Or, you know, they just played like crap a week after playing great. One of those.
Either way, their shot at the playoffs is now gone, and we have one game left (plus a week to get there) before transitioning fully into offseason mode. Let's do a bit of both - talk about the game and the future, that is - with these five observations from yesterday's 26-24 loss.
No. 1: We've spoken before about the Bills' offense completely losing its identity during the past two seasons, and will continue to do so for the next several months. The up-tempo elements are completely gone, as is the team's run-heavy approach. That dramatic shift can't entirely be placed on the quarterback position; indeed, that occurred largely because the team's offensive line has regressed so noticeably from year to year. These guys stink, and you don't need to read between the lines of Doug Marrone's post-game quotes yesterday to get that the Bills realize it, too. It has gotten to the point for me where I won't be shocked or dismayed if they try to address things at all five positions up front. They are brutal to watch.
No. 2: I don't think you'd get much of an argument to the statement that the Bills, in general, have very good skill talent, particularly at running back and wide receiver. Here's the thing, though: there are only six positions on the field for every single offensive snap, and those are the five linemen and the quarterback. Those are the six worst positions in Buffalo's offense right now. That group was built completely backwards philosophically. Say what you want about the play-calling (49 passes for Kyle Orton is too many) and the in-game decision-making (another 4th and 1 punt near midfield), but these coaches are working with an offense that is flawed in its foundation, and that often forces their hand.
No. 3: Even forgetting about the battle in the trenches, which the Raiders won in thoroughly convincing fashion, Oakland just looked like they wanted it more than Buffalo. That was perfectly exemplified on big plays through the air - Charles Woodson outmuscling Scott Chandler for an early interception, Kenbrell Thompkins whistling past Aaron Williams to set up the Raiders' first score, and most especially, the Andre Holmes reception over Corey Graham that converted a 3rd and 22 late in the fourth quarter. Those were plays that the Bills needed to make or prevent against an inferior opponent, but the Raiders won them all. Chalk the loss up to whatever you like, but to me, the Raiders took the win from Buffalo on those types of plays.
No. 4: You know what else the Bills could really use? Better defensive line depth. The team has made a concerted effort this season to manage the snap counts of their starting defensive line - none of those four players has taken more than 72.9 percent of snaps - and that leaves a lot of plays on the field for middling to below-average players. Buffalo's first-team defense was its typical stout self defending the run early in yesterday's game, but when Marcell Dareus was lost for the game with a knee injury, the Raiders really started to take off on the ground. By the end of the day, they'd accumulated 140 rushing yards on 32 carries. Buffalo's defense is very good, but they still have some work to do in that department this offseason, and it starts with better depth up front.
No. 5: Not only did the Dareus injury hurt the Bills in dramatic fashion, but so did a early exit for top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had really come into his own and played at a high level of the last month or so. Buffalo has an opportunity to field one of the best cornerback tandems in football next season in Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin; in Oakland, however, they were left with the aforementioned Graham and Ron Brooks, who was picked on in Gilmore's absence and gave up several marginal gains on underneath throws. Gilmore has been beat up early and often in his three-year NFL career; his durability should be a talking point this offseason.
To buy tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.