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NASHVILLE — Sometimes in the NFL, one team just doesn’t match up well against another team, and even if there’s a talent disparity on the rosters, every game you play is going to be tough.
That has certainly been the case in these Bills vs. Titans games the last four years.
Buffalo has now lost two games in a row to Tennessee, the latest an absolutely sickening 34-31 decision when Josh Allen slipped on a quarterback sneak at the 3-yard-line on fourth down and didn’t make the first down.
It was a gutsy decision by Sean McDermott to go for the win and not kick the tying field goal, and it didn’t pay off.
— NFL (@NFL) October 19, 2021
It looked like Allen had rushed for a first down on the previous play, but the officials – part of a dubious night for them – marked him short which necessitated the gamble on fourth down.
Bad loss. A really bad loss to a Tennessee team that was terrible banged up on defense.
But it goes with all these Titans games. The Bills struggle every time, and now they’re 2-2 in the last four years.
Here are three instant reactions I have on this game:
1. That was an awful night for the Bills defense
Everyone who pays even one iota of attention to the NFL knew that Derrick Henry represented the best chance for the Titans to stay in the game, and perhaps even win it.
Sure enough, Henry ripped off a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave Tennessee a 7-6 lead in a game that, to the point, the Bills had been dominating. That single explosive play set the tone for the rest of the night because from that moment on, this was a slugfest with both teams throwing haymakers.
Henry’s previous career high in three games against the Bills had been 78 yards and he nearly matched it on that run. He later scored on a three-yard run where he just ran over defenders on his way to the end zone. He finished with 143 yards and three touchdowns.
But what killed the Bills just as much was Ryan Tannehill repeatedly completing big passes in the second half to A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. Time after time the Bills couldn’t cover those two and they finished with a combined 150 yards receiving. And it wasn’t just Levi Wallace, it was the entire secondary.
Of course, there was no pass rush so that didn’t help. Even a mediocrity like Ryan Tannehill can succeed in that situation.
— NFL (@NFL) October 19, 2021
2. Despite 31 points, a weird night for the offense
There were moments when it seemed like the Bills were really clicking, but there were fewer of those in this game than at any point since the Pittsburgh loss.
And one of the biggest reasons was the play of the offensive line, which played its worst game since, you guessed it, that Steelers game. The Titans were able to harass Allen on numerous dropbacks, sacked him three times, and in the end, the Bills weren’t able to punch it in to win the game.
Allen finished 35 of 47 for 353 yards and three TDs, but he also threw an interception when his protection broke down and he was hit as he released the ball, and that gave the Titans a walk-in touchdown two plays later.
As for the running game, it was awful all night. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss gave the Bills nothing, again due in large part to the line not moving the Titans talented front. Even Allen did very little damage when he tucked it and ran.
The Bills finished with 417 yards and 28 first downs, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
3. Penalties are going to be a big emphasis after bye
The Bills killed themselves almost all night with penalties. They lost a touchdown in the first half thanks to a holding call on Emmanuel Sanders, and then lost a kickoff return touchdown by Isaiah McKenzie with three minutes to play on a holding penalty against Andre Smith.
The Bills were their own worst enemy much of the night, just as they were last week in Kansas City. Last week, it didn’t really matter. In this game, it felt like every flag was a huge one.
There were eight penalties in all for 60 yards after 10 last week for 101. Just a poor job on the fundamentals.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills' fourth-down gamble doesn't pay off vs. Tennessee Titans