“We have to play better.”
That’s the phrase, among others, that keeps getting mentioned at post-game press conferences that result in a loss. There’s a lot of things for which that particular phrase can be used. Marriage. Work. Sports. Parenting. Endless possibilities.
At what point does the phrase become hollow?
At what point do we say, “I don’t believe you?”
This team does not necessarily play to the level of their competition, they dominate the bad teams, but they fail to elevate their game when it’s necessary against the elite teams.
To use an analogy, they’re the kids that participated in individual sports such as wrestling or tennis that beat the snot out of kids who simply weren’t good, but when it came to competing against someone with talent, that kid shrunk and had excuses at the end when they lost.
This is what this Buffalo Bills team feels like. We’re going to go beat up on bad teams but fail to step up when the moment calls for it. Expectations can breed disappointment; it has in this case. There’s still time to turn this around, but talented teams find ways to win. They overcome obstacles. And in writing this with a focus on injuries, they have a relatively healthy team. Guys are banged up but injured reserve is not littered with a who’s who of All-Pro and Pro Bowl players leading to “What if?” for a lost season.
That’s enough of the soapbox venting.
Below are the injuries coming out of Monday’s 14-10 loss to the New England Patriots.
OL Daryl Williams (Right Elbow)
Williams briefly exited the game following a right elbow injury with 4:09 left in the first quarter. This was the result of a broken play where Williams attempted to maintain his block and once Josh Allen ran past him, Patriots defenders swarmed to Allen.
As Williams was turning to his left, his right elbow was struck by a Patriots defender’s shoulder pads, hitting up underneath the elbow along the medial condyle. This is where hitting your funny bone occurs or striking your ulnar nerve.
Williams was able to return shortly, missing only 3 plays while Cody Ford took his place. He may hurt from getting hit, but this appears to be more of a pain issue than actual injury.
OT Dion Dawkins (Right Foot/Ankle)
Dawkins briefly hobbled around following a play with 3:44 left in the first quarter when it appeared he either got his right ankle tweaked or had his foot stepped on while in between numerous bodies.
He walked off the injury and did not miss any plays, but like the Williams injury, appears to be more pain than actual injury. Considering how cold it was Monday, it’s surprising that Dawkins could even feel his feet.
LB Tyrel Dodson (Undisclosed)
With 1:50 left in the 4th quarter, an injury timeout was called for Tyrel Dodson following a 2 and 6 running play by Rhamondre Stevenson up the middle for two yards.
Dodson disappeared into a pile of bodies and it’s not clear what was injured based on broadcast view. In fact, it’s not known that he had an injury unless you listened to the broadcast and looked at the play-by-play breakdown later.
This did cause a 20-second run-off due to the injury timeout which didn’t help the clock management strategy during Monday’s game.
DT Star Lotulelei (Illness)
Lotulelei ended up playing in 53 percent of snaps Monday which equates to 27 plays. I had speculated that he would play under 30 percent due to coming off of COVID, very happy to be wrong.
It’s not clear if he was on a pitch count that went out of the window or they had free reign to play him; his playing time was in line with past games this season.
OL Cody Ford (Right Bicep)
Ford briefly appeared in the game for injured guard Darryl Williams, sporting his prior elbow brace along with kinesio tape over the bicep. He only played in 6 plays, 3 offensive, and 3 special teams, so it’s hard to say how the bicep strain was affecting him, but hopefully, his time on the bench allows him to further heal.
OL Jon Feliciano (Left Calf)
Feliciano was a surprise due to not being activated from injured reserve prior to Monday’s game. The team had up until 4 pm to activate him, but for whatever reason, they did not feel he was ready.
Either he needs more time to get up to speed or the team was concerned about the cold weather potentially reaggravating the injury, keeping him out an additional week. I anticipate that he will be activated for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. The offensive line certainly needs a spark.
LB AJ Klein was placed on the COVID/Reserve list prior to kickoff and his vaccination status is unknown at this time.
OT Tommy Doyle has been activated from the COVID/Reserve list and the team has waived OT Bobby Hart.
Ideally, the Bills can string together some wins down the stretch and at least make the playoffs. But with how teams have game-planned against them, that may be hard to execute. This team needs to find a spark and play desperate because this is what the situation is, desperate. The season isn’t over, but it’s quickly dwindling.
There are 5 games left, 3 of the games are winnable in the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, and Carolina Panthers. The Bills must step up and win against the New England Patriots again or defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. Otherwise, January will be very quiet in Western New York.
Top Photo Credit: (AP/ Photo Jeffrey T. Barnes)