ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Josh Allen walked around the field with his hands on his head almost in disbelief. While the Minnesota Vikings celebrated their 33-30 comeback victory in overtime, Allen threw his helmet to the ground -- not the first time the quarterback had done that in frustration on Sunday.
The roller-coaster loss resulted from what has emerged as a trend for the Bills since the team's bye in Week 7: poor second-half play. The offense has not scored a touchdown in the final two quarters or overtime since the Bills rallied to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6.
While it's not time for panic mode yet, the Bills have gone 1-2 in their three games since the bye. They've lost the lead of the conference and dropped to third in the division and seen games they were in control of become closer than they should be. Buffalo is now 2-3 in one-score games on the season.
“I think it's worth a deeper dive again this week,” coach Sean McDermott said on the Bills’ second-half issues. “We look at it and study it and we haven't scored touchdowns in the second half, so we've gotta go back and look at what's been different the second half and what's been different compared to the first half.”
The Bills have lost back-to-back games in which they had double-digit leads for the first time since 2010. They aren’t playing disciplined, with 14 of their 16 penalties in the last three games coming in the second half or overtime.
“It's just executing when the moments and the stakes are the highest,” center Mitch Morse said. “… We have a lot to learn and a lot to improve on, which is a double-edged sword.”
Turnovers by Allen have played a role. The quarterback has fumbled eight times, losing three, and thrown 10 interceptions, which leads the NFL. Six of those have come since the team’s bye in Week 7 (two in each game), and five were thrown in the second half or overtime.
“It comes down to my shoulders and my shoulders only,” Allen said. “Making the right decisions, making the right throws, putting our best foot forward in practice. This one's gonna suck watching. Only way is forward. We gotta find a way to put this behind and not let it affect our next one.”
While Allen’s three turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime played a significant role in the Bills’ latest loss, first-year offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey’s decisions or reluctance to run the ball in the second half, despite McDermott saying the team needs to be less one-dimensional, has left time on the clock for opponents. The offense has carried the ball 33 times (just 21 times from offensive skill players) in the second half of the past three games (ranks 20th), despite having halftime leads in each game.
Offense in the red zone has also been a problem. The team’s four red zone drives in the second half or overtime of the past three games have not resulted in touchdowns. Allen has thrown red zone interceptions the past two games (three total). He had thrown two in his career prior to Week 8.
“It seemed like when we've got to get in the groove, it's always crunch time,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. “And we always manage to kind of figure it out and make a way, but it'll save us if we don't take that lull, don't take that little gasp of air. Von [Miller] always says don't blink, and I feel like we might be blinking a little bit.”
The defense has also fallen short, especially in the running game. The Vikings' comeback from 17 points down started earlier with an 81-yard touchdown run from running back Dalvin Cook, the longest scrimmage touchdown the Bills have allowed under McDermott (since 2017).
While the Bills have been banged up -- safety Jordan Poyer has missed the past two games, linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds have each spent time with injuries and cornerback Tre’Davious White has been a healthy scratch the past two games -- that doesn’t explain away all of the issues.
Since Week 8, the Bills' defense is allowing 120.3 rushing yards per game in second halves/overtime, which ranks 31st. The defense is also allowing 6.2 yards per play during that span (24th).
“We just gotta finish,” defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said. “I mean, we talked about it all week and we talked about it during the game. We gotta finish. We gotta be able to come out here and play even better than we did in the first half. And we just didn't do that today.”
The Bills will have to figure it out quickly. The Cleveland Browns and running back Nick Chubb (third in the NFL with 904 rushing yards) are coming to town next.
“It's almost a mental test,” tight end Dawson Knox said. “You just gotta be locked in the whole time. You can't ever act like the game's put away. So, you can't ever just hang your hat and say, 'I'm done.' You just gotta always be locked in the game, ready to go.”