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Opinion: If Buffalo Bills are “good,” it’s time to bounce back following adversity

Bills took it on the chin. A good team pays it forward next week.

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The debate over whether the 2019 Buffalo Bills are “good” or not endures. I believe the needle moved in the right direction on Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Bills’ defense held the high-powered New England Patriots to 16 points (seven of which came off a blocked punt). Sean McDermott has proven that he consistently has a defensive scheme that befuddles late-stage Tom Brady. Brian Daboll added to his CV that he can put his offense in position to succeed; if only the deep throws to Zay Jones were on target or T.J. Yeldon could’ve held on to the trick-play pass from John Brown.

Positives in the loss

The built-in measuring stick to determine the skill of any AFC East team is comparing how they match up with the Patriots. The Bills held their own on Sunday, losing by fewer than seven and holding Brady to one of the most statistically poor performances of his career.

If you had any concerns about the Bills’ defense on Sunday, they’ve disappeared as fully as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. Even without their starting nickel CB, Taron Johnson, or almost-starting DT Harrison Phillips, the defense proved to be an elite unit against what some believe to be the best offense in the NFL. Brady’s two substantial pass plays consisted of a 26-yard lob to James White despite Matt Milano being in perfect coverage and a 31-yard shallow cross where the refs decided that offensive pass interference was more of an abstract concept rather than an actual rule. Outside of those plays, the Bills suffocated the Pats. They grabbed the first interception of Brady’s season and forced nine punts on 12 possessions (not counting the final three plays where the Pats kneeled out the clock).

The Bills’ offense remained uncategorizable. Brian Daboll called plays that put his players in positions to succeed. In return, his players left yards and points on the field. The touchdown drive to open the second half was a thing of beauty that caught the Pats flat-footed. The trick-play throw from Brown to Yeldon was everything the Bills needed at that point in the game. Zay beat his man on multiple throws but the ball wasn’t where it needed to be. The only hope is that with time some consistency will come between Josh Allen, his line, and his receivers. To be continued...

Only one outcome moves the needle towards “good” next week

Good teams bounce back when they take it on the chin. The Bills hung in tough on Sunday but couldn’t complete the comeback. Now they need to buck up and move forward.

Sean McDermott preaches culture to deafening volumes. That culture must manifest resilience to be worth anything. The Bills’ players were remarkably on-message in the locker room post game about this loss not defining them. That’s good. When a loss festers and begins to change a team’s internal image of itself, bad things can follow.

The Bills go on the road to play the very beatable 2-2 Tennessee Titans. If the Bills are the “good” team that has a clear path to the playoffs, it starts with getting another important AFC road win against a team that has wildcard dreams of its own.

Even if top-tier backup Matt Barkley is under center, failing to rise to the occasion next week will drop the Bills to 3-2 heading into the bye and the positive stock for this team will begin to take on water. A “good” team beats the teams they should, even on the road. And the Bills can make another significant deposit in the “good” account of fans’ minds. Or they can do the exact opposite.