Bills lose to red-hot Ravens

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Hosting the red-hot Baltimore Ravens, the Buffalo Bills’ comeback attempt felt a touchdown short in a 24-17 loss to the Ravens Sunday afternoon at New Era Field.

It was the ninth straight win for Baltimore, who clinched an AFC playoff spot with the road victory.

Buffalo had an opportunity to reach 10 wins in a season for the first time since 1999, while also cementing a second AFC playoff spot in three seasons.

A road date next Sunday night at Pittsburgh looms for the Bills. Here are five things we learned from today’s game:

Buffalo is in the upper echelon of the NFL

During their nine-game winning streak, the Ravens have blown out last year’s Super Bowl teams – the Patriots and Rams – and beat an excellent 49ers team at the buzzer last weekend.

Few teams have hung with the Ravens for four quarters over the last two months, and Buffalo was in position to score a tying touchdown in the final minute.

Marcus Peters broke up a Josh Allen pass to John Brown on a fourth-down throw with just over a minute to play to wrap up the Baltimore win.

Baltimore had to work for this one, and in contrast to previous wins where the offense gained the spotlight, it took a supreme defensive effort to knock off the Bills.

Although it was Buffalo’s fourth loss of the season, its stock should not take a hit at all among NFL pundits.

Jackson can throw it

Other than a couple of nice first-down runs, the Bills held Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in check with just 40 yards on 11 carries. But Jackson’s improvisational skills benefit his ability to throw the ball.

He made excellent decisions, bought time with his legs, and just narrowly missed some deep connections to his tight ends that were  off fingertips. The fact that his passing ability is rapidly catching up to his ability to run it could make him nearly indefensible in the near future.

Ravens’ pressure the difference

The Baltimore defense had six sacks of Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, forced a fumble, and tacked on numerous other hard hits on the second-year quarterback.

Seldom did the Buffalo line give Allen the requisite time to find open receivers, and perhaps Allen was a bit shell-shocked as he often scrambled out of the pocket before he was in imminent danger of a sack.

The only other game where Allen was this rattled was the 16-10 loss to the Patriots. The Patriots also pressured Allen regularly, and picked him off three times.

In fact, you can point to the opponent’s pass-rushing effectiveness as a common thread in all four of Buffalo’s losses.

The Buffalo defense played well enough to win

If you told Buffalo fans before the game that the Ravens’ powerful running game would amass only 118 rushing yards (more than 80 below their average), and pick up only 3.6 yards per carry (nearly 2 yards below their season average), you would have some ecstatic fans.

Two of Baltimore’s touchdowns came with short fields – one after the Bills’ lone turnover, and the other after a poor punt.

Baltimore entered the game as the NFL’s highest scoring team, and second in total yards. Buffalo held the Ravens well below both numbers, but didn’t get the complimentary play – today – from the offense.

Buffalo punting a glaring weakness

As mentioned earlier, Buffalo punter Corey Bojorquez’s poor punt in the second half led to Baltimore’s third and deciding touchdown.

Bojorquez has been near the bottom of the NFL all season in gross punting average, and after a 67-yard punt that went for a touchback on Buffalo’s first drive, he was extremely inconsistent.

Over his final six punts, he averaged just 38.8 yards, and if not for some fortuitous rolls, would’ve averaged in the low 30s.

Heading into this week, there were only two other full-time NFL punters averaging under 44 yards a punt aside from Bojorquez.

This is an area of weakness for Buffalo, and a position it will need to upgrade in the offseason – if not sooner.

Follow the writer on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

Buffalo Bills have a chance to crack the NFL elite

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Last Thursday, the Buffalo Bills proved to a national television audience that they are a legitimate AFC playoff contender.

This Sunday, we’ll get to see just how legitimate the Bills are when they host the red-hot Baltimore Ravens.

Led by dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have won eight straight games, and during that streak, took down the top two ranked defenses: The New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens.

Buffalo, the third ranked defense in the NFL, will attempt to do what the Patriots and 49ers could not – stop Jackson.

