2020 has been all over the place and, at times, the Buffalo Bills have done the same. But while the year that’s eventually coming to a close in the next couple of weeks has been unpredictable, observers of the Bills know exactly where Buffalo’s football team has struggled.
In somewhat of a role-reversal, the Bills offense has led the way for the team this season, carrying the Bills to a 7-3 start and first-place standing in the AFC East going into Week 12. Still, obstacles remain.
Both the Bills offense and defense has had their share of struggles in the second half of games, and more specifically, the third quarter.
Though often the Bills have built a good lead early, at halftime their opponents make adjustments which Buffalo has struggled to counter adjust to. This allows those teams to score their way back into games and threaten victory or, in some cases, win.
In terms of how much Buffalo has struggled in the third and fourth frames of games, it comes down to simple numbers.
The Bills are being outscored 76-30 in the third quarter over their first 10 games of this season. Buffalo’s loss to the Cardinals saw the Bills outscored 17-7 in that stanza. But that isn’t just a 2020 problem like most things in life seem to be… For the Bills, it dates back to 2019, too.
Since the start of last season, the Bills have given up 142 points (6th most) in the third quarter, while that 76 in 2020 leads the NFL. This season in the fourth quarter they’ve scored the most points (93) but they’ve also given up the fourth-most points (91.) It’s a tough formula to maintain, and a volatile one for success.
Head coach Sean McDermott is taking note and appears ready to tackle the third-quarter issue head-on.
“I am aware of it. I think that’s a study for the off week coming up here in the bye week to really dive down and into that and look into it and make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure that gets better,” McDermott said prior to the bye while addressing the media.
With the 13th-most difficult remaining schedule, making adjustments to improve third-quarter performance will be important to the team’s success. From an on-field perspective, Allen said last week he knows a response is needed to how opponents are adjusting as well.
“Late, third quarter, early fourth quarter, we got to be better and find ways to move the ball,” Allen said via video conference. “If I knew I think it’d be better, it’s just game-plan adjustments the defenses are making and we have to find ways to figure it out faster… So I can have a better sense of what to do and how to get into our answers.”
In the NFL a top defense alone no longer offers the guarantees it once did, and the Bills have embraced a modern offense-heavy approach of outscoring opponents early and often, hoping to put the game out of reach.
But even if that’s the way the Bills want to continue approaching games from the onset, changes have to be made in the second half prior to the postseason. Not only do the Bills still need to string together some more wins just to get there, in the playoffs, tougher opponents will expose this.
Look no further than the Bills’ last trip to the playoffs in January. After shutting out the Texans in the first half, Buffalo surrendered 22 points in the second half and in overtime to cut their playoff dreams short in a hurry.