ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Here’s the thing about sky-high expectations. They can cast an enormous shadow over the good things happening right in front of your face.
That’s the situation with the Buffalo Bills.
After two games, there’s more conversation in and out of the team about an offense not performing as expected than about a defense playing as well as any in the NFL and any the Bills have had in a long time.
It’s the consequence of a club that averaged 31.3 points per game while finishing with a 13-3 record in 2020. It’s the consequence of Josh Allen receiving a $258 million contract extension in August and being a strong favorite to be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player after finishing second in voting last season.
The Bills aren’t being driven by their offense, their five-touchdown victory against Miami last week notwithstanding. The 35-0 beatdown of the Dolphins did little to ease the concern over the poor showing by Allen and the passing game in the Week 1 loss against Pittsburgh.
And that seems to be all anyone with a rooting interest in the Bills can think about.
Give it a rest.
That goes for Allen, too. It’s admirable that he owns his struggles by saying, “It’s no secret that I didn’t play great last game and I didn’t play great the week before. … When things aren’t going well, I get so frustrated with myself. I got to find a way to keep going … be the best leader that I can be for this team.”
Pointing a finger at yourself is what good leaders do, of course. However, Allen doesn’t need to join the chorus of fans and media dwelling on the fact he isn’t lighting it up.
Allen knows the offense has more than enough talent, including his own, to escape its malaise, something that could easily happen Sunday against the Washington Football Team.
He also is team-oriented enough to know that whichever side of the ball is carrying the team doesn’t matter as long as it is being carried to victory. Allen has said as much repeatedly through the previous three seasons.
Sky-high expectations can cause memory lapses, too.
But they shouldn’t pull attention away from what the Bills’ defense is doing.
This unit has been downright dominant. It has allowed only one touchdown in two games. It manhandled and smothered the Dolphins’ offense from start to finish.
The top priority after the Bills finished one game shy of the Super Bowl last January was to put more teeth in the pass rush. Mission accomplished.
The pass rush has shown some serious fangs that should again be on display against Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who figures to be in for a major shock to his system when he makes his first NFL road start in front of a capacity crowd at Highmark Stadium. He’ll be treated to the same deafening noise that forced a false start from the Steelers.
Meanwhile, Allen and the rest of the Bills’ offense are looking to take their turn at finding success against a Washington defense that hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype it would be the driving force in a likely return to the playoffs.
Washington opened the season with a loss against the Chargers, who piled up 424 yards and converted 14 third downs.
In Week 2, the New York Giants had little trouble moving the ball and scoring before beating WFT 30-29 on a last-second field goal.
This is what standout Washington defensive end Chase Young had to say about the disappointment over the way his team’s defense has performed through a 0-2 start: “I love that people hold us to a high standard because we hold ourselves to a high standard. But we’re not really paying attention to the noise, obviously. We’re just going to keep working. When we start playing good defense, they’re going to love us again. That’s why we’re not really worried about the outside noise.”
The same should apply to the Bills when it comes to their offense.