Featured columnist Steve Mathes returns his Monday Six Pack series for the 2020 season. Providing you with a six pack of takeaways from the Buffalo Bills 27-17 win over the New York Jets
During the Buffalo Fanatics Pre-Game Tailgate Show I articulated what the Buffalo Bills would have had to do this game to not make me panic heading into the future games. I wanted more than “just a win”. The three criteria I came up with: (1) score more than 24 points, (2) allow less than 20 points, (3) beat the 6.5 point spread. The Buffalo Bills met all three criteria. Yet in true Buffalo Bills fashion I still feel slightly uneasy post-game. Two red zone turnovers, two missed touchdown throws, two missed field goals, two key injuries. Things piled up, especially in the second half, where the Bills could only muster six points. Should we be concerned? Or does a lack of a pre-season and an unusual game-day experience warrant some leniency? I discuss that and more in this week’s six pack.
Don’t forget to catch The Rico Report: Postgame Show following every Buffalo Bills game this season.
(1) Jekyll & Hyde: Josh Allen
The Buffalo Bills put this game in Josh Allen’s hands and he delivered. Kind of. Allen got the 300 yard monkey off his back, accumulated 350 yards, completed 72% of his passes, and accumulated three touchdowns. He also fumbled twice in the red zone and missed two wide open receivers in the end zone.
Josh Allen’s game today is all about perspective. Some will choose to see only the negative. The Bills left 20+ points on the board largely due to Allen. He fumbled twice in the red zone on designed QB runs. He missed two wide open receivers in the end zone in Dawson Knox and John Brown. In the second half after missing an easy play Allen was flushed from the pocket the next down and tried to heave a ball off his back foot into double coverage. Some will choose to see only the positives. 366 yards, 3 touchdowns, 72% completion percentage. Spreading the ball out to all of his receivers. Hitting Stefon Diggs eight times. A timely audible at the line of scrimmage on the John Brown touchdown. A nice deep ball late to Diggs and a nice 50/50 ball to Knox as well. In reality the answer is to look at both. There was no pre-season. If Allen is still this inconsistent in a month or if these stats don’t translate against better opponents then we can start to be concerned.
Bonus: Give Stefon Diggs his due. John Brown will steal the headlines with the bigger game but Diggs’ impact was felt more in my opinion. Diggs made some alpha wide receiver catches that no Bills receivers were capable of last season. The sliding first down grab, taking the shot on the catch at the goal line and hanging on, the deep ball late in the 4th quarter. They weren’t flashy plays or touchdowns but they were little plays that kept drives alive and allowed the Bills to keep a comfortable lead.
(2) Jekyll & Hyde: Brian Daboll
Brian Daboll showed Bills fans what a modern offense looks like. He knew the New York Jets were stout against the run and thin in the secondary. Instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole he had the confidence in his young QB to drop back and pass nearly 50 times. He benched Lee Smith and sprinkled in spread concepts that had fans drooling early. He utilized screens and misdirection with relative success. This offense was on pace to put up 40+ points. Allen fumbled twice and missed two wide receivers open in the end zone.
Speaking of the fumbles, many want to put them not just on Allen but on Daboll as well. I am in the camp that would agree with that sentiment. I know the traditional running game was struggling but Daboll knew Allen’s history with ball security. I’m all for Allen running when the play breaks down or out of a spread approach. However designing runs for him where he follows a lead guard needs to STOP. The Bills need to stop treating their franchise quarterback like he is Derrick Henry.
(3) The Traditional Run Game Underwhelms
I predicted in my piece last Monday that the Bills running backs would struggle against this New York Jets front. I wasn’t wrong. They did enough to get the W but the game-plan was definitely catered towards the passing game because the Bills had an inkling they would struggle on the ground. Next week against a tougher Miami secondary I expect Lee Smith to be active and a more traditional running approach with Josh Allen taking more reps under center.
Don’t forget to catch Joe Miller and the OVERREACTION Podcast every Monday morning as he dissects the previous day’s game.
(4) Injuries Rock The Defense
The Buffalo Bills did what they had to do on defense as always. Aside from one missed tackle that led to a Jamison Crowder TD and an iffy pass interference call that propelled a late touchdown drive the Bills defense made life difficult for Adam Gase and Co. The Bills finished with two turnovers, three sacks, and 10 points allowed when the game was still in hand.
The real concern for the Buffalo Bills on defense is the injuries continue to pile up. Norman and Butler already missed the game due to hamstring injuries. Milano now joins them on that list with a hamstring injury. He pulled himself out just before the half. Edmunds left the game in the second half and didn’t return with a shoulder injury.
Luckily for the Bills Edmunds injury does not appear to be serious. He was seen after the game without a sling or ice. Milano may not be as lucky. It would not surprise me to see him end up on IR and miss upwards of a month. The Bills are ultraconservative with soft tissue injuries. GM Brandon Beane did not address the linebacker depth this off-season and it may come back to bite him. Klein is a veteran who won’t be terrible filling in at WLB but he’s not the athlete that Milano is. Remember Preston Brown? Get ready for a month of that if Klein has to play significant time at WLB. If Milano goes to IR expect Corey Thompson to be re-signed. I would like to see Thompson and Dodson get an opportunity to compete for the WLB role as they have higher upside than Klein who still could be used for his SLB responsibilities. Darron Lee visited earlier this off-season, perhaps the Bills revisit that.
(5) Andre Roberts Shines
The people who wanted to release Andre Roberts this off-season will be real quiet today. Roberts consistently put the Bills in great field position all game with smart and sound returns. He finished the day with five punt returns for 69 yards. That 13.8 yard average will have Roberts well on his way to another Pro Bowl. He chipped in a 31 yard kick return as well.
(6) The Curious Case of Tyler Bass
Tyler Bass was looking good early making all three of his extra points. Then it came time to kicks field goals. He missed two kicks from 30-40 yards in this game. The first may very well have been good upon further study of the film. His second was held laces in by Corey Bojorquez. He nailed his two chip shot field goals to end the game. In his post game press conference Sean McDermott expressed confidence in Bass. However Stepehn Hauschka is still available and Chase McLaughlin is sitting on the Vikings practice squad and the Bills have an open roster spot with Josh Norman on IR. I’d consider securing a “Plan B” now.
Kudos to Bojorquez who didn’t embarrass himself on his one punt. Booting it 53 yards that was fair caught.
The Bills head to Miami to take on the division rival Dolphins. The Dolphins lost their opener in a close but underwhelming performance in a loss to the New England Patriots. 13k will be in attendance. It will be interesting to see how many are Bills fans.
Don’t forget to check out my show The Bills Guys tonight at 7pm eastern time on the Buffalo Fanatics YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Sportscastr pages.