Sun Jan 5 3:06pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) tries to throw a pass as he is tackled by Houston Texans' Whitney Mercilus (59), A.J. Moore Jr., right, and Vernon Hargreaves III (28) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Buffalo Bills center Mitch Morse (60) walks off the field after an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19 in overtime.(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Buffalo Bills running back Patrick DiMarco (42) kneels on the sideline after an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19 in overtime.(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) is sacked by Houston Texans linebacker Jake Martin (54) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Josh Allen expects he'll be carrying the weight and pain of his first playoff loss for the foreseeable future.
Standing at a podium in the Buffalo Bills' field house on Sunday, the second-year quarterback looked and sounded as dejected as he did 15 hours earlier, following a 22-19 overtime loss in an AFC wild-card game at Houston.
''I won't be over this until we start playing again,'' Allen said. ''I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to use it and I'm going to grow from it. This will be a chip on my shoulder until we start playing again.''
He and the Bills have plenty to be unhappy with following a game in which Buffalo unraveled by squandering a 16-0 lead over the final 16 1/2 minutes.
Allen, who scored a touchdown receiving on a pass from John Brown in the first half, was erratic in the second half.
Over the final two quarters and overtime, the second-year player went a combined 11 of 26 for 133 yards with a lost fumble, nearly lost another one on an ill-advised lateral attempt, and was sacked three times. Allen particularly looked panicked attempting to scramble out of trouble and was penalized for intentional grounding on third-and-13 from the Houston 28 with 1:41 remaining.
The outcome, and the way Buffalo collapsed, put a dent into what had been a feel-good season in which the young and developing Bills showed signs of progress in winning 10 games for first time since an 11-5 finish in 1999.
With a majority of the team's core group of starters returning, the challenge becomes transforming the hard lessons learned into something positive.
''I think you have one of two ways to do it,'' center Mitch Morse said of how Buffalo responds. ''You can kind of dig a hole and crawl in it. Or you can kind of learn from it.''
Though the Bills made their second playoff appearance in three years, a majority of the players on this year's team were newcomers as part of a major overhaul under coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane.
Their vision was freeing up many of the bloated payroll issues they inherited in 2017 and rebuilding the Bills on a foundation of youth. Beane then used his newly created salary cap space to supplement the roster with established veterans last offseason.
Among the additions were veteran running back Frank Gore, who sees the Bills' potential despite the loss in Houston.
''This team has a lot of young talent, and I think they've put themselves in a position to be the top dogs in this division for a number or years,'' the 36-year-old said. ''I'm telling you, Buffalo, they're in a good hands, man.''
Gore, who completed his 15th NFL season, said he believes he can still play but will take time to determine whether he intends to play next season.
Fourth-year defensive end Shaq Lawson, who had a career-best 6 1/2 sacks this year, told The Associated Press he is leaning toward testing free agency with his rookie contract set to expire.
''See where it goes, but, I mean, you've still got to find out what's right for you, where it takes you,'' Lawson said, without ruling out the possibility of re-signing with Buffalo. ''I like Buffalo ... but at the end of the day I still want to see what's out there.''
Including Lawson and Gore, the Bills have 12 players eligible to become unrestricted free agents this offseason. The group includes starting defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who had a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks.
One player not returning is linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who has already announced he's retiring after 13 seasons.
The Cleveland Browns took a break in their coaching search Sunday, and are scheduled to meet with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll either Monday or Tuesday, a person familiar with the meeting told The AP.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meetings are private. Daboll, Cleveland's offensive coordinator under Eric Mangini in 2009-10, was initially scheduled to meet with the Browns on Sunday.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and the team's search committee have already interviewed four candidates: former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Cleveland is expected to meet with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in the coming days after New England was eliminated following a loss to Tennessee.
HOW TO GET IT RIGHT
The Bills have the talent, but currently lack the know-how of consistently winning games in the clutch.
It's a deficiency apparent in Allen, who unraveled too often over the final quarter of the season with games on the line. And it also covers a coaching staff, which appeared panicky with its play-calling and time management.
Against Houston, Buffalo all but ignored its running game in the second half having Gore and rookie Devin Singletary combine for nine carries.
Another curious decision was having rookie receiver Duke Williams get 10 targets and play 56 snaps - five more targets and two more snaps than Cole Beasley, Buffalo's established No. 2 receiver - despite playing just his second game in 10 weeks.
The hope is, the young players and staff are better prepared from this experience.
With plenty of salary cap space for a second consecutive offseason, the Bills have an opportunity to address more needs to complement their roster.
The first priority is adding a downfield receiving threat after Williams and Robert Foster failed to establish themselves. Though Brown is a speedster, he and Beasley were mostly used as slot and mid-range receivers.
Another priority is adding a running back to provide a one-two punch alongside Singletary after the 36-year-old Gore showed signs of age.
Interview with a Champ
Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields announced on Twitter his intentions to forego his remaining eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL draft. He is considered one of the nation's top prospects after leading the Buckeyes to the national championship game, where they fell to Alabama. Fields beat Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the semifinals by throwing six touchdowns despite suffering a hip pointer in the game. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder was 20-2 in his time as the Ohio State starter while completing 68.4 percent of his passes and a 63:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his two seasons with the Buckeyes. Fields also ran for 867 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. Lawrence is projected to go to the Jaguars at No. 1 overall, but the Jets could snag Fields with the No. 2 pick this April.
