FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The explosive passing game was mainly kept under wraps. The ground attack offered very little support.
The high-powered Buffalo Bills offense once again failed to shift into gear and delivered a clunker of a performance in Sunday’s 29-25 loss to the New England Patriots, a divisional rival that sat in last place in the AFC East.
The Bills opened their first series on a sour note, as quarterback Josh Allen was intercepted after failing to get on the same page with tight end Dawson Knox.
“I need to see (Knox) there,” Allen said. “It’s not a good way to start a game.”
From one-play drives that ended in a thud, with Allen turning the ball over deep in Buffalo territory and New England scoring to go up 10-0 in the first quarter, the Bills saw a recent trend once again rear its ugly head. They’ve now been outscored 24-0 in the first quarter over the past three games, two of which ended with single-digit losses and last week’s 14-9 escape against the bottom-dwelling New York Giants the lone instance when Buffalo succeeded in overcoming its sputtering offense.
“We’ve got to find reasons why we’re stubbing our toes,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said.
A good place to start would be why the Bills have struggled coming out of the chute and fallen into early holes.
“I wish I knew the exact answer because we’d have it fixed by now,” Allen said.
Trying to pinpoint why the rhythm hasn’t been there in the first quarter is an area that the Bills need to fix in a hurry. They can’t risk falling further behind the AFC East-leading Miami Dolphins and are facing a quick turnaround with a Thursday night matchup against Tampa Bay on deck.
“It’s something we’ll evaluate in the film room. If we knew what the problem was or why we’re starting slow, we would have done something,” Knox said. “We’ve got a short week and need to get the corrections and move on from it.”
Added fellow tight end Dalton Kincaid, “Every week, we want to come out with a hot start. We weren’t able to do that today. The communication is good as far as where we’re going wrong, but we’re close to putting it all together.”
Allen insisted the shoulder issue that landed him on the injury report wasn’t a contributing factor in his performance. He finished 21 of 41 for 265 yards while throwing two touchdowns and rushing for one. He faced a heavy pass rush for the majority of the game as the Patriots snapped a four-game losing streak to their divisional rival. Buffalo’s rushing attack offered little in the way of relief, averaging 3.4 yards on 24 attempts.
After failing to score a touchdown in the first half for the second straight week, Buffalo engineered a 10-play, 81-yard scoring drive to open the second half. Allen resembled an MVP candidate as his swing pass to Knox cut New England’s lead to 13-10.
“We didn’t let the first half exacerbate our emotions,” Buffalo center Mitch Morse said.
Knox was the intended target on 4th-and-2 from the New England 33-yard line as the play was broken up, resulting in a turnover on downs that continued to leave the Bills in chase mode in the fourth quarter. The deficit stood at 22-10 when Buffalo went no-huddle and found the end zone, with Allen connecting with top target Stefon Diggs from 25 yards out and adding the two-point try.
“We came out with some good halftime adjustments and started to move the ball,” Knox said.
The Bills appeared on the verge of escaping Gillette Stadium with another win over the Patriots after Allen scored on a QB keeper from the 1 with 1:58 remaining. Instead, Buffalo couldn’t protect its 25-22 lead in the closing seconds.
Now, it’s back to the drawing board in an attempt to fix an offense that’s looked far too predictable and unimaginative in recent weeks.
“We’ve got a standard that we want to uphold. It’s a week-by-week league. We’ve just got to focus on our execution,” Knox said.
Added Allen: “Our season is not over. It’s a long season. Feels pretty bleak right now, but we’re going to figure it out.”