The Buffalo Bills are a talented team with aspirations of making it to the Super Bowl for the first time since losing four straight in the early ’90s. But now they’re in danger of not even making the playoffs after dropping a home game on Monday Night Football to the underwhelming Denver Broncos. As was the case with Buffalo’s first losing title team, which fell to the New York Giants on January 27, 1991 in Super Bowl XXV, it was a field goal that doomed the Bills.
In ’91, a missed 47-yard kick by Scott Norwood that sailed wide right in the closing seconds of the game allowed the Giants to escape with a 20-19 score, the smallest margin of victory in Super Bowl history. Last night, Broncos kicker Wil Lutz also pushed the ball wide right when he attempted a kick from 41 yards out with Buffalo clinging to a one-point lead over Denver. But the Bills’ luck with field goals returned as Buffalo was flagged for having too many men on the field. After moving up five yards because of the penalty, Lutz made good on his do-over field-goal attempt from 36 yards out as time expired to give the Broncos a 24-22 win over their hosts.
After the game, which dropped Buffalo to 5-5 on the season and raised Denver’s record to 4-5, Bills head coach Sean McDermott said his team practices swapping their defensive unit for their field goal block team multiple times — so there’s no reason why there should have been 12 men on the field during Lutz’s kick.
“We practiced two or three times this week the substitution from dime to field goal block, and at the end of the day we didn’t execute it. So it’s inexcusable,” McDermott said. “Guys are upset and they’re frustrated. When you don’t get the results you’re looking for and you don’t have the production you’re looking for, they get frustrated.”
Buffalo’s players have good reason to be frustrated, as the Bills had four turnovers last night (two interceptions, two fumbles), plenty of clock management issues and some costly penalties, including a violation for pass interference that set up Lutz’s back-to-back kicks to end the game.
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The Broncos, who gave up 70 points to the Dolphins earlier this year, have won three straight games and appear to be headed in the right direction after getting off to a horrendous start under Sean Payton. The Bills — who have lost three out of four — look as if they are doing the opposite, and McDermott’s seat is going to get very hot if Buffalo loses this weekend to the Jets, who will still be without starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, who ran for a touchdown to give Buffalo its only lead but was also held to a season-low 177 passing yards, knows that his team’s margin for error has been exhausted. “It sucks. Shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. Just a lot of bad football. A lot of bad football,” he said. “I’m still confident. But it’s no secret. The clock’s ticking. Gotta have some urgency now.”
And remember how to count to 12.