Bills defense shines, offense lays dud in loss

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) looks to pass under pressure from Buffalo Bills' Lorenzo Alexander (57) in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) New Bills coach Sean McDermott is showing signs of putting the bully back into Buffalo’s defense. The book hasn’t changed when it comes to stopping their popgun offense.

Shut down ”Shady,” and the Bills aren’t going anywhere.

”I think that’s legitimate,” McDermott lamented a day after running back LeSean ”Shady” McCoy and Co. laid a dud in a 9-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers. ”I know what we’re looking at. I feel the frustration out there.”

The Bills were a totally unbalanced team against the Panthers, looking nothing like the complementary group that posted a 21-12 victory against the New York Jets in the season opener.

A defense that spent the past two years underachieving under former coach Rex Ryan was stout while sacking Cam Newton six times and limiting Carolina to just 255 yards and three field goals.

The offense, by comparison, spent much of the first 57 1/2 minutes stuck in neutral. And it was only fitting that the Bills’ last-chance drive ended with rookie receiver Zay Jones laying face-down in frustration at Carolina’s 2, where Tyrod Taylor’s pass glanced off his fingertips on fourth down.

The 52-yard drive was Buffalo’s longest in a game the Bills crossed midfield just three times, and never took a snap inside Carolina’s 25. The Bills managed just 176 yards of offense and 10 first downs – their fewest since 2012.

The NFL’s two-time defending top rushing attack managed 69 yards. McCoy managed just 9 yards on 12 carries and six catches for 34 yards a week after he had 110 yards rushing and 49 receiving .

McDermott acknowledged the Bills need a semblance of a downfield passing game to prevent defenses from keying on McCoy.

Without being specific, McDermott said he and his staff are ”looking at everything to change things up.”

Whatever changes come, they won’t include one at quarterback.

McDermott is sticking with Taylor as his starter, and tuning out a growing chorus of fans demanding rookie backup Nathan Peterman get a chance.

”Taylor’s the guy. Not making the change,” he said, looking ahead to Buffalo hosting Denver (2-0) on Sunday. ”I expect Tyrod to come out this week and put in a good week’s work, just like the rest of our football team, and come out firing.”

Taylor might have his limitations after his record dropped to 16-15 since taking over the starting job to open the 2015 season. But the Bills’ troubles go well beyond him.

The slow start on offense comes after the team changed over its entire group of receivers in a series of moves that included trading its only legitimate deep threat, Sammy Watkins, to the Los Angeles Rams last month.

Buffalo opened the season with a top-three group of receivers made up of Jones, newcomer Jordan Matthews (acquired in a trade with Philadelphia), and free-agent addition Andre Holmes.

In two games, the trio has combined for 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown by Holmes.

The Bills performed so poorly in the first half against Carolina that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison acknowledged he didn’t have an opportunity call some of the 15 plays he scripted for the Panthers.

”We just didn’t execute,” Dennison said. ”It wasn’t just the wide receivers, it was everybody.”

The defense is another story under McDermott, the former defensive coordinator of the Panthers.

Buffalo has allowed just 469 yards in its first two games. Last season, the Bills gave up 493 yards alone in a 37-31 loss to the Jets in Week 2.

The six sacks were the most for Buffalo since it had seven in a 38-3 win over the Jets on Nov. 24, 2014. The Bills also kept the Panthers out of the end zone by limiting them to field goals on each of their three drives inside the 20.

”It was good to see the resiliency of our guys,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.

Rather than pin blame on the offense, Frazier noted the defense’s inability to generate a turnover, after managing two interceptions against the Jets.

”That had a lot to do with not winning the game,” Frazier said.

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