Alright, Bills Mafia, take a deep breath. The Bills are 3-0 for the second time in ten years, but it was not pretty. However, whose stock is up and down after week 3?
1) Tyler Kroft
Back in early September, I wrote that Tyler Kroft needed to step up his game to gain a second contract with the Bills. I also said that Buffalo would left Kroft walk after the season. After Sunday’s showing, I want to be wrong.
With Dawson Knox dealing with a concussion, Buffalo had to rely on Kroft to be the bigger red-zone threat. Kroft started his day with a three-yard touchdown right before halftime to extend Buffalo’s lead to 28-3.
Then came the questionable interception call with 4:47 left in the third quarter. With Aaron Donald bearing down on him, QB Josh Allen threw an ill-advised deep ball down the left sideline. Rams CB Jalen Ramsey forced Kroft to push off to give him enough space to make the catch. The push-off was clear pass interference on Kroft.
As they hit the ground, the officials claimed that John Johnson ripped the ball from Kroft, ruling an interception. If you would like to see NFL Officiating’s explanation, it is below.
In #LARvsBUF, it’s not clear and obvious that Bills TE Tyler Kroft maintained control through the process of the catch, so the ruling on the field stands as an interception.https://twitter.com/NFLOfficiating/status/1310305575549521920
With that play aside, Kroft already had a great day with a touchdown and a couple of key blocks that sprung Devin Singletary free off the left side of the line.
Overall, the five-year veteran recorded four receptions for 24 yards. But none were more important than Kroft’s second touchdown of the day. Lined up to Allen’s right, Kroft ran a simple crossing route. After running through Rams LB Samson Ebukam, Kroft gave Allen the opening he needed.
Kroft used all of his 6’ 6’’ frame to grab the high throw from Allen and secure the touchdown. The catch gave me flashbacks of Kroft’s game winner against the Steelers last season that clinched a playoff berth for Buffalo. Kroft may have had doubters, but he showed up when he was needed. If Dawson Knox cannot go next week against the Raiders, it will be interesting to see if Kroft will be targeted more in the red zone.
2) Devin Singletary
Coming into this match-up, I expected a run-heavy offensive attack for the Bills. The Rams were 25th in the league in rushing defense, giving up 4.8 yards per carry according to NFL.com. For Devin Singletary, it was his day to shine.
With Zack Moss out due to a toe injury, Singletary handled the bulk of the rushing attempts and had a solid day. The second-year running back out of FAU had 13 carries for 71 yards, about 5.5 yards per carry.
Looking at the way Singletary ran, it was clear he was a man on a mission. Midway through the first quarter, Singletary had a burst of speed and cut in on a hole made by LT Dion Dawkins to gain 16 yards. It took four Rams defenders to take Singletary down, as he kept beating and banging off them.
Not Just His Rushing Ability
However, it was not just Singletary’s rushing ability that was on display Sunday afternoon. His shiftiness as a pass-catcher also left the Rams defenders tackling air. Early in the third quarter, Singletary went out for a screen to the left and made Samson Ebukam look silly.
After Ebukam beat Dawkins blocking attempt, Singletary shifted towards the Rams sideline to leave Ebukam in the dust. Paired with a Cody Ford block downfield, Singletary sprung free for 34 yards before being escorted out of bounds by a host of Rams defenders.
Singletary took the challenge today against a strong Rams defensive line and hit the creases at the right time. If I were Bills offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, I would add more running plays for Singletary in the coming weeks.
3) Josh Allen: Captain CLUTCH
For all of Bills Mafia, the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game was a roller coaster. With the Rams taking a 32-28 lead with 4:30 to go, it looked as though the game was over. Buffalo was now going to be in the same sentence as the Atlanta Falcons because they blew a 28-3 lead. Well, good old Josh Allen had something else to say about that.
With three timeouts in his back pocket, Allen had all the time in the world to get it done. The comeback bid started out very rocky with a sack on a bid to escape Rams DL Morgan Fox. But on a third down and 22 from their own 31-yard line, Allen threw a rocket to Cole Beasley to pick up the first down.
Then three plays later, Allen hit Beasley across the middle again for 19 more yards to set the Bills up in the red zone. Then came a questionable face mask call on Allen, putting the Bills in a tough spot with third down and 25. But another rocket by Allen to Stefon Diggs set up Buffalo for a fourth down and eight on the Rams thirteen yard line.
Paired with another questionable pass interference call on the Rams, the Bills were in business at the Rams three-yard line. And Allen somehow found Tyler Kroft for the game-winner a play later to clinch his 8th career fourth-quarter comeback.
To be honest, everyone expected this game to be a shootout. And while Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley brought a squirt gun to the gunfight, Allen brought a Smith and Wesson and sent the Rams back to L.A. with a thud.