It’s a foregone conclusion that Jackson will eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark, and may well do it in the first quarter of Sunday’s game at New Era Field.

He has 977 rushing yards, and has averaged multiple chunk running plays per game. On the flip side, while the Bills’ defense has typically adjusted to its opponent’s offense, before the adjustments kick in, there is usually a chunk running play or two.

From an outsider’s point of view, this is not a good matchup for the Bills. The Ravens’ strength — running the ball – is the known weakness of the Buffalo defense

While on offense, the Bills’ fifth-ranked rushing offense faces a Ravens defense that is the seventh-best against defending the run.

Too, if it comes down to which team can consistently put points on the board, the Ravens have the NFL’s number one scoring offense, while Buffalo is currently ranked 19th.

Given these potential shortfalls for Buffalo, here are some of the biggest keys to victory:

Contain the Ravens’ rushing offense

This is probably the number one key to Buffalo’s chances of beating the Ravens.

Baltimore averages more that 200 rushing yards per game, a statistic that hasn’t been achieved in a full season in over 40 years.

Everyone knows Jackson is an explosive runner, but running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards are also dangerous.

Make no mistake, no matter what Buffalo does on defense, the Ravens will have their share of big runs. If the Patriots and 49ers could not slow down the Baltimore running game, we can’t expect Buffalo to magically conjure the antidote to that rushing attack.

However, the 49ers, perhaps, laid the blueprint for a successful run defense. In the second half, the 49ers moved more men up near the line of scrimmage, and virtually dared Jackson to beat them with his throwing arm.

If the Bills adjust on defense – like they have in previous games – and make Baltimore more of a passing team, that will be their best hope of slowing the Baltimore offense.

Maximize points

You’re not going to beat the New England Patriots kicking field goals, and the same can be said of the Ravens. When the Bills move the ball into scoring territory, they have to cash in with touchdowns.

Until last week’s trick play in which receiver John Brown threw a TD pass to rookie running back Devin Singletary, the Bills have played it pretty much by the numbers in the red zone. (First-down run, pass, pass, hope for a first down or TD).

Buffalo has reach 20 points in three straight games, which may not seem like much, but it only reached 20 points in four of the first nine games this season.

The Bills’ offense is getting better, and it will need to ratchet it another notch this weekend. Offensive coordinator showed he isn’t afraid to dig deep into the playbook. Let’s hope he maintains that aggressive play-calling this week.

Special teams has to be better

Stephen Hauschka was arguably the offensive MVP in 2017 when the Bills ended their 17-year playoff drought. He has become much less reliable this year, and it’s almost a certainty, now, that he won’t make a long field goal in the clutch.

Meanwhile, the Ravens sport the NFL’s all-time most accurate field goal kicker in Justin Tucker. Tucker was clutch, as usual, nailing a 49-yard winning field goal in a driving rainstorm to give his club a 20-17 win over the Niners.

Every point will matter against the Ravens, and “Hausch Money” needs his A game.

As for the punters, the Ravens rarely punt, so it’s hard to forecast how longtime veteran Sam Koch will perform in Buffalo – especially if conditions turn adverse.

But we do have enough data to predict how Buffalo second-year punter Corey Bojorquez will perform. And that data tells us that we “can’t” predict how Bojorquez will do.

It’s no picnic punting in Buffalo in the late fall; however, Bojorquez is among the bottom two in gross punting average, and net punting average – which is also a reflection of punt return coverage – is also among the bottom two in the NFL.

Koch, who averages about two boots a game, is in the top-10 in gross and net punting.

In the return game, neither club has broken a return for a touchdown, although Buffalo seems to have the advantage there with Pro Bowl returner Andre Roberts.

Roberts had two return TDs last year for the Jets, so wouldn’t it be fitting if he breaks one Sunday against the Ravens?

Allen has to be Allen

Allen, and his counterpart Jackson, are arguably the two most improved quarterbacks in the NFL this year.

Over the past three games, Jackson has had otherworldly stats, but Allen has been as good as any other NFL quarterback not named Jackson.

