The last two weeks have been a jarring reminder of the fleeting nature of success in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills.
After starting 4-0 with an MVP-like quarterback leading the way, the Bills have lost two straight with a similar theme appearing in each defeat: Buffalo just can't keep up offensively. The reliance on Josh Allen that proved fruitful in the season's first month has become a hurdle, best demonstrated in the Bills' Monday loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in which Allen completed 14 of 27 passes for 122 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on a rainy night in Buffalo.
"We weren't good enough," Allen said, via the team's official site. "I was not good enough. I got to do a better job. It's plain and simple. I didn't play very good tonight. I know that, understand that. This team can't afford to have me play poorly. Early on, just not being as accurate with the ball as I should have been, making the right reads, making the right throws. We turned it on a little too late there, obviously."
In a game against a team such as Kansas City, your best defense is often your offense, and Buffalo's was simply not up to par. With rain steadily falling, Andy Reid's Chiefs shrunk their already-shorter offense (more on that here) with a focus on maintaining control of the ball, dominating the time-of-possession battle, 37:45-22:15. A second-half sequence in what was a one-score game perfectly captured the story of the contest.
Following a missed chance to steal three points at the end of the first half, Buffalo's defense stiffened to open the third quarter, forcing a Kansas City punt and giving the Bills a great chance to either tie the 13-10 game or take the lead. The Allen-led offense promptly earned 17 yards before punting it back to the Chiefs.
On the final offensive play that preceded the punt, Allen dropped to throw, spotted Cole Beasley running a drag from left to right with a step or two on his man, and threw wide of his intended target, glancing off Beasley's outstretched hand. The quarterback's errant throw toward Beasley ended the possession, and Kansas City followed with a 13-play, 87-yard touchdown drive that served as a gut punch to the Bills' hopes of a prime-time win.
"You know, 16 and 17 points is not going to cut it in this league," Allen said. "It didn't matter who we played tonight. If that's how we play, we're going to struggle to win games. It is what it is right now. We'll learn from this. I'm obviously super frustrated with myself and how I performed tonight. I can't do that to this team. So, I've got to be better and I will be better."
Monday night was Allen's second straight contest with a sub-80 passer rating and Buffalo's second consecutive loss on a prime-time stage to a team that found itself in the AFC Championship Game last season. It's a tough two-week stretch, no doubt, especially considering the scheduling hurdles that put those games on a Tuesday and a Monday instead of the originally scheduled Sunday and Thursday.
But schedule changes aren't plaguing these Bills -- it's their sudden offensive ineffectiveness. They rediscovered some of what helped them sprint to a 4-0 start, throwing together a six-play, 62-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game, but it was too late to save Monday night.
As defensive end Jerry Hughes put it, instead of attacking in the last two weeks, it's the Bills who have been "punched in the face."
"We want to be playing our best football in late November, December and into January. That's the plan. As long as we can continue to learn from the mistakes that we make and don't make the same mistakes twice after back-to-back losses then we'll be OK. It's a process. We want to build off this and get better."