CLEVELAND — The “easy” part of the Buffalo Bills schedule has officially come to a screeching halt.
Buffalo allowed a 10-play, 82-yard drive in the waning minutes of Sunday’s 19-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns to fall to 6-3. Even after Baker Mayfield‘s go-ahead touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins, Buffalo was in position to tie — only to watch Stephen Hauschka‘s 53-yard field goal fall short of the uprights.
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.
A road to the playoffs still exists but it just got a lot more treacherous.
Describe the game in two words: Buckle up. 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 that they’re willing to admit.
Pivotal 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.
Biggest hole in the game plan: Devin Singletary wasn’t nearly as involved with the Bills’ offense as he was last week, when he turned in 140 total yards on 24 touches — both career-highs. The rookie turned his first six carries of the game into 42 rushing yards but got two more carries the rest of the game. He’s the best big-play threat the Bills have on offense and it’s difficult to fathom why Singletary didn’t get more opportunities.
Troubling trend: 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.”