ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The lingering disappointment following an AFC wild-card playoff collapse at Houston won’t deter Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott from having confidence in his team’s young foundation.
That doesn’t mean the Bills don’t have work to do.
Stressing a desire to keep the developing core of the team intact, and placing faith in the overall growth displayed by second-year quarterback Josh Allen, McDermott said this is no time to rest on the modest accomplishments of Buffalo’s first 10-win season in 20 years and its second playoff appearance in three seasons.
“Now it’s about where we go from here, and I’m excited about what’s ahead of us,” McDermott said during an end-of-season news conference Tuesday, three days after Buffalo squandered a 16-0 second-half lead in a 22-19 overtime loss to the Texans.
“As much as we can carry over the foundation that we’ve built is important to our future success, there’s also an understanding of every year being a new year,” he added. “So that’s where the urgency has to come in. We can’t sit back … and say, ‘Hey, this is where we are. We’re good.’”
There’s not much good the Bills can feel about themselves following a loss in which their defense allowed the Texans to score 22 points on four of their final six drives, and Buffalo failed to score 20 points for the 10th time this season.
General manager Brandon Beane isn’t planning to stand pat. Following McDermott to the podium, Beane said he’s committed to adding talent by spending a portion of the nearly $90 million in salary-cap space Buffalo is projected to have available once the free-agency period opens in mid-March.
Though Beane doesn’t expect the Bills to be as busy as they were last offseason, when they signed 20 free agents, he does intend to address various needs that became apparent throughout this year.
The Bills had difficulty generating turnovers and their defensive front was suspect at times despite allowing the third fewest yards in the NFL this season. Buffalo’s offense still lacks a deep receiving threat and could use a running back to complement Devin Singletary after finishing 24th in the NFL in yards gained.
“You lose the first round of the playoffs, that doesn’t say to me that the Bills are one player away from being exactly where they need to be,” Beane said.
The Bills are more advanced from the team that stumbled through a 17-year playoff drought before McDermott and Beane arrived in 2017.
And yet, this is still a team that has lost six consecutive playoff games, dating to December 1995; hasn’t had a coach last four full years since Hall of Famer Marv Levy retired following the 1997 season; and has lacked a franchise quarterback since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after ‘96.
It’s no surprise, then, that much of the end-of-season session focused on Allen, whose season-long inconsistencies were on display in his playoff debut.
Allen followed a strong first half against the Texans by melting down over the final two quarters and overtime with a series of miscues. He lost one fumble and nearly another with an ill-timed lateral. He appeared to panic in being called for an intentional grounding penalty while trying to avoid a sack in the final two minutes on third-and-13 from Houston’s 28. On the following play, he was sacked for a 19-yard loss.
McDermortt and Beane defended Allen by saying he has the character and resolve to learn from his mistakes.
“I think it all comes back to, for Josh, trying to do too much. That’s been something we’ve talked about, something he has to continue to handle as he moves forward and as he continues to grow,” McDermott said.
“And I’m confident he’ll do that,” he added. “I think that’s the next step for Josh, is that awareness, that maturity, however you want to phrase it. It’s the understanding that I don’t have to do it all myself.”
Beane said he’d rather see Allen make mistakes when trying to force plays than be timid.
“I don’t think there’s a hump Josh can’t get over,” Beane said. “I have no doubt he’ll learn from it. I’m as convinced today as ever that Josh can be a better version of himself next year.”
NOTES: The Bills signed P/PK Kaare Vedvik to a reserve/future contract. From Norway, Vedvik is on his fourth team after Baltimore traded him to Minnesota in August. He was then cut by the Vikings and signed by the New York Jets. Vedvik was then cut by the Jets after missing a field-goal attempt and a point-after in a season-opening 17-16 loss to Buffalo. … McDermott doesn’t anticipate making changes to his staff. … DE Jerry Hughes announced on social media that he played with torn ligaments in his wrist. The injury was never noted on the Bills’ injury report this season. “He was on the injury report, but not in relation to the wrist,” McDermott said, noting several occasions in which Hughes was listed as having a rest day and another time for a groin injury.
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