Week one of the Bills season is in the books. It wasn’t pretty, but Buffalo came out with a 27-17 win with Bills Mafia sitting in their makeshift man caves. But, which pieces of the Bills are rising and falling after there week one win???
1) The Andre Roberts Fan Club
Flash back to September 5th. Andre Roberts was cut by the Bills and eventually resigned a day later. A lot of people wondered if Roberts could hold up his end of the bargain in the return game.
Well, Roberts showed why the Bills signed him back, averaging 13.8 yards per return. He also had one kick return for 31 yards.
Take Roberts’ first return of the game. Even with the gunner in his face, Roberts returned the ball to the Bills 46-yard line. Buffalo could not cash in on the great field position, as Allen fumbled later in the offensive drive.
However, Josh Allen’s third touchdown of the day was set up by Roberts 23 yard return to the 32-yard line. Though Roberts may not show up on the stat sheet, he is a big reason why Buffalo started each drive at around the 35-yard line.
2) Allen to Diggs Connection
Throughout the game, Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen continued their budding relationship. Diggs hauled in eight receptions for 86 yards. This is only the second time in 10 years that the Bills have had a receiver record at least 80 yards on opening day (John Brown: 123 yards in 2019).
Also, seven of Diggs catches went for first downs. Looking at the stats, it is clear Allen has found his number one target in Stefon Diggs.
But Diggs did not just show off his catching ability. With about seven minutes to go in the second quarter, Allen fired a short pass to John Brown, who cruised in for the touchdown. Looking back at the play, Diggs’ key block on Marcus Maye allowed Brown to cut to the left and score.
Back in Minnesota, Diggs was seen as a prima donna, as he complained about not receiving enough targets. However, these are the plays that Sean McDermott should highlight in practice because Diggs wants to be involved in every play, no matter if he touches the ball or not.
3) Defensive Showcase
Despite some key injuries, the Bills defense picked up right where they left off. It took the Jets almost an entire quarter to record a first down. Buffalo also held the Jets to 23 total yards on their first four drives. Granted, the Bills were helped by a couple of drops by Jamison Crowder.
That is not the point. The Bills sacked Sam Darnold three times and forced an interception. Add a few tipped balls and Buffalo’s defense could have added a pick-six or two on the scoreboard. Also, Jordan Poyer ripped the ball from Chris Herndon’s hands early in the fourth quarter. The turnover turned into three points for Buffalo’s offense.
But Buffalo’s second-half performance did cause some concern. Giving up fourteen points when your offense is struggling is not a great combination. And the Bills looked lost when Milano and Edmunds exited with injuries.
I am not saying that the Jets would have come back and won. But it does make me wonder if this next man up mentality by Sean McDermott is going to be a recurring theme throughout the season.
1) No Preseason Games Debate
In the win, the Bills had some concerning injuries on defense. Four linebackers–Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds, Del’Shawn Phillips, and Tyrel Dodson–did not finish Sunday’s game because of injury.
Milano exited with a hamstring injury before halftime. After talking to the trainers, he headed to the locker room and was announced as out for the game at the start of the second half. AJ Klein replaced Milano in the third quarter and had a rough time finding his footing. He looked lost and received a holding penalty as soon as he came into the game.
In the third quarter, Edmunds left the field with a shoulder injury. He did not return either, walking into the locker room with his shoulder pads off and surrounded by the Bills medical staff.
Phillips exited before Milano with a quad injury and did not return either. Dodson was banged up in the fourth quarter, finishing with four tackles and a sack. Dodson became the eighth Bill with a sack in their NFL debut.
With Buffalo losing almost their entire linebacker unit, it makes me wonder if these injuries would have occurred if there were preseason games this season. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the league has debated cutting preseason games. But no preseason means less game-like reps for players to test their body limits, increasing the risk of possible injury in week one.
2) Bills Passing and Rushing Attack Balance
A steady balance of passing and rushing looked to be Buffalo’s offensive concoction in 2020. A ground and pound rookie in Zack Moss was brought in to complement second-year running back Devin Singletary, who was a part of a rushing attack that finished 6th in the league in 2019.
However, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll had other plans, calling multiple quarterback runs for Allen. Buffalo’s leading rusher in 2019 had 57 yards on 14 attempts. Also, Allen ran a naked bootleg to perfection for his 18th career rushing touchdown. Add in his 46 passing attempts, and Allen was involved with 60 of Buffalo’s 81 offensive plays.
Rushing wise, Singletary and Moss only had nine attempts each. Singletary had a 12-yard burst, and Moss had a four-yard receiving touchdown late in the first quarter. But where is the balance that Bills fans expected? The Jets have a weak defensive unit, and Allen took advantage through the air. In the future though, Daboll cannot put the entire offense on Allen’s shoulders against tougher defenses such as the 49ers and Chiefs.
3) Offensive Line
I will get straight to the point: Allen was running for his life all afternoon. He rarely had a clean pocket to throw in, and it was clear that Jon Feliciano’s absence at right guard hurt the chemistry. Cody Ford, who is a tackle by trade, did not look comfortable at right guard. Also, Daryl Williams gave up two sacks to Marcus Maye coming from the c-gap.
Listen, I get that it is week one and the line still has some kinks to work out. That should not be an excuse for how unorganized the Bills offensive line played. Buffalo has $29 million invested in protecting their franchise quarterback. Buffalo needs to iron out these issues before traveling to Miami to take on a rebuilt defense next week.
4) Tyler Bass
In training camp, it was clear that Tyler Bass won the kickoff against Stephen Hauschka, but Bass struggled in his first NFL start.
His first attempt went wide right, even though closer examination showed the ball might have sneaked in. Bass’s second attempt was not even close, as it went dead right.
After both misses, the sixth-round pick settled in by drilling his next two kicks. It’s to the point where people have to wonder if Hauschka should not have been cut. But it is week one; give the rookie a break.
Stock Stable: Josh Allen
There were positives that came out of Josh Allen’s week one performance. His 312 passing yards makes him the first Bills QB since 2016 (Tyrod Taylor) to record 300 or more in a game. And his ability to extend plays was well on display, as his legs saved him from multiple pressures.
I especially enjoyed Allen’s naked bootleg for his first touchdown of the season. He fooled the entire defense and waltzed into the end zone with ease.
Although Allen had a career day, his turnover woes continued. He lost two fumbles inside the Jets 30-yard line. These turnovers were momentum killers in a game that Buffalo could have easily scored 40 points or more.
Adding to the negative, Buffalo could not keep their foot on the offensive gas. 21 points in the first half may be good enough to beat the Jets, but it will not be good enough in an offensive shootout with teams such as the Chiefs. When an offense dominates the time of possession like Buffalo did (41:16-18:44), they should score more points.
Who do you believe benefited and regressed from Buffalo’s week one win? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @BenBlakely18.