It’s hard to point a finger at one primary cause of the Bills’ 0-6 start. Buffalo admittedly has its share of deficiencies. One team stat that stands out after six games played however, is how badly they’ve been outscored in the third quarter this season.
Opponents have put points on the board in the third stanza this season by a better than 5:1 margin (77-14). What makes the statistic so difficult to figure is the Bills have been leading or tied at the half three times this season – and have only trailed by more than one score at the intermission once. Yet Buffalo is being outscored by an average of 12.8 points per game and have been shut out in the third quarter four times.
“You really don’t know what’s wrong, but you have to get it corrected,” Whitner said. “I think we just haven’t come out sharp enough. We make all our adjustments. It’s more so understanding what teams are trying to do to us, taking those things away and understanding that it is a four-quarter football game.”
Although Buffalo’s average third-quarter starting field position is its own 34-yard line, it has lost the third-quarter time-of-possession battle in five games, holding the ball for slightly more than six minutes on average.
“We come out thinking we hinder ourselves on offense,” Jackson said. “Last week we came out (and) had a turnover, so that kind of slows things down whenever you do that. The biggest thing that we have to do is (overcome) ourselves. (If we) do that, I think we’ll be alright.”
Four of the Bills’ 10 turnovers have occurred in the third quarter, while only two have come in the first two quarters combined this season.
Coach Chan Gailey agreed with Jackson, but emphasized turnovers as the leading cause of the team’s internal downfall exiting the locker room at halftime.
“It’s not them taking advantage of us. It’s us messing up, that’s the bottom line,” Gailey said. “We’re going out and turning it over, we’re allowing big plays – it’s us. It’s not the other teams. We’ve got to manage ourselves in the third quarter better. You can’t just talk about it; you’ve got to do something about it.”
Whitner said the team has been making the right halftime adjustments; now it just needs to avoid complacency following the break.
“It’s not like (we’re) going in and changing the entire playbook (for) the second half of the game,” Whitner said. “You go in that locker room and you get relaxed sometimes, and you come out and you have to get that energy flowing again and you have to get loose again. We have to come out and jump on teams as if it’s the first half.”
“We've started games pretty well, and going into halftime we've kind of let the momentum go,” Evans said. “We realize that even going in before the bye week that that was something we had to correct. We've got to try to stop that momentum right there and get it back on our side.”
The Bills have been able to rebound from their dismal third quarters by springing to life in the fourth; albeit too little, too late.
The team’s overall third-quarter passer rating is 36.3 with 125 net passing yards, while the fourth-quarter numbers are 496 yards and a 90.0 rating.
Jackson suggested the team play the third quarter as if it’s the fourth, citing the substantial statistical differences.
“It could have something to do with the fact we’ve been playing from behind going in to the fourth quarter, so we have to throw the ball more,” he said. “I think the biggest thing we can do is come out and start fast in the third quarter, and stop putting ourselves in that situation.”
Sunday’s opponent, Kansas City (4-2), has excelled in the third quarter, outscoring teams 47-24. The Chiefs boast the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 176.5 yards per game behind Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.
Whitner said the Bills need to be firing on all cylinders in both halves in order to contain the Chiefs’ speed and slow their potent ground game.
“They have a lot of fast guys over there (and) they have a lot of really young guys that have really sparked their football team,” Whitner said. “Hopefully we’ll start fast in the football game, get a lead and then come out in the second half and keep the momentum. Keep them down and make them punt that football or get a turnover early. I think that will pretty much solve our third quarter woes.”