The anticipation for the 4:25 p.m. kickoff was killing Bills fans all day. But it was worth the wait, as the Bills offense fired on all cylinders, and the defense recorded two turnovers in the 30-23 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. But whose stock went up and down after the win on Sunday?
1) Cole Beasley
As I was listening to the pregame show on the radio, Nate Geary of WGR named Cole Beasley as a sneaky fantasy starter. Considering my fantasy team is now 1-3 on the year, I should have drafted him.
After Beasley led all Bills receivers with six receptions for 100 yards against the Rams, I expected him to pick up where he left off. Even though he only had three receptions for 36 yards, two of those receptions were key.
Beasley is not known as a big-threat wide receiver. Standing at only 5’ 8’’, his route running tree consists of mainly quick slants and dump-offs to pick up short yardage. But Beasley’s second reception of the day quieted those hasty generalizations.
With Buffalo knocking on the door of their second touchdown, Beasley ran a short flag route shaded towards the right side of the endzone. With Stefon Diggs pulling Raiders CB Lamarcus Joyner into double coverage, Beasley broke for the endzone.
Beasley had to climb the ladder to make the reception because Josh Allen’s throw was a little high. But he snagged the ball right as Joyner put the crown of his helmet into Beasley’s hip, causing the wide receiver to bend over backwards and land on his left shoulder.
For what seemed like a scary fall, Beasley popped right up and spun the ball in celebration for the touchdown. He sacrificed his body for the catch, something that he talked about with media after Buffalo’s 35-32 win over the Rams last week.
“You’re going to run through for a wall for him … I’ll put my body on the line for him because I know he’ll do the same,” Beasley said.
Fighting Through the Pain
But as Beasley walked about the sideline after the play, it was clear that he was in some discomfort. His left foot slammed the turf and twisted awkwardly after the catch. He was listed as questionable to return and eventually came back to make his third reception on a toe tap out route that set up Allen’s one-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Beasley was still fighting through the pain with his left leg wrapped with medical tape from his foot to his shin. The grit and toughness of Beasley to continue illustrates that this team will do anything to lead the charge.
The injury may be something to watch during practice next week. Nevertheless, Cole Beasley highlight-reel catch will be circling the social media of Bills Mafia for at least the rest of the week
2) Bills Rushing Defense Gets Back to Winning Form
Buffalo’s rushing defense was going to be a spotlight matchup with the Raiders. After giving up 167 yards on the ground to the Rams in week three, Buffalo needed a quick turnaround. There was an expectation that with all the injuries they had at wide receiver, the Raiders would lean on RB Josh Jacobs to carry the offensive load. In this case, Buffalo needed to step up their game in the defensive trenches.
Buffalo answered the challenge with flying colors, limiting Jacobs to 48 yards on 15 carries.
Ed Oliver Makes Huge Impact
One of those rush stoppers was defensive tackle Ed Oliver. After being relatively quiet in the first three weeks, Oliver recorded two tackles for loss in the victory. One of these included a fourth down and one stop with 9:47 left in the game.
With the Raiders in a shotgun set, Carr handed the ball to Jacobs on a misdirection to the right. As the handoff was occurring, Oliver overpowered Raiders RG, Gabe Jackson. Oliver smothered Jacobs at the line of scrimmage to stop the Raiders’ drive. Plays like these are the ones that Bills DL coach, Eric Washington, will highlight in Monday’s film session.
Buffalo’s defensive front finally stepped up to stop the Raiders’ rushing attack. They were able to stop the Raiders’ offensive line from getting to the second level, something the Rams exposed last week. The force up front allowed LBs Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano to funnel into the action to put more white jerseys on the ball.
Push From Defensive Line Pays Dividends
Plus, the force up front allowed Edmunds, Milano, Micah Hyde, and Jordan Poyer to set the edge. Ultimately, this forced the Raiders rushing attack towards the interior of the offensive line, allowing the Bills defensive line to lick their chops.
The stats are a turn in the right direction, as Buffalo has two more high-profile rushing attacks in Derrick Henry (Titans) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs) coming up on their schedule.
3) Josh Norman
Some people called Josh Norman washed after the Washington Football Team released him on Valentine’s day. The eight-year veteran out of Coastal Carolina struggled in his last season with Washington, recording 40 tackles and one interception in eight games.
Buffalo needed an All-Pro cornerback to complement Tre’Davious White. With the flowing Carolina connection, Brandon Beane signed Norman to a one-year, $8 million contract. In an interview with TMZSports.com, Norman said that he felt an All-world season was coming for him in a fresh start in Orchard Park.
