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Bills players, coaches used bye week for self-reflection

The Buffalo Bills didn’t finish their last game how they would’ve liked.

Positioned to head into the bye week with a 4-1 record prior to their matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals 10 days ago, head coach Sean McDermott’s squad failed to capitalize on several of the opportunities they were given to come away with a win on a rainy day in Ohio.

While Buffalo’s defense continued its solid play and managed to force three turnovers against quarterback Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati offense, the performance wasn’t enough.

As a result, the Bills head into Week 7 at 3-2 and must dwell on their most recent stinging loss for a few more days before they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves in a matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Era Field.

However, despite facing a setback against the sub-.500 Bengals after picking up what seemed like substantial back-to-back victories against the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 and Week 4, Buffalo didn’t feel the need to hit the reset button during its bye week.

Instead, McDermott, his staff, and the players took the time for self-reflection.

“There’s great parity around the NFL. You look at teams that won (Sunday) that hadn’t won before, teams that were undefeated that then lost, and so that’s why every week in the NFL you have to bring your ‘A’ game. Got to continue to build, continue to get better and that’s what we’re focused on right now,” McDermott said during his media session Monday.

“I think [the bye week] gave us a good chance to do some self-evaluation of ourselves as coaches, look at our schemes, and then look at fundamentals. All those areas were good for us to look at. Take time and we worked Monday through Wednesday and the players were in here as well, and we got on the field a little bit as well just, really, to build some awareness, some self-awareness, as to what we did well, what we didn’t do well, what we need to improve moving forward.”

Without starting wide receiver Jordan Matthews to begin the game against Cincinnati, the Bills also lost starting tight end Charles Clay to a knee injury early on against the Bengals.

The offense struggled mightily for the majority of the game following Clay’s early exit, and, with the tight end expected to miss several weeks due to the recent injury, it wouldn’t be a shock to see quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the rest of the offensive unit continue to struggle.

In offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s mind, though, there are still enough playmakers on his side of the ball to accomplish the things they would like to get done.

Having Jordan Matthews back in the fold would be a huge help in doing so, which is certainly possible, according to recent reports out of One Bills Drive, but regardless of whether Buffalo’s top wideout is back in the lineup this Sunday or not, Dennison believes the fix for his offense is relatively simple.

“Well, I mean, certainly guys are playing hard. We’ve made some plays. The biggest theme is we’re going backwards too much, too many negative plays, and we’re trying to get that corrected, the technique, and just awareness, like you said, self-awareness … We’ve just got to play a little bit better, and help us win more games,” Dennison said Monday.

“We can do a lot of things better, and that’s everybody — me included. We took a look at each and every aspect that we need to do. We know we make some plays, and we just have to make more, and keep our mistakes to a minimum. We can correct them.”

While it remains to be seen whether Buffalo can correct their mistakes from the loss in Cincinnati or not, it’s clear that McDermott’s team certainly spent plenty of time focusing on the issues at hand.

However, the players also recognized what the team did well.

And, although the Bills would much rather be sitting at 4-1 than at 3-2 heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Buccaneers, they’re very much aware that the season, in many ways, is still young.

For that reason, Buffalo’s players are ready to face their current challenges head on knowing there will likely be many more ups and downs to come.

“You never want to get too high or too low, that’s kind of the mantra always. We’re still right in the thick of things, 3-2. You never want to let a win or loss define you. You want to continue to climb each and every week and continue to improve. That’s what we want to do,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said on Monday.

“I think the bye week allowed us to improve health-wise, mentally and physically. Now we want to get back to the grind. We have the next couple of weeks (that) are going to be really tough for us, starting with Tampa Bay this week. We really want to hone in on them all week and try to get after them this weekend.”

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A graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in Newspaper and Multimedia Journalism, John has been covering football at all levels of the game for the past few years. An avid fan of the Buffalo Bills since his early childhood, John takes great pleasure in talking, writing and sharing information about his favorite team from Buffalo. Follow John on Twitter: @JGreen_PRsports

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