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Bills Report Card: Cracks Showing in Foundation

Quarterback, tight end and offensive line can't keep up with lesson plan in loss at home to New England Patriots.

The defense did its job, though Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott might dispute that, but the offense did not in the Bills' 14-10 loss to the New England Patriots Monday night.

Let's get to the grades from a game in which many of the Bills' long-term weaknesses were exposed again.

Quarterback: D

Rarely did Josh Allen make bad decisions with the football in his hands last year. Even rarer were poor throws. The same can't be said this season.

Allen couldn't be blamed for the errant tosses on Monday night because of the windy conditions featuring gusts up to 50 miles per hour. But his decisions were sometimes suspect, none more so than in the fourth quarter when he took a sack that essentially took them out of field-goal range, then rushed a careless throw on the next play when he mistakenly thought the Patriots had jumped offside.

On his final attempt of the evening, he didn't wait long enough for corner Myles Bryant to commit to the inside receiver before throwing toward Gabriel Davis on the outside, allowing Bryant to peel off his man and break it up on fourth down.

If it seems like we're nitpicking here, that's because we are. But that's what Allen signed on for when he accepted a $258 million contract extension in August.

Franchise quarterbacks are not supposed to do things like that, wind or no wind, pressure or no pressure.

Running back: C-

Our stance all season has been that the Bills' inability to establish a consistent running game has been the fault of the offensive line and the play calls and the schemes.

The running backs all have had more good moments than bad.

But the fumbles, man.

Matt Breida lost another one last night on a straight handoff, and it set the Patriots up for their only touchdown drive of the game.

Tight end: F

Worst game Dawson Knox has played in a long, long time. Maybe ever.

Two drops, a bad false-start penalty in the red zone and a weak effort on a 50-50 ball in which he clearly was interfered with but not given the call, perhaps on general principle.

This, after we here at Bills Central had him all but fitted for a bust in Canton the other day.

Bad job by him. Bad job by us.

Wide receiver: C

This is kind of a default grade because of the conditions and how tough the wind made it to catch even perfect passes.

Anyway, Stefon Diggs caught a game-high four passes for 51 yards but dropped Allen's finest throw, a bomb that hit him right in the hands in the end zone.

Emmanuel Sanders added three catches and Gabriel Davis two.

Offensive line: D

Although the group wasn't dominated, it clearly didn't win enough battles and was the reason Allen had to drop his eyes on certain pressures.

The group did clear the way for Devin Singletary to average 3.6 yards on a team-high 10 carrries. But as McDermott so often says, that's not good enough.

Maybe when left guard Jon Feliciano comes off the injured reserve list, putting them back at full strength, it will be a different story.

But his replacement, Ike Boettger, graded out as the fifth best Bill in the game at 74.4, according to Pro Football Focus.

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Defensive line: C-

There were some breakdowns, for sure, But this group didn't play nearly as bad as the Patriots' final rushing stats (222 yards on 46 attempts) made it seem.

Damien Harris broke off 64 of those yards on one play.

And when a team runs the ball more than 40 times, a defensive line is going to wear down no matter how many quality players are in it.

Also, Harrison Phillips had seven tackles, an extremely healthy number for an interior lineman in the Bills' system.

Star Lotulelei returned after a long COVID absence and played 27 snaps but did not make the stat sheet. 

Linebacker: C-

Not the best game for this group, which had to use Tyrel Dodson in place of A.J. Klein. Klein was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list right before the game.

Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds did finish with six tackles apiece, but not enough in a game like that.

After it became obvious the Patriots weren't going to be throwing the ball, maybe the Bills should have thrown an extra defensive lineman out there instead.

Secondary: B

Not a good look for Micah Hyde during the game when he was caught out of position on New England's touchdown run, and an even worse look for him after when he snapped at a reporter at the end of a tense press conference.

But Jordan Poyer did contribute a team-high eight tackles.

The Patriots attempted just three passes all night.

Special teams: B

Had Siran Neal not recovered a muffed punt, the Bills wouldn't have scored any touchdowns in this game.

Tyler Bass cannot be blamed for missing a 33-yard field-goal attempt into the wind, which was treacherous throughout.

Also funny (in a sad sort of way) how McDermott deactivated both of his returners, Isaiah McKenzie and Marquez Stevenson, in favor of more sure-handed veterans Hyde on punts and Breida on kickoffs for the first time this season.

"For the same reason that [New England] turned it over on their punt-return team, I wasn't willing to do that," McDermott confessed. "So I wanted to put a guy back there that I trusted that was going to make good decisions with the ball."

Ouch.

Coaching: F

The Bills keep self-destructing in the red zone on offense, and Monday night was no different.

Even though it was a must-win game, the Allen-led Bills seemed to approach it with a puzzling nonchalance that reflects poorly on offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was more or less called out by McDermott after the game.

McDermott was asked if he thought Daboll was doing a good-enough job.

"I didn't think honestly we took advantage of opportunities tonight," he replied. "I really didn't. I mean the ball's at the 4-yard line. You know, we're 1-for-4 in the red zone. So we've got to figure that part of it out."

Ouch squared.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.