He has completed 67 percent of his passes, thrown six TDs and added two TD runs against just one turnover.

While not in the same mold as Jackson, Allen is nearly as dynamic an offensive player. He has one of the NFL’s strongest throwing arms, and only Jackson has exceeded his rushing yards from the QB position over the past two seasons.

Unless the Bills find themselves in a big hole, Allen should maintain the consistency he has developed the second half of the season, and not try to one-up his fellow 2018 draft classmate.

Summary: The Bills opened last year with a 47-3 loss to the playoff-bound Ravens. It was about as ugly a game as one could imagine as nothing went right for Buffalo. Fast forward 27 games, and the Ravens are an even better version of the club that hammered the Bills a season ago.

But the Bills are much better, too.

Buffalo was a .500 club the second half of last season, and has was 13 of its last 20 games. That’s a playoff caliber performance, but if the Bills hope to crack the upper echelon of the NFL, they will need to beat one of the league’s elite teams,

Playing the always-fun “if game,” If Buffalo pulls off a victory Sunday, and “if” the Chiefs beat the Patriots Sunday night, Buffalo will be tied for the best record in the AFC.

Bet no one would have predicted that.

Follow the writer on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

Buffalo Bills shine on national stage

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With what was likely the largest viewing audience to see a Buffalo Bills game in years, the Bills proved the stage wasn’t too big beating the Cowboys, 26-15, at AT&T Stadium Thursday afternoon.

It was the third straight double-digit victory for Buffalo (9-3), who clinched a second winning season in three years under head coach Sean McDermott.

The Bills already had a two-game lead in the AFC Wild Card chase, and with four games to play, are in the driver’s seat for a second postseason berth in three years.

The schedule won’t do Buffalo any favors with three straight playoff contenders looming over the next three weeks. What did we learn today from Buffalo? Here are four things:

Yards don’t matter

Dallas led the league in total yards per game coming into today’s game, and likely did nothing to change that status amassing over 450 total yards against the Bills’ third-ranked defense.

But total yards are kind of like shots on goal in soccer. The volume doesn’t matter if you’re not scoring.

Buffalo did a lot more with its possessions, didn’t turn it over, and didn’t leave many points off the board.

Allen took another step forward

Josh Allen may still have the occasional turnover hiccup, but he seems light years removed from the young man who coughed it up multiple times in week one against the Jets, and threw three interceptions against the Patriots in week four before getting knocked out of the game.

Allen made one good decision after another today, and CBS put up a stat in the second half after Allen completed his 11th straight pass.

Over the last seven games, Allen has just one interception, and he has at least two total touchdowns (rushing and passing) in eight straight games.

Standout day for the defensive line

Rookie first-round pick, Ed Oliver, continued his second-half surge with two sacks and one forced fumble. Oliver didn’t register his first sack until the sixth game of the season, but now has sacks in three straight games, and five for the season.

Star Lotulelei.

Okay, full disclosure, I had to look up the spelling of his last name. Not only has he not been mentioned in any piece I have written this year, I’ve rarely heard his name called in a game.

Lotulelei is the perfect example of the Buffalo defensive model. His job isn’t necessarily to make tackles. He fills gaps and occupies extra blockers to free up the linebackers such as Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds.

Today, Lotulelei sniffed out an ill-advised Dak Prescott screen pass recording the rare defensive lineman interception. On the last play of the first half, Lotulelei got a finger on Dallas kicker Brett Maher’s 35-yard field goal attempt forcing it offline as Buffalo maintained a 13-7 lead.

And Trent Murphy had the Bills’ second strip sack knocking the ball loose from Prescott’s hands on a fourth-down play.

Triumphant return for Cole Beasley

Dallas’ loss is Buffalo’s gain.

Beasley spent seven years with the Cowboys before signing a four-year deal with Buffalo in the offseason. Beasley made several pointed remarks toward the Cowboys’ coaching staff and play-calling during the offseason, and he went as far as saying “(the Cowboys) didn’t value the slot position like they do here (in Buffalo).”

