them deep into Bills territory. Two plays later, they scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Then on special teams, a major miscue with a blocked punt led to another score for Pittsburgh. That was all the Steelers needed to get the win.
Overall, the team is disappointed in the result, but they look at it as an opportunity to grow and get better for week two.
“I think it’s a great gut check, right?” Morse said. “Very frustrating, but we also know that this is a great opportunity to learn quite a bit. Like I said before, try to look into what you can do to keep Josh [Allen] cleaner, get the guys in the backfield better lanes to run and then go from there.”
“It’s never as bad as it seems, it’s never as good as it seems,” running back Devin Singletary said. “It’s just week one, got to learn and grow from it.”