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
Free-agent CB Tramon Williams (Ravens) worked out for the Green Bay Packers Wednesday, Jan. 20, and is expected to sign to either the practice squad or the 53-man roster.
Cleveland Browns DT Larry Ogunjobi said he'll assess his options in free agency as it's unknown if he'll return to the Browns. 'When I go into training this offseason, just kind of figure out what fits best for me and then obviously when you get into March, you figure out where the team wants you as, what they see you as and what role they want you to play here or somewhere else,' Ogunjobi said Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (quadriceps) and wide receivers Mike Evans (knee) and Chris Godwin (quadriceps) were all limited participants during Wednesday's practice. Jones was able to practice in a limited fashion last week before ultimately suiting up against the Saints, while Evans' and Godwin's reps are being managed as precautions. Jones has a good matchup against Green Bay's front, though he and Leonard Fournette are trending towards a timeshare after head coach Bruce Arians described them as a "1-2 punch." Meanwhile, Evans will likely tango with star corner Jaire Alexander on the outside, as tough a matchup as any. Godwin is due for a rebound performance after dropping a surefire touchdown last week and could see more targets if Evans struggles and Antonio Brown (knee) is banged up.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is wanted on a long-term contract, according to head coach John Harbaugh Wednesday, Jan. 20. 'Absolutely, we want Lamar to sign a long-term deal and be with us,' Harbaugh said. 'I'm totally certain that's going to happen. When it happens, that's the details.'
Fantasy Spin: Harbaugh also said they aren't going to adjust the offense to be more pass-heavy. So long as Jackson is healthy, he'll be a top fantasy QB for the foreseeable future due to his added production on the ground.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones (quadriceps) said Wednesday, Jan. 20, he already feels better than last week and he's all good for the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) was listed as a non-participant for Wednesday's practice. Brown sustained the knee injury during the divisional-round win over the Saints, with Tampa Bay officially listing him as day-to-day. The veteran wideout will look to ramp up his activity during Thursday and Friday's sessions to give him a chance at suiting up against Green Bay in the NFC title game. Fellow wideouts Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson- who both made big plays in the victory over New Orleans- would be in line to receive more targets if Brown isn't healthy enough to play.
Philadelphia Eagles DB Nickell Robey-Coleman was removed from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Indianapolis Colts RB Jordan Wilkins was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Green Bay Packers LB Krys Barnes (thumb), PK Mason Crosby (shoulder), RB AJ Dillon (quadriceps), DL Kingsley Keke (concussion), TE Marcedes Lewis (knee), LB Za'Darius Smith (thumb), WR Equanimeous St. Brown (knee, ankle), OT Ricky Wagner (knee) and RB Jamaal Williams (ankle) were limited at practice Wednesday, Jan. 20. S Will Redmond (knee) practiced in full.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (hip, quadriceps) was limited at practice Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Godwin caught four of seven targets but for just 34 yards against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round. The Buccaneers' passing game wasn't needed much as Tampa Bay operated from favorable field position for much of the game. Godwin, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown should all see more work against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. Godwin is likely to see the most targets.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones (finger, calf) was a limited participant at practice Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Jones ran 13 times for 62 yards against the New Orleans Saints last week after being considered questionable for most of the practice week. He should be more involved this week, but the game script isn't likely to be as favorable for the Bucs as it was in the NFC Divisional Round. Jones will be a touchdown-dependent fantasy FLEX option this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) didn't participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 20. S Jordan Whitehead (knee) and CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (quadriceps, ankle) were limited. DL Jeremiah Ledbetter (calf) and G Ali Marpet (pectoral) practiced in full.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (knee) didn't participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Brown is expected to be fine in time for Sunday's NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. He'll represent a contrarian pivot from either Mike Evans or Chris Godwin.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (knee) was a limited participant at practice Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Evans didn't practice much last week and was targeted just three times in the NFC Divisional Round game against the New Orleans Saints. His day was saved by a three-yard touchdown catch, but it was his only reception. He should be more involved in the NFC Championship with another week of recovery under his belt.
Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs (oblique) was limited during practice Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Diggs has posted at least 100 yards in five of his last six games and is a must-start fantasy option if he is active for the game.
Buffalo Bills DT Vernon Butler (quadriceps) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 20. QB Jake Fromm (non-injury) and DT Quinton Jefferson (ankle) were limited during practice. PK Tyler Bass (hand), LB Tremaine Edmunds (hamstring) and DE Darryl X. Johnson (knee) fully participated in practice.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (oblique) remains on the injury report and was a limited practice participant on Wednesday. Diggs has been battling an oblique injury late this season, but it hasn't really slowed him down at all. The NFL's leader in receptions and receiving yards in 2020, the 27-year-old has 14 catches on 20 targets for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the team's two playoff tilts against the Colts and Ravens this year. Diggs was able to haul in six of his eight targets for 46 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting with the Chiefs back in Week 6 in a 26-17 loss. With quarterback Josh Allen having a breakout season under center, Diggs has been one of the most valuable fantasy wideouts this season, and that shouldn't change in the AFC Championship this Sunday.
Updating a previous report, Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (concussion, toe) is now listed as limited during practice Wednesday, Jan. 20. He was initially listed as a full participant Wednesday.
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes is going through the concussion protocol but may be able to do more during practice over the next few days. He is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL when healthy and should be a starting option if he is active.
Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Gabriel Davis (ankle) and defensive tackle Vernon Butler (quadriceps) both missed practice on Wednesday. Davis injured his ankle in the Divisional Round win over the Ravens last Saturday night. As of right now, the impressive 21-year-old should be considered questionable to play against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship on Sunday, but keep an eye on his practice status through the rest of the week. He was unable to haul in any of his four targets against Baltimore's defense last week after going for four catches and 85 yards in the wild-card win over Indianapolis the week prior. He's hard to trust for consistent production behind Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley. If Davis can't play this weekend, Isaiah McKenzie could see an expanded role.