Beasley is on pace for 73 catches, 840 yards, and 7 touchdowns this year (totals that would match his best season in Dallas), and today, he was virtually uncoverable.

He finished with a team-high 6 catches for 110 yards, and one touchdown. He is Buffalo’s version of Julian Edelman, and is nice complement to fellow free agent signee John Brown, who is also on pace for a career season.

The Cowboys signed Randall Cobb to replace Beasley – and he’s having a decent season – but the Bills acquired the more productive player.

WHAT’S NEXT? — The Bills try to become the first team to contain quarterback Lamar Jackson when they host the Ravens next Sunday.

The last three weeks, Jackson has led Baltimore to wins by 39, 34, and 36 points. And four weeks ago, the Ravens routed the Patriots by 17.

Something will have to give as Buffalo is one of the best – if not the best – teams in limiting big plays, while Jackson and Ravens are a big-play machine.

Follow the writer on Twitter @Patrick Newell

Norwich boys’ basketball may fly under the radar this season

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NORWICH PURPLE TORNADO

NOTE: About a week ago, I reached out to Norwich varsity boys’ basketball coach Tom Collier, and asked about his team. One thing led to another, and I asked if he would be interested in supplying some information on this year’s team for a preview piece.

I haven’t written an actual game story on Norwich basketball since March of 2016, but still follow all of Norwich’s teams closely. Tom has always been gracious with his time, and below is a preseason look at the 2019-2020 Purple Tornado team.

If any other Chenango County coaches have an interest in promoting their team or providing photos, by all means, please direct message me on this page, or if you know my phone number or email, send me a message that way.

NORWICH PURPLE TORNADO

Head coach: Tom Collier

Last year: 13-7, lost to Owego in Class B semifinals

Norwich’s sustained basketball success, going back to the state titles in 1993 and 1994, is unrivaled by any team in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference during that time period.

You’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint a subpar season, and maybe just one or two seasons over the last quarter century that ended with less than a .500 record. Even in a down year, Norwich is still pretty good.

By no means was 13 wins a down performance for Norwich. In the end, Norwich didn’t have enough scoring to match league front-runners Seton Catholic Central and Owego.

From that 13-win team, 60 percent of the starting lineup went the way of graduation, but from a leadership perspective, what was lost is incalculable.

Gone is double-double machine, 6-foot-8 center (or 6-foot-9 depending on your perspective) Skylar Wenzel, and standout frontcourt defenders Marcus Cashman and Mujini Mutabiilwa – the former led Norwich in scoring.

Wenzel brought an element of size to the lineup Norwich simply cannot replace this season, nor, Collier said, does he have the type of lock-down guard defenders that Cashman and Mutabiilwa were.

“Based on what we lost from last year, we probably aren’t on anyone’s radar to really win anything,” Collier said. “One online projector had us finishing behind Chenango Forks because of the great year they are having in football.”

If ever there was a motivation for Norwich to prove doubters wrong, reading a local basketball expert predict Chenango Forks to finish ahead of Tornado basketball would be it.

Especially given the fact that Blue Devils success on the gridiron the past two decades has rarely translated to the hardwood floor. And, Norwich has dominated the season series for over 25 years.

Wenzel and Cashman were Norwich’s top scorers from a year ago, but Norwich isn’t devoid of experience. In fact, the two returning starters — seniors JT Vinal and Carson Maynard – are the definition of varsity veterans.

Tommy Flanagan and Jahlil Jones, each of whom had key roles off the bench last year, will play even more prominent roles this season, Carson Thornton, a late-season varsity call-up, is also projected by Collier to see increased playing time.

Always one to use a lot of players, Colliers sees playing time going to full-time varsity newcomers Torin Lawrence, Logan Ford, Keegan Franklin, Lex Genute, and Andrew Mullen, and Jahlil Jones’ younger brother, Julian Jones.

Seniors Kyle Shepard, and Anthony Cathcart provide some size off the bench for Collier, and senior Shane Lawrence, who is recovering from football injuries, is expected to see some time off the bench.

