There’s no shame in this game not being a Buffalo blowout. Bills fans may have wanted a final of eleventy-nine to three to calm some frayed nerves, but that was not a reasonable expectation.
The Bills came into this game way too beat up. They played without their second best receiver (John Brown), possibly their second best corner (Josh Norman), one of their starting guards (Cody Ford) and most of the tight end room. Matt Milano was on the field, but not nearly 100 percent.
Don’t forget the Bills were coming off back to back short weeks. They each may only have been a day short, but no one has ever played Tuesday-Monday-Sunday games in the NFL before. Mitch Morse commented, unprompted, about how much he’s looking forward to a normal week for the first time in nearly a month. You better believe this three week stretch has taken a toll.
That doesn’t mean the Bills played great and everything that happened is fine and dandy. There are litany of issues that need addressing (and we will in a sec). Most of which are familiar themes. However, viewing the game as a whole, there’s no reason to set your zubaz on fire.
If things go as hoped for Sean McDermott’s crew, this 18-10 eyesore will just be remembered as one win of many during another playoff campaign. If it’s even remembered at all.
Since, we all want to be “on to New England” as fast as possible, let me hit on a few points and get out of your hair.
Six field goals tied a team record, but it took a team record eight field goal attempts to get there. That’s not good. A 75% success rate was sixth-worst in the league before this week. To illustrate how Bass’s season has gone so far, 75% in this game will raise his season long percentage.
I do leave this game thinking the arrow is pointing up on Bass for two reasons. First, he missed the opening kick and then made six of seven. That’ll score some points in the mental toughness column.
Second and much more important, he made the two biggest kicks of the day. At the end of the half, Sam Darnold gifted Dane Jackson an interception. The offense followed by doing its job and getting into field goal range. The Bills had trailed the whole first half and desperately needed the points and the lift heading to the locker room. Bass delivered from 48 yards. Not a gimme.
McDermott also preferred Bass to his offense when two yards could have sealed the game. Not only is it a positive the head coach’s faith has not wavered, but Bass also delivered again.
This is a rookie who had little training camp and no preseason. He deserves some time to get comfortable, but the Bills may not be able to afford much more.
Josh Allen was back over 300 yards. So, that’s good. Zack Moss ripped off a big play. The Bills did not punt. Also pretty good.
Unfortunately, there is now a blueprint on the Bills. Drop zone coverage deep. Keep everything short and make the Bills drive the length of the field. The Titans did it. The Chiefs did it. The Jets did it. These are middling to bottom of the league defenses and the Bills scored 16, 17 and 18 points. I don’t need to lay out who that works against and who it won’t.
There’s no doubt Brown’s return will help, but that’s a crutch that should not have to prop this offense up. Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis are better than half the receiver groups in the NFL. Maybe more. It should be a sufficient enough group to reach 20 points.
The other problem is the Bills remain almost entirely one-dimensional. Even with a 26 yard gallop by Moss, Allen still led the team on the ground with 61 rushing yards. It’s the third time this year Allen was the Bills’ best rusher and the fourth time in seven games the leading rusher was not named Devin or Zack. Allen’s 61 yards were also the second highest single game total of the season.
The offense that scared everyone after four weeks can no longer go deep or run the ball. No wonder it’s become relatively easy to stop.
I don’t care if it was the Jets. The Bills allowed four total yards in the second half.
Allowing four yards in a half is a stand up and clap defensive performance against the Chiefs, the Jets, Central Connecticut State, Fairport High School or that group of guys who plays flag football every Saturday.
The 190 yards allowed for the game is the third best for any defense in the NFL this season. The Bills D-line was the only healthy group on the team entering this game and they played like it: three sacks, two pass break ups, a forced fumble and an interception. Most of that was Jerry Hughes, who finally got the numbers to back up the havoc everyone has been seeing on tape all season.
It’s only one half and it’s against the worst offense in the game. It’s not fair to expect this half to be fruitful and multiply into many more. It is fair to be excited that the Bills defense still has these performances in the bag.
The best thing Bills fans saw on Sunday happened three thousand miles away from the Meadowlands. Just after Buffalo eked out their win over the Jets, the Patriots got annihilated by San Francisco.
It was enough to make yours truly tweet the AFC East might already belonged to Buffalo. I backpedaled fairly swiftly, but I’ll stand behind the logic.
The Bills now have a two and a half game lead on the Patriots. A win next Sunday at home would make that lead three and a half, plus the upper hand in the tiebreaker. The only other threat in the division is Miami (1.5 games back), who just decided to make a rookie their new starting QB.
Unless Tua Tagovailoa is an immediate sensation (absolutely on the table), the Bills have now become heavy, heavy favorites to win the division. Take two of the remaining three against the Patriots and Dolphins and there should be new a line of division title apparel available at the Bills store this January.
So, there you go. The Bills still have problems. They also still have satisfying goals well within reach. Let’s just turn the page.