ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)Forget the effects of jet lag for a moment. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills have a week to rest up after a sluggish, sleep-deprived offensive performance in London.
It’s the mounting number of injuries further depleting Buffalo’s defense that’s become a primary concern in having the potential of derailing the team’s Super Bowl aspirations.
Linebacker Matt Milano, the backbone of the defense, and starting defensive tackle DaQuan Jones are sidelined indefinitely with both requiring surgery after being injured in the first half of a 25-20 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday. Milano hurt his lower right leg and Jones sustained a pectoral injury.
If that’s not enough, the Bills were playing their first game minus Tre’Davious White, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn right Achilles tendon.
Buffalo (3-2) certainly has depth on defense. But no team has a roster that can easily withstand the loss of three key contributors without experiencing a drop-off.
It might not be as much of a concern on Sunday night, when the New York Giants (1-4) arrive with injury issues of their own.
A bigger worry is how Buffalo’s defense holds up during a three-game gauntlet sandwiched around its bye week in early December, and featuring road games at Philadelphia and Kansas City and capped by a home game against Dallas.
The one and only bright spot was the Bills welcoming back Von Miller, who was eased back in by playing 20 snaps in the edge rusher’s first outing since tearing a right knee ligament in late November.
“You just keep playing,” said Miller, referring to Buffalo’s injured players. “It’s going to (stink) losing those guys, but we just got to keep taking it one step at a time.”
Depleted and fatigued as the defenders were in a game Jacksonville had 82 offensive snaps (the most by a Bills opponent in a game ending in regulation in 10 seasons), Buffalo’s defense wasn’t the main problem.
The burden of blame falls on an offense that looked like it couldn’t get through British customs upon arrival.
The Bills had 10 first downs on their first eight possessions and punted six times – one fewer than they had combined for in their first four games – and yet were only trailing 11-7 when the Jaguars finally overwhelmed the defense with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Receiver Stefon Diggs said he felt a lack of urgency, while dismissing jet lag as an excuse.
And yet, coach Sean McDermott, questioned whether the team’s decision to arrive in London on Friday morning – as opposed to leaving earlier in the week – played a factor.
While many teams playing in London have followed a similar routine, this outing was different. The Bills faced an opponent that was already acclimated to the time difference in becoming the NFL’s first to play consecutive games overseas, following a win over Atlanta at London’s Wembley Stadium.
“We need to evaluate everything, because I didn’t feel like our energy was good enough early in the game,” McDermott said. “They had better energy than we did.”
Generating pressure. A.J. Epenesa and Leonard Floyd each had two sacks in a five-sack outing on a defense missing edge rushers Greg Rousseau (foot) and Shaq Lawson (toe), and with Miller on a snap count. Buffalo entered Monday with an NFL-leading 21 sacks.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
A running attack that lacked traction. Buffalo entered the game ranking eighth in yards rushing. The Bills eventually abandoned the run and finished with 29 yards – tied for eighth fewest in franchise history – on 14 carries.
Epenesa. The fourth-year player was a force in an outing he batted down three passes, and his strip-sack of Trevor Lawrence ended a Jaguars drive at the Buffalo 12 in the final minute of the first half.
CB Kaiir Elam. In Elam’s first game after spending the first four weeks as a healthy scratch, the 2022 first-round pick struggled in covering Calvin Ridley. Elam was forced into action with White and fellow starter Christian Benford (shoulder) sidelined, and eventually replaced by practice squad call-up Ja’Marcus Ingram.
Aside from Milano and Jones, DE Floyd was twice treated for injuries on the sideline. TE Dalton Kincaid returned after being evaluated for a concussion, with McDermott saying the rookie has since been placed in the concussion protocol. CB Taron Johnson returned after hurting his knee.
10 – Number of third downs the Jaguars converted on 18 attempts. That’s the most Buffalo has allowed since Green Bay went 11 of 19 in a 22-0 win on Sept. 30, 2018.
Sleep. Heal. Regroup. Former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and the Giants travel to play Buffalo on Sunday night.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl