BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – Choose your poison. That describes the different ways the Bills hurt each other Sunday that led to a 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Offensive errors, penalties and errors in all three phases played a large role in the defeat of the first week.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the offense seemed out of sync for most of the game. Despite having almost the same cast of characters on that side of the ball, the Bills didn’t seem to be able to keep the offense on the field. Aside from the first drive and the last drive of the first half, the offense failed to score points in the first two quarters. Three punts and a fumble were booked for a field goal thanks in part to a great kickoff comeback and touchdown that gave fans glimpses of the offense they saw throughout last year.
There was a chance for the Bills to score when Josh Allen had Emmanuel Sanders deep for what would have been a touchdown. The ball was barely knocked over, but enough to hit the ground and fall incomplete.
“I have to figure out how to make something work,” Allen said. “We just didn’t have everything today and back to the beginning, I just found a few things, I missed Emmanuel on the deep shot, obviously that’s what I want back. When a defense like this gives you that kind of opportunity, you have to execute and make those plays happen. “
The penalties also crushed the Bills on both offense and defense. Eight times they were singled out, and of those eight, four were awaiting calls only for offense. Defensively they were also called up for two holds.
“We were beating ourselves up with taking penalties,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “There were eight penalties and many of them were held offensively so that we can do a better job, I can do a better job.”
Two other times they were punished with possession penalties, but they were rejected from being officially counted on the stat sheet. Mitch Morse had one of the calls pending against him.
“It all comes down to discipline, right?” Morse said. “I know it from mine, I just need to put my feet up, cover them and get a hold call, it was legitimate and I think that’s just one of those things that will come down to responsibility.”
What made some of those plays worse was that they came at inopportune times.
“The unfortunate thing is that the majority of those who took calls came with long plays,” Morse said. “So we didn’t just go backwards, but this game is an impulse game and for the most part, we shot ourselves in the foot today.”
While they played a great defensive game overall, a mistake cost them in the 4th quarter. Levi Wallace was hit with a defensive pass interference call after a third-down save. He would have benched the Steelers, but instead sent them deep into Bills territory. Two plays later, they scored the lead touchdown.
Then, on special teams, a major error with a blocked punt led to another score for Pittsburgh. That was all the Steelers needed to win.
Overall, the team is disappointed with the result, but they see it as an opportunity to grow and improve in the second week.
“I think it’s a great instinct test, right?” Morse said. “Very frustrating, but we also know that this is a great opportunity to learn a lot. Like I said before, try to see what you can do to keep Josh [Allen] cleaner, get the guys in the backfield to have better running lanes and then go from there. “
“It’s never as bad as it looks, it’s never as good as it looks,” running back Devin Singletary said. “It’s only the first week, I have to learn and grow from that.”