“We have a pretty good balance between older and younger players,” Collier said. “Our success will stem from the melding of that talent, and the leadership our seniors can give us to bring some of these talented younger players along.”

Unlike many of Collier’s best teams, he does not have an established dominant force on the court – like a Mike Sutton or Zan Stewart – a dominant big man in the mold of Wenzel, or established defenders such as Cashman and Mutabiilwa.

But, what has remained the constant for any Norwich team is the level of effort and hard work his players are willing to give. Collier has often mentioned the well-known quote, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Flying under the radar, as Collier stated, may be the best place for his team to be.

“I’m hoping our seniors can provide the leadership daily to show our younger players that there are no shortcuts to success,” Collier said. “Time will tell what this team’s record will end up, but we will have them prepared for their opponent, and hopefully our seniors can lead the way with a work ethic that would be worthy of the tradition of the purple uniforms they wear.”

Buffalo Bills strengthen playoff bid

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Playing maybe their most complete offensive and defensive game of the season, the Buffalo Bills improved to 8-3 on the season rolling past the Denver Broncos, 20-3, at New Era Field on Sunday afternoon.

It’s the first 8-3 start for the Bills since 1996, Jim Kelly’s final year with Buffalo. How did we know that statistic? CBS’s announcers mentioned it multiple times during the broadcast.

With five games to play – including a short turnaround this Thursday at Dallas – the Bills have a two-game lead in the AFC wild-card chase, and are likely two wins away from clinching a second playoff appearance in three seasons under head coach Sean McDermott.

Here are four things we learned today:

Offense clicks again

For the second straight week, Buffalo’s offense topped 420 total yards. Like last week, the Bills running game was clicking, and this week it was in high gear rushing for a season-high 244 yards.

Devin Singletary had his first career 100-yard game finishing with 106 yards, and Frank Gore had 64 yards rushing, while moving past Barry Sanders into third place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

Quarterback Josh Allen also chipped in with multiple first-down runs as Denver’s typically stingy running defense was outmuscled by the revamped Buffalo offensive line.

Allen interception-free streak ends, but no harm, no foul

Allen came into today’s game with five straight games without throwing an interception. That streak ended at 176 passes as a badly overthrown pass late in the first half was picked off by Denver’s Justin Simmons.

Fortunately, that turnover on the Bills’ side of the field didn’t haunt Allen as his turnovers have done throughout the season.

Denver turned the ball back over to Buffalo on the next sequence of plays on a miscommunication between Broncos quarterback Brandon Allen and receiver Courtland Sutton.

Sutton stopped his pattern short, and Allen threw to where he expected Sutton to go. Instead, Buffalo cornerback Tre’davious White ran out the pattern for Sutton, and earned his fourth interception of the season.

Allen showed nice resolve in the second half connecting with Cole Beasley and John Brown on second-half TD passes.

Penalties an issue

Buffalo’s offense will likely improve in the overall standings; conversely, Buffalo’s team standing will definitely gain ground among the most penalized NFL teams.

The Bills were flagged 12 times for 90 yards today, and two ill-timed penalties in the first half on special teams left the Allen-led offense with terrible field position.

Buffalo’s offense overcame the poor field position, but one cannot expect to win games against playoff teams where field position may make the difference between winning and losing.

Defense absolutely suffocating

With Dallas’ prolific offense looming in four days, Buffalo’s defense could’ve been caught looking past Denver’s anemic offense.

Aside from a big hookup from Allen to Sutton in the first quarter – and a couple second-half runs by Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman — Denver’s offense had virtually no success today.

Buffalo recorded four sacks, intercepted Allen once, and surrendered just 134 net total yards. After its opening drive of the second half, Denver had five straight 3-and-outs, no first downs, and just “2” total yards.

That’s unreasonable expectation against Dallas, but it serves as a reminder to the rest of the league how good the Buffalo defense can be.

Follow the writer on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

Buffalo Bills break out on offense

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Bills logoBuffalo finally had the breakout game on offense fans have craved all season.