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff's recent inconsistent play has left his status as the starting quarterback for the 2021 season in the air and may lead the team to bring in someone who can push him, according to comments made by the NFL Network's Steve Wyche. 'The people I've spoken to said basically at this moment the relationship with Goff and (head coach Sean) McVay: not great. They need marriage counseling is what one person said to me. I think this is something that they're going to be able to work through, but there's got to be some healing and that's not just with Jared Goff's injured thumb,' Wyche said.
Fantasy Spin: Goff was very good in McVay's first two seasons (2017 and 2018), but it would seem that once opponents figured out how to slow down Todd Gurley late during the second half of the 2018 campaign, Goff started to get exposed. It's also possible that the defections of Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks have given defenses less to worry about vertically or that he is feeling the pressure of playing under his four-year, $134 million contract that he signed in September of 2019. Whatever the reason(s), fantasy owners should expect him to compete for his job in camp this summer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Deone Bucannon, DB Javon Hagan and OG Ted Larsen were restored to the practice squad Monday, Jan. 18.
Green Bay Packers DT Brian Price and DB KeiVarae Russell were restored to the practice squad Monday, Jan. 18.
Los Angeles Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant, Chicago Bears safeties coach Sean Desai and Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris are most likely candidates to replace Brandon Staley as the Rams' defensive coordinator, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Rodrigue is reporting a decision to fill the vacancy could happen as soon as Tuesday, Jan. 19.
New England Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore has forced 37 incompletions since 2018 - tied for the second-highest total in the league - according to Pro Football Focus.
New York Giants CB James Bradberry has forced a league-high 42 incompletions since 2018, according to Pro Football Focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis has forced 37 incompletions since 2018 - tied for the second-highest total in the league - according to Pro Football Focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Vita Vea (ankle) will return to practice this week, and the team hopes he will be available for the NFC Championship game.
Dallas Cowboys DE Tyrone Crawford (foot) underwent surgery last week and showed his right foot in a cast after the surgery.
Denver Broncos impending free-agent S Justin Simmons is a player that head coach Vic Fangio wants to return next season.
The Baltimore Ravens will release veteran running back Mark Ingram II on Tuesday, according to league sources. The move will save the Ravens $5 million against the 2021 salary cap and will allow Ingram to get an early jump on free agency. Ingram was a healthy scratch in five of the team's final six games to close out the season, but he insists that he's healthy and has plenty to offer a team in 2021. The 31-year-old was a first-round pick out of Alabama back in 2011, but he's unlikely to be anything more than a backup if he lands with another team on the open market this offseason. J.K. Dobbins took over as Baltimore's lead back in the second half of the 2020 season, and Gus Edwards should continue spelling him next season. Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowler, had 72 carries for 299 yards (4.2 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns in 11 games (nine starts) in his second year in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens RB Mark Ingram has been informed that he will be released Tuesday, Jan. 19, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Ingram may not be able to find a starting job this offseason but can be part of a running back committee for a team. Fantasy players can monitor the situation because Ingram can have fantasy value depending on his situation.
Free-agent CB Davontae Harris (Ravens) may re-sign with the Baltimore Ravens this offseason.
The Baltimore Ravens waived quarterback Robert Griffin III, defensive back Davontae Harris, wide receiver De'Anthony Harris and defensive back Tramon Williams on Monday. Griffin played in four games in his third season with the Ravens and made a start in place of Lamar Jackson after he contracted COVID-19 in the Week 12 loss to the Steelers. RG3 went just 7-for-12 for 33 yards and an interception in that start, also running the ball seven times for an additional 20 yards. The No. 2 overall pick might've played in his last NFL game, but he could also return to the Ravens if he goes unclaimed on waiver. The 30-year-old started just two games in three years for Baltimore and declined after he was named a Pro Bowler in his rookie season with Washington.
Seattle Seahawks practice squad LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, OG Alex Boone, RB Alex Collins, RB Bo Scarbrough and TE Stephen Sullivan had their contracts expire Monday, Jan. 18.
Chicago Bears practice squad LB Devante Bond, QB Tyler Bray, OG Eric Kush, CB Sojourn Shelton, LB Manti Te'o and RB Spencer Ware had their contracts expire Monday, Jan. 18.
Pittsburgh Steelers CB Joe Haden was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 on Monday, Jan. 18.
Baltimore Ravens QB Robert Griffin III, DB Davontae Harris, WR De'Anthony Thomas and CB Tramon Williams were waived Monday, Jan. 18.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said that the team will be careful with rookie running back A.J. Dillon (undisclosed), but he is hopeful that Dillon can play on Sunday against the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. Dillon left the fourth quarter of the win over the Rams in the Divisional Round on Saturday with an undisclosed injury. The 22-year-old ran the ball six times for 27 yards in the win over the Rams. Keep a close eye on his practice status throughout the week. If he's inactive against Tampa Bay, Jamaal Williams would be a much more attractive DFS sleeper behind Aaron Jones. Dillon dealt with injury and was on the COVID-19 list in his rookie season, but he could have a substantial role in Green Bay's backfield in 2021 if Jones leaves in free agency.