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Bills players believe unity formed in Tampa will pay dividends moving forward

Josh Allen (17) and Tom Brady (12). Buffalo Bills vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, December 12, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert
Josh Allen (17) and Tom Brady (12). Buffalo Bills vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, December 12, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert

The Bills have faced some tough adversity throughout the 2021 season. The latest example was being down 24-3 to the Buccaneers going into halftime and finding a way to force the game into overtime. Even though the Bills didn't get the much-needed win over the reigning Super Bowl Champions, this comeback attempt seems to give the Bills a spark and a drive that they can hopefully carry with them down the stretch. 

In the first half, the Bills offense only had eight first downs compared to 19 in the second half. On defense, the Bills gave up 303 total net yards in the first half then tightened up and only allowed 110 net yards after halftime. The adjustments that were made at the half clearly worked and it helped the Bills get back into this game. 

Buffalo was just a few plays short of coming away with the victory, but Josh Allen loved how the team responded while under immense pressure in the second half. 

"I think there's many teams that would have folded in that position," Allen said postgame. "Especially coming out in the second half and we didn't move the ball like we wanted to, early, getting the ball back at half. But like I said, we've got guys that we want to win. We want to be great and with how we responded that second half, again, that's a team that we've got to be going forward. We understand that and we know that, and I don't expect anything else."

This game truly was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Bills were too inconsistent on both sides of the ball. But that changed in the second half and this Bills team looked like how they started out the season. The inconsistencies are the biggest reason why the team has lost five of their last eight games. The Bills need to be able to put it all together for four straight quarters and after Sunday's game, Tremaine Edmunds knows the players have the right attitude to put it all together.

"We kind of dug ourselves a hole early," Edmunds said. "But at the end of the day, I just want to say, I take my hats off to the whole team, because throughout the game, I never saw nobody put their heads down."

The Bills' players didn't give up, they knew the game wasn't out of reach and many players stepped up their play in the second half. The defense improved, had a sack on Brady, three passes defensed and a tackle for loss. The Bills defense only gave up three points in the final two quarters of regulation and made key stops that gave energy to the Bills offense. Even though the hole they dug themselves in the first half was big, the Bills found a way to it make into the game and have a chance to win it in overtime.

"When I look on the sideline, everybody's head is up, everybody is fighting until that whistle hits zero, man," Edmunds added. "Every time you're not going to get the result that you want, but to see that fight in your guys, to see that dog in your guys, I mean, what more can you ask for. I got chills. Obviously, we didn't make enough plays -- I didn't make enough plays -- but to see that fight in the guys, I mean, that's what you look for in a football team."

The word that got used the most on Sunday after the game was resiliency. Even though they were down big, Josh Allen led this team back and even put his body on the line. Allen hurt his foot in the second half but that didn't stop him from competing at a high level. Allen finished the game with 308 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 109 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. Allen is now the fourth player in NFL history (incl. playoffs) to have 300+ passing yards and 100+ rushing yards in a game, joining Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson. 

After the game, Mitch Morse called Allen one of the toughest competitors out on the field. He knows he'll need Allen playing at that high level with the number of games dwindling down. 

"Every loss is tough, but the resiliency of this team is pretty amazing, Morse said. "We also know that there's a sense of urgency, like every week, but I mean, we're really in crunch time here. We know what we got but we have to put something together if we want to keep taking steps to achieve our ultimate goal."

The Bills went 0-1 in the red zone in the first half, but then flipped the script in the second half and went 3-4. Scoring points is what got them back in the game, but Micah Hyde described how it motivated the defense to shut down the Bucs in the second half.

"There were a lot of plays the offense had in the second half that gave us a spark," Hyde said. "They started moving the football, putting points up. We went out there to get some stops on third down and as we've seen before, once we start playing complementary football, this team's dangerous. We've just got to get there from the start of the first quarter."

Mitch Morse on importance of Bills running game in the second half

The Bills didn't hand off to their running backs in the first half, with their only four rushes coming from Josh Allen. Against a stout Bucs run defense, the game plan was to pass early and often. After looking at things during halftime, the Bills did adjust and were able to break some quality runs in the second half. Devin Singletary had three rushes for 49 and Matt Breida had 3 rushes for 12 yards. Those runs made the Bucs defense respect the run and opened up more for the Bills passing attack in the second half. 

"They had some extremely capable pass rushers and anytime you can run the ball or have the threat of run, it doesn't mitigate the pass rush, but it puts us in positions to be successful at times," Morse said. "Anytime you get a chance to slow those guys down, it's a good one.

Sean McDermott explains his decision to punt on 4*th* and 3

Towards the end of the third quarter, Sean McDermott was faced with a decision on fourth down. Needing three yards on the Buccaneers 45-yard line and down 24-10, McDermott trusts his defense and decides to punt. Brady drove down the field and scored a field goal to end that drive. After the game, McDermott was asked about his decision to punt instead of going for it at that moment. 

"And then I thought – left the offense out for a second, but I did like how the defense … I think we had three, going back to even the first half there, three consecutive stops on defense," McDermott said. "And so I thought long and hard about it, and I thought giving us the best chance to win, and we had a chance to win it at the end there. So that could have gone either way, but I chose to punt it back, and felt like it would give us the best chance toward the end of the game there. And we had a chance but came up short."