Josh Allen threw three touchdown passes and ran for another in a 37-20 win at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium Sunday afternoon.

It was easily Allen’s best performance of the season – and maybe his career – as he extended his interception-free streak to five games. And wide receiver John Brown continued to prove he is more than just a deep-ball threat catching nine balls for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

It was a much-needed win for Buffalo’s hopes of securing an AFC playoff spot, but it wasn’t a perfect performance.   Here are three things we learned.

Buffalo does have a pass rush…and, the Bills can stop the run

Buffalo was in the bottom 12 of the league in quarterback sacks heading into today’s game, but the seven-sack performance will likely move the Bills up a couple of pegs.

The Dolphins’ Ryan Fitzpatrick did throw for 323 yards – the best of any quarterback the Bills have faced this season – but when he wasn’t completing passes, he was getting swarmed by the blitzing Buffalo defense.

Eight different Buffalo players were credited with a sack, or at least half a sack, and the Bills were also credited with 14 quarterback hits.

And the maligned Bills run defense ranked 21st in the league heading into today’s game? It allowed the Dolphins just 23 yards on 13 carries.

Although the Dolphins have perhaps the worst rushing attack in the NFL, this was a big bounce-back for a Bills run defense that was carved up the previous three weeks.

Special teams not so special

It’s no secret Buffalo’s special teams have struggled this season. Kicker Stephen Hauschka, typically the Bills’ most reliable special-teamer, has been less than reliable this season. Although, Hauschka returned to form from last week’s miscues making all three of his field goal attempts.

Aside from Hauschka’s three field goals – and an average day from punter Corey Bojorquez – it was bad day for Buffalo’s third phase of the game.

Jakeem Grant returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, the Dolphins successfully executed an onside kick after their first touchdown, and Grant had a 50-yard kickoff return in the second half as well.

None of the Bills’ special teams statistics measure up when compared to past great Buffalo teams. Do Bills fans ever remember a Marv Levy-coached team with anything less than superb special teams?

Special teams proved the difference in Buffalo’s loss to New England, and poor special teams definitely gave Miami hope today.

Fumbles a problem for Singletary?

Although he didn’t lose a fumble today, Buffalo running back Devin Singletary did fumble it twice in today’s victory. After his second fumble, Singletary, who had seen the majority of the snaps at running back, shared time with reliable war-horse Frank Gore the rest of the way.

In fact, with Buffalo’s offense pressed up against its own goal line in the fourth quarter, it was Gore who was in the game getting the carries.

Singletary showed his dynamism averaging five yards a carry today, but if today’s activities showed anything, head coach Sean McDermott will not hesitate to pull his rookie running back.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: Considered a bit of project on draft day, Allen is on pace for historic Bills quarterback numbers. Through 10 games, Allen is on track for 32 total touchdowns (passing and rushing), and over 4,000 combined yards passing and rushing. For context, only two other Bills quarterbacks have eclipsed 4,000 total yards (Drew Bledsoe, 2002, and Fitzpatrick, 2011). Additionally, only Jim Kelly has totaled over 30 TDS in a season combining for 34 (33 passing, 1 rushing) in 1991.

Follow the writer on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

 

 

Bills need to regroup – again

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Bills logoBaker Mayfield played like the number one pick of the 2018 NFL draft when it mattered most.

Mayfield drove the Browns 82 yards on 10 plays, and his seven-yard TD pass to Rashard Higgins with 1:44 left in the fourth may have saved the Browns’ season as they topped the Buffalo Bills, 19-16, at Cleveland Sunday afternoon.

Mayfield connected with Jarvis Landry on a beautiful 24-yard touch pass to the Buffalo seven to set up the winning score.

The Browns staved off what was shaping up to be season of failed expectations, while the Bills will need to regroup – again – as the schedule gets much tougher down the stretch with dates against the Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, and Patriots still looming.

