To be sure, hundreds of thousands of Bills fans are celebrating today.
After all, Buffalo handled the Jets, 27-17, Sunday afternoon at Bills Stadium and is tied with the Patriots atop the AFC East one week into this new NFL season.
But, at the risk of throwing an iced bucket of Gatorade on the Buffalo faithful, a little caution is in order and not merely because their team beat one of the league’s worst franchises.
Two of the Bills five-best defenders from its playoff-quality unit left the game with injuries and didn’t return. Tremaine Edmunds, one of the league’s elite middle linebackers, suffered a shoulder injury and big-play specialist, Matt Milano, an outside backer, endured a hamstring problem.
Coach Sean McDermott, in his post-game Zoom press conference, admitted he hadn’t talked to the team doctors, but it’s fair to speculate if one or both misses any appreciable time, the Bills are in big trouble.
Even he admitted, “We hope and pray we get them back, if not, it’s ‘next man up.’”
The situation was exacerbated by the fact the Bills had only six linebackers active for the game and their lone other option is a practice squadder, veteran Andre Smith.
BUT INJURIES to a pair of key defenders were only part of Sunday’s issues for Buffalo.
There was also the offense.
Let’s start with the obvious.
Quarterback Josh Allen had his greatest passing day as a pro setting career highs for yards (312), attempts (46) and completions (33) with touchdown passes to John Brown and rookie Zack Moss.
But, he also missed a wide-open Brown in the end zone and, on the next snap, forced a ball into double coverage that was nearly picked off.
Still, he rushed 14 times for 57 yards with a short TD.
But those numbers mask some major issues.
Over his first two seasons, Allen had some ball-security problems, notably 22 fumbles. Fortunately for him, his teammates bailed him out recovering 16 of them.
Against the Jets, Allen turned the ball loose twice and lost both.
This game should have been a blowout, but those giveaways never let it happen.
His first lost fumble came on the Jets’ 13-yard line in a scoreless game. The second was at the New York 33 with Buffalo up 21-0 and bidding for more. Instead the Jets drove down and got their first score of the game, albeit only a field goal.
But the problems for Allen on the run don’t end with fumbling. He runs too much, which the Bills’ offensive staff seemed to confirm in the off season. Instead, he logged those 14 carries against New York, four more than any game last year and the most, by one, of his NFL career.
To be sure, at 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds he’s strong and surprisingly elusive for his size. But, against the Jets, he took some big shots including one on the knee during his second fumble.
Of his two giveaways, after the game, Allen admitted, “We left a lot of points out there and I put a lot of that responsibility on myself ... we’re going to need some better decision-making out of me.”
“This week we’ll probably be pretty heavy (in practice) on ball security. I’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the football and allowing us to put some more points on, especially when we’re in field goal range.”
THEN, TOO, it could be argued that Allen ran more — we have no idea how many were actually called — because the Bills’ touted ground game was otherwise non-existent. Second-year pro Devin Singletary, normally extremely elusive, carried nine times for a mere 30 yards and Moss also had nine tries but for only 11 yards.
On the ground, even with Allen’s effort, Buffalo had 32 carries for 98 yards, barely three per try, and that just won’t get it done over the course of the season.
And finally, on offense, sixth round draft choice Tyler Bass missed his first two field goal attempts — 38 and 34 yards — before making a pair of chippies (22 and 19 yards).
It was his first NFL game and, historically, rookies have struggled to find their accuracy as pros.
But it also explains why the Bills auditioned three other kickers even after Bass had unseated veteran Stephen Hauschka for the job.
However, McDermott defended his placement specialist.
“There’s always a first time for all of us, he’s a young kicker, and we remain confident in Tyler,” he said. “There’s going to be some of those adverse moments and there were some for our team. His field goals at the end to seal the game, I was proud of him for that.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)