ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — The theme for the Bills this season was “Find A Way.”
That they did on Sunday against the Rams. It wasn’t the easy way, the straightforward way or the most efficient way, but it was “a way.”
“It’s not something we want to do every week,” Jordan Poyer said with a smile. “But we got the W.”
It’s hard to frame this win because we don’t yet know what the Rams will be. If L.A. starts 8-1 while piling up 30 point weeks with the L.A. team we saw in the second half, then this game gets chalked up to a pretty good Bills team surviving an inevitable onslaught. If the Rams start dropping games and getting hammered like the L.A. team we saw in the first half, then there are many concerns with the Bills.
Let’s just keep the discussion to what we have seen and what we do know.
I’ll start with this: Brian Daboll is criminally underrated. When the Bills were rolling up four consecutive touchdown drives, Daboll had the Rams defense inside out. Receivers were running nearly as free as they do in drills against air in practice. Gabriel Davis is five yards open for a 40 yard catch. Tyler Kroft’s first TD didn’t have a blue jersey within 30 yards. Daboll even schemed Lee Bleeping Smith wide open on a fourth and goal play.
Let’s dive into that first TD drive. The Bills, essentially scored from inside the two on three of four plays. There’s usually a limited amount of plays a coordinator will prepare for each game situation based on the opponent for that week: first and ten, third and long, goal line plays, etc. It’s more than four, but it’s not 40.
It didn’t matter that the first TD was overruled by replay and the second one was nullified by a penalty. Daboll just kept dialing up winners and all from, essentially, the same down and distance.
It’s the same thing Brandon Beane has been doing since he arrived in Buffalo. Every button Beane pushes strikes gold for the Bills. The Bills had three super wide receivers. It didn’t matter. Beane still went out and found a fourth one in the draft who, after three games, has a dramatic game winner and an 80 yard game already.
The Bills got a sack from a guy in A.J. Epenesa who was inactive (albeit their top draft pick this year) two weeks ago. The two tight ends on the bottom of the depth chart accounted for three touchdowns against the Rams. The guy who might be the third choice as the 2nd corner (Levi Wallace) had an interception.
Beane isn’t just building quality among his 22 starters, he’s nailing draft picks and signings that account for roster spots 45-55. Here’s a thought for you: without Davis, Kroft and Smith, the Bills might be 1-2 right now.
I had a whole column halfway done with lots more Beane praise, but like every other reporter in this Bills Stadium press box, I wore out the delete button in the second half.
The defense has to take a serious dose of blame for the collapse, obviously. Buffalo built a 28-3 lead without once forcing a Rams punt on Sunday. They had two sacks on back to back plays that forced a long Rams field goal miss (how big is that stop looking back now??), the Wallace interception and a couple good plays near the goal line that the Rams first half field goal they did make.
Other than that, the only thing that stopped the Rams was not having enough time left at the end of a half.
It’s very possible that Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano were not that close to 100% (admittedly, a harder sell with Milano than Edmunds. Milano was all over this game early). Sean McVay is a good coach and in the 21st century NFL, good offense beats good defense. For now, we’ll give this defense a pass.
You can’t give Josh Allen a pass for this game. Pass means neutral, no effect. Allen is the opposite of that. He helped radically swing this game over and over. In both directions. Sometimes, play to play.
The Allen that built the 28-3 lead was the same guy that played games one and two. He’s masterfully directing Daboll’s offense. He’s finding the right receivers. He’s playing pitch and catch, while occasionally sprinkling in some stubborn running. It might be the among the best offenses in the league when it’s humming.
This game also featured Chaos Josh. You might remember him from the second half in the Wild Card game against Houston last year. The interception against the Rams was a terrible official’s call, but it was an equally bad decision both because of the throw itself and the situation. The Bills were still up 18 and in total control. There’s no need to be flinging balls deep. This was weeks three against the Bengals last year all over again.
Allen wasn’t done. He followed with another turnover, four sacks and two personal foul penalties. The first flag was a bush league complaint to the ref after Aaron Donald did nothing illegal forcing a fumble.
Last year, I would have told you the Bills can’t survive with a QB like this. Not in the playoffs, anyway. That still might be true when we get to mid or late January.
However, the quarterback who played last year had never thrown for 300 yards. The 2020 Josh Allen has never not thrown for 300 yards. This Bills team doesn’t rely on the defense to control the game and let Allen save them late. This team, through three games, relies on Allen to control the game and then save them late.
On the final drive, Allen converted 3rd and 22 and 3rd and 25. Outside of Pat Mahomes and MAYBE Russell Wilson, there’s not a quarterback who scares me more on third and forever than Allen. Sure, the second conversion took two plays and a borderline (at best) interference call, but he converted them. You can’t overstate how impressive that is.
Maybe with a QB that roll up three bills worth of passing yards each week, a roster stacked top to bottom and an elite coaching staff, the Bills can survive appearances of Chaos Josh. I’m not going to tell you it can’t work, not after the bananas finish I saw today.
Just because the Bills don’t take the straight and narrow path to a win doesn’t mean they can’t get there. It might even be a good thing. The straight and narrow path is just one path to victory.
The more ways the Bills can find that lead to a win, the better off they will be.