Here are three things we saw from the Bills today:

Cleveland is loaded with offensive talent

The Browns have all-pro talent at wideout in Landry and Odell Beckham, Nick Chubb is on his way to an all-pro season, and newly activated running back, Kareem Hunt, was an all-pro two years ago. With all that weaponry, it’s no surprise the Browns put together numerous productive drives against a Bills team that has seen its defensive stinginess slip in recent weeks.

Landry and Beckham proved well-disguised decoys on the winning TD throw, which allowed Higgins to beat single-man coverage – and he was wide-open.

Chubb also ripped off several 20-plus yard runs against a balky Bills run defense, although he was mostly effective in the first half gaining 82 of his 116 yards. However, Chubb did have a 21-yard chunk run that aided the Browns on their winning drive.

Curious play-calling, clock management for Bills

This is the forum for second-guessing, and the Bills mangled the end of their final drive. As a result, they had to rely on a struggling Stephen Hauschka 53-yard field attempt in adverse conditions, an attempt Hauschka missed.

With 59 seconds left, Bills quarterback Josh Allen hit running back Devin Singletary on a short check-down pass. Singletary, instead of running out of bounds, fought for an extra yard or two, and was tackled in bounds.

With the clock ticking relentlessly – and continued to tick – the Bills huddled briefly, and appeared nonchalant on a critical 3rd-and-four. With the Browns blitzing, Allen threw up a low percentage deep fade pass to John Brown on the lright sideline.

The Bills still had a timeout in their back pocket.

On fourth-and-four, Buffalo’s offense gave the look of going for it, but instead, with the play clock ticking down, used that precious final timeout.

Clearly, the time to use that last timeout was after Singletary’s catch, which would have afforded the Bills a chance to call a better play on a critical down. Instead, the timeout was wasted to set up what proved to be a low-percentage field goal attempt.

We can forgive Hauschka’s missed attempt as that length of that attempt has only recently become closer to a 50 percent success rate.

Early in the third quarter, the Bills gained possession after a big safety from Tremaine Edmunds that tied the game at 9-9.

Buffalo had back-to-back penalties that put it in a 1st-and-25, but two positive plays moved Buffalo to a 3rd-and-3.   The entire playbook was at the Bills’ disposal, but the play called was a deep pass into double coverage – and to Cole Beasley – that fell incomplete.

Beasley is known as a short-route possession receiver, and has never been confused for a deep-ball threat.

Coming off the big defensive play, that momentum was lost.

Singletary usage, absence of a running game hampering offense

Coming off a 23-touch performance for 140 total yards against the Redskins, Singletary was barely a blip on the radar in the first half today with just three carries for 21 yards.

In fact, 17 of the Bills’ 26 plays in the first half were passing plays, this against a Browns run defense that was among the worst in the NFL. For the day, Buffalo totaled just 84 yards rushing, its lowest of the season.

Since a good start to the season where Buffalo had good balance on offense – running and passing – that had Buffalo among the top 12 in total offense, the Bills’ offense has slipped on the whole.

Allen did finish with 266 yards passing, one of the best yardage days of his career, but he completed just 53.6 percent of his passes (22 of 41), and again failed to connect on several deep ball attempts.

Despite all the offensive upgrades in the offseason, the Buffalo offense is regressing to the mean. The Bills are among the bottom-third offenses in the NFL, and among the worst scoring offenses at less than 20 points per game.

EXTRA POINTS: Dawson Knox had a season-best four catches, and as an athletic, pass-catching tight end, offers one of the few mismatches Bills personnel can create. …You have to like the aggressiveness of return man Andre Roberts. He sprung a 66-yard kickoff return last week, and had a 22-yard punt return in the second half that gave Buffalo great field position. Roberts was quite the coup for the Bills as an all-pro returner, and one has to think it’s just a matter of time before he breaks one for a touchdowns. …Great goal-to-goal defense. Two pass interference penalties called on Buffalo twice gave Cleveland the ball at the 1-yard line in the first half. Yet, that one yard proved impossible to come by. The Bills turned away Chubb several times, including a fourth-and-two stop that left Cleveland with no points to show for a long drive.

Follow the writer on Twitter @PatrickLNewell