1) Bills Defensive Showing
Buffalo’s defense looked strong in the first half. With highlights such as a Levi Wallace interception return and a Matt Milano sack, Buffalo cruised into halftime with a 28-3 lead. I was surprised by Buffalo’s defensive showing as Buffalo was -2.5 favorites at the start of the game. But the wheels came off the track in the second half.
Edmunds Does Not Look 100%
For starters, LB Tremaine Edmunds just did not look 100%. After practicing in a limited fashion all week, Edmunds just could not get it going. There were at least four missed tackles that I remember, and none were more embarrassing than his attempted tackle of Robert Woods. On the play, Edmunds helped double cover Tyler Higbee with Taron Johnson. That move allowed Woods to cut back towards the middle of the field and waltz into the end zone.
This has been a problem for Edmunds since he entered the league, as he has 36 missed tackles in his career according to profootballreference.com. It makes you wonder if Edmunds should have sat out another game to rest his shoulder. I am not saying that he would have, but it still bothers me how different the defense would have been if Edmunds was 100%. Barring any setbacks next week, Edmunds will hopefully be closer to full strength when the Bills fly to Vegas to take on the Raiders.
Another player that was picked on was CB Taron Johnson. Johnson followed Cooper Kupp throughout the game, and Kupp got the best of him, racking up 107 yards on nine receptions including a touchdown (which Tre’Davious White gave up). Johnson looked lost as the slot corner, often losing his man in the fray of pre-snap motions.
Sure, Johnson was second on the team with eleven tackles. But there can be only two reasons why he was that high up. Either he was a ballhawk or he was targeted a lot by Rams QB Jared Goff. I think I will go with the targeted one for 500, Alex.
Again, this is the best WR unit that Buffalo has faced so far this season with Kupp, Woods, and Higbee. But the road gets much tougher in the next couple of weeks when Buffalo takes on the teams such as the Chiefs and Cardinals.
2) Rushing Defense
The Rams have had running back by committee rushing attack so far this season. After releasing Todd Gurley in March, the Rams hoped they had found their guy in Darrell Henderson. On Sunday, he made the Bills #4 ranked rushing defense look foolish with 20 carries, 114 yards, and a touchdown.
Buffalo was destroyed in the trenches for their rushing defense. There was little pressure applied by Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, who had a combined two tackles in the win. Time after time, the Rams offensive line would get to the second wave of defenders with ease. This is where Buffalo severely misses Star Lotulelei, who opted out of the 2020 season.
Lotulelei was the big body run stopper that the Bills relied upon along with Jordan Phillips, who is now in Arizona after Buffalo failed to sign him in the offseason.
This defense prides itself on stopping the run, as they finished 10th overall in the statistic last season. Buffalo needs to get this fixed fast, as they have some strong running back matchups coming up.
3) Offensive Line
Do I need to say it again? Josh Allen was running for his life on Sunday afternoon. I know fans will say, “Well, that is just the way he is because he extends plays with his feet.” I get the argument, but here is why you are wrong.
It was no secret that Aaron Donald was going to be a deciding factor. The freak of nature had two sacks for 18 yards. That is what Donald typically gets because of his athleticism. But Allen cannot take all these bone-crushing hits, especially one.
With about eight minutes to go in the third quarter, RG Brian Winters was bull-rushed by Donald and became completely washed out on the play. Donald eventually got to Allen and ripped him down by his nameplate. The ball eventually popped out and Donald recovered the fumble. The NFL missed a clear penalty here. In 2016, the NFL said a horse-collar tackle happens if a defender grabs the jersey at the nameplate or above and pulls a runner toward the ground.
UPDATE: I was wrong on this rule as it does not apply to Quarterbacks in the pocket. Here is the rule:
ARTICLE 16. HORSE-COLLAR TACKLE
No player shall grab the inside collar of the back or the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, or grab the jersey at the name plate or above, and pull the runner toward the ground. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.
The referees did not see the tug of the nameplate. Now that does not take away the fact that Winters was severely overpowered. There were a multitude of times where Allen was under duress and had to scramble away from the pocket to escape the pressure. I get it. Allen is not a pocket passer. But he should not have to scramble around to find an open man in almost every play.
There is hope that Buffalo’s offensive line will be whole again when Jon Feliciano returns from his chest injury. But Feliciano has not been on the practice field yet during these first three weeks.
Time to Breathe, Bills Fans
Buffalo squeaked out the win in Orchard Park against a tough Rams team that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. What was your heart rate during that last touchdown drive? Are you confident in the Bills going into Sunday’s matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders? And do you agree or disagree with my stock up, stock down picks? Let me know by connecting with me on Twitter, @BenBlakely18.