A devastating loss doesn’t knock Buffalo off its lofty perch
For a brief moment, it appeared that the Buffalo Bills were going to escape Glendale with a 30-26 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. With 34 seconds remaining, it looked like all of Josh Allen’s struggles would be erased thanks to a beautiful 21-yard touchdown throw to Stefon Diggs. All that needed to happen was for Buffalo to keep Arizona from marching 75 yards in those 34 seconds.
We all know what happened next. The Cardinals gained 32 yards on three plays, setting up a first down from Buffalo’s 43-yard line. With just 11 seconds remaining, quarterback Kyler Murray took the snap, evaded Mario Addison, and lofted an impossible pass three yards deep into the end zone. DeAndre Hopkins was the only receiver in the area, with Tre’Davious White and Micah Hyde all over him, and Jordan Poyer screaming in from the middle of the field.
The ball fell right into Hopkins’s outstretched hands, and Cardinals had secured a miraculous 32-30 victory. The Bills were devastated, the Cardinals were elated, and the teams’ respective fan bases wallowed in those same emotions. In the Week 11 NFL power rankings, the common thread is, of course, a discussion of the Hail Mary, but another thread remains: the Bills are still ranked among the league’s elite.
We start with CBS Sports, where Pete Prisco has Buffalo ranked No. 8 this week. That’s down three spots from their place last week. It’s also just one spot ahead of the Miami Dolphins, who now trail the Bills by just a game in a suddenly tight AFC East divisional race. Prisco wrote that the result on Sunday “was a tough way to lose at Arizona.” Yes it was, Pete…yes it was.
Marcel Louis-Jacques has Buffalo ranked No. 7 in the ESPN power rankings this week. In perhaps the understatement of the year, Louis-Jacques writes that the one thing Buffalo would like to have back from the 2020 season is the DeAndre Hopkins Hail Mary reception from this past Sunday. That’s a fairly obvious one, as the year has gone pretty smoothly for Buffalo, and had the play in question gone as most Hail Mary passes do—with an incomplete pass—then the Bills would be 8-2 and in near-total control of their fate in the division. Instead, we’re left to discuss an All-World wideout making an All-World play, all while tightening the divisional race even further.
Matt Williamson at Pro Football Network has the Bills ranked No. 9 this week, which is right in the second tier of top teams in the league. Williamson writes that the Bills-Cardinals matchup was an outstanding football game, and he rightly notes that the Bills’ run game and run defense are both problems right now. At 7-3, though, he also writes that the Bills are a “strong team” that is playing “quite well.”
Justin Leger at NBC Sports has the Bills ranked No. 4, which is as highly as anyone has Buffalo ranked this week. Leger notes that the Cardinals “stunned” Buffalo by securing the last-second victory, and he also writes that the 6-3 Dolphins are a little too close for comfort. He finishes with a minor mistake, writing that the Bills have a game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11, but that game actually occurs in Week 12 with Buffalo on a bye this week.
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News was a bit stronger in his phrasing regarding the Bills’ loss this week. He ranked Buffalo No. 6, saying that the Bills “thought they were about to escape Arizona with another big win against a tough NFC West foe, only to see their second-half failure capped by a devastating Hail Mary.” That “second-half failure” bit is accurate, as Buffalo squandered a 23-9 lead after playing yet another bad third quarter. Iyer writes that the Bills’ defensive unit is a much larger problem than the offense.
Dan Hanzus at NFL.com has the Bills ranked No. 7 this week. He notes that the Bills were poised to capture their “biggest win of the season,” an end that could be achieved by keeping Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins from reaching the end zone over a 34-second timeframe. He called the loss “the cruelest finish of the season,” adding that it’s the kind of “stomach-punch loss that creates a fork in the road for the Bills: Where do they go from here?” That last part is interesting, as it can certainly lead to some negativity if the team doesn’t quickly put this loss behind them. Having a week off could help in that department.
While we’re on the topic of the possibility of a lingering effect from this loss, Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk has the Bills ranked No. 8 this week. He feels similarly to Hanzus in that this game is such a difficult loss that it could beget more losing. He writes that the Bills “need to set this one aside quickly, or one loss will become two.”