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3 things we learned from Sean McDermott heading into the 2021 bye week

Sean McDermott. Buffalo Bills Week 1 practice, September 7, 2021.   Photo by Bill Wippert
Sean McDermott. Buffalo Bills Week 1 practice, September 7, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert

1. Fractured hand for Dawson Knox

On Tuesday morning after the Monday night game against the Titans, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported that Bills TE Dawson Knox had suffered a broken bone in his hand. Knox did leave the game in the second half with what was described as a hand injury and was eventually downgraded to out.

Head coach Sean McDermott confirmed the injury in his Tuesday afternoon press conference.

"That is an accurate report," said McDermott. "Dawson did suffer a fracture on his hand. I don't know much more at this point, other than we'll monitor it and see where it goes."

Knox missed a total of four games last season due to a calf injury and a battle with COVID. The bye week will allow for some recovery time, but whether it'll be enough to let the hand fully heal is unknown.

2. Line of scrimmage identified as a place for improvement

The Tennessee Titans were probably the most physical matchup the Bills have faced this season and there were times it proved difficult for Buffalo to win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

After reviewing the game film, coach McDermott thought there were times his offensive and defensive lines held their own and other times where the Titans got the best of them.

"On the defensive side first, I thought there were moments where we had their run game bottled up pretty tight there and then we don't do a good enough job fundamentally in some of those gaps and all of a sudden, Henry goes for 70, or he goes for the couple of touchdown runs that he did have," McDermott said. "Part of it is just the fundamentals of using your hands to bench and separate from the blocker so that you can make a good tackle in those situations.

"And then offensively, for the amount of time we were going backwards, meaning pass setting, I thought for the majority of time we gave our quarterback time to deliver unaffected, but there were moments where we were affected in the passing game. There were other moments where I thought we could have moved the line of scrimmage more in the running game, especially against some of the looks we were given there. So again, improvement for this week as work and then next week as well."

Offensively, the Bills were right around their season average of 5.9 yards per play as they managed 5.7 against the Titans. The situation was much different for their defense. They had been surrendering just 4.3 yards per play on that side of the ball, but Tennessee averaged a gaudy 7.1 yards per play.

"It's a game that's usually determined by who wins the line of scrimmage in a lot of the games in terms of the result," said McDermott. "So I think that's an area that we have to continue to work on like a lot of areas. But that's a core fundamental of our approach every week."

3. Finding a way to maximize points

It's true that a pair of holding penalties took 11 points off the board. An end around for a touchdown by Dawson Knox was called back on a holding penalty and the Bills managed just a field goal after the infraction. And Isaiah McKenzie's 101-yard kick return for a touchdown was called back on a holding call as well.

But in how the game unfolded, coach McDermott felt the team's first two red zone possessions in the first quarter were more significant when they settled for a pair of field goals.

"It's certainly an area we've got to improve," said McDermott. "We're leaving potential points off the board. Even though quite a few of our wins have been lopsided wins, they could've been even more lopsided, right? Then in last night's game two-for-five (in the red zone). As well as we played offensively in the game, the end of the first quarter we're up 6-0. We should've been up 14-zip at that point. Maybe that's a difference in the game. Maybe it's not. Who knows? But don't want to play that game at this point. We've got to do a better job in the red zone execution-wise. There are points to be had there, for sure."

Although Buffalo leads the league in number of red zone possessions with 29 and are tied for fourth in red zone touchdowns with 16, they currently rank 26th in the league in red zone touchdown efficiency at just over 55 percent.

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