Norman’s comeback season started on a sour note with a hamstring injury during the first week of training camp. Buffalo decided to put Norman on IR, keeping him out for the first three games of the season. But it was a welcome surprise when Norman shed his injury designation for Sunday’s game. And, man, did Norman make his presence felt when the Bills defense needed it the most.
With Buffalo holding onto a touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter, the Raiders were driving. But on second down and eleven from the Buffalo 36, Norman made the play of the day.
Charles “Peanut” Tillman Impression
Matched up against Raiders TE, Darren Waller, Norman used all of his 6’ frame to punch the ball out of Waller’s hands. It was a Charles “Peanut” Tillman moment for Norman, as he recovered the fumble to the roaring approval of his teammates.
This play was the turning point for the Bills, as the Raiders’ momentum was killed after the fumble. Norman looked very comfortable in covering the 6’ 6’’ Waller, as he had another pass breakup late in the game and barked at Waller as he strolled back to the Raiders offensive huddle.
Norman’s presence created a new swagger that the Bills defense desperately needs. But he said after the game that he was just happy to be back out on the field.
“I was just getting my feet back underneath and settling in. Just a bend don’t break mentality kind of thing and waiting for my opportunity to come. It came,” Norman said. If Norman continues to craft his game, he may be the CB2 the Bills have been looking for.
1) Buffalo’s Defensive Coverage Over the Middle
I am sick and tired of pointing this out. But it must be done. Derek Carr and the Raiders offense targeted the middle of the field on many of their passing situations Sunday. And the results were not great for what I consider the core of Buffalo’s defense.
The Raiders did not have a deep and speedy offensive threat, as Henry Ruggs III was out for the game. I instantly knew that Carr would have to make a ton of check down throws. The only problem is that Buffalo’s defense could not stop them.
Take the Raiders’ first touchdown drive late in the first half. With Jerry Hughes applying pressure from the weak side, Derek Carr rolled to his right. And Jason Witten cut dead to the middle on a quick slant and the ageless wonder picked up another touchdown. But where was the coverage? Well, AJ Klein was caught looking in the backfield AGAIN and misread the coverage.
Witten was left wide open in the middle. Carr did not even have to roll to the right, but Witten followed his quarterback and scored. Klein was three steps behind on the play. Either Klein does not fit in Leslie Frazier’s defensive scheme or he needs to have a daily quiz on the defensive playbook.
Edmunds, Poyer, and Hyde Struggle
But Klein was not the only defender that struggled with coverage over the middle. The triangle of Tremaine Edmunds, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde were lost as well. Buffalo implemented more zone coverage throughout the game, which caused confusion between the triad.
Specifically for Poyer, he got burned late in the game. With three minutes to go, Raiders WR Nelson Agholor ran a streak down the middle of the field. Poyer was beat on the play and tried to recover by tugging on Agholor’s jersey. The referee was right on the play and called pass interference. This was the right call.
To make matter worse, Agholor burned Poyer again for the touchdown with 1:32 left. Agholor ran a slant towards the left corner of the end zone while Poyer guessed a slant to the right. Poyer tried to recover but could not as Agholor recorded the garbage time touchdown.
It was a garbage time touchdown for a defense that was gassed because they were on the field for over half of the game (31:42). There needs to be a more selective balance in possession time for the Bills on offense and defense. Even with the fresh legs, Buffalo’s defense cannot be on the field for these long drives.
Maybe it has something to do with no preseason games for the Bills to iron out the confusions. These little things make my skin crawl as a Bills fan.
2) Third Quarter Offense
I sound like a broken record here. However, Buffalo’s offense continued to sputter in the third quarter on Sunday. The team had 74 yards of total offense in the third. This is not an ideal situation for the Bills.
On their first drive of the second half, the Bills had something cooking. A well-mixed dose of Devin Singletary on the ground and Allen’s quick strike ability propelled Buffalo into great field position. Isiah McKenzie also made his presence felt with a 14-yard end around on fourth down and one from the 50 to keep the drive alive.
Things were looking good for an offense that have scored seven total points in the third quarter so far this season. Then everything fell apart as three incompletions and a holding call on RT Darryl Williams knocked the Bills out of field goal range. With the game being 17-16, Buffalo needed to score on this drive to take the momentum back. Granted, the Bills defense held the Raiders to a punt on their next series.
John Brown’s Controversial Catch: Touchdown or Not???
To add to the frustration, Buffalo was robbed by the officials of a touchdown late in the third quarter. Knocking on the door of the endzone, WR John Brown fully extended to make the catch over the front of the endzone. The officials saw otherwise and ruled him down at the one-yard line.
Not called a scoring play meant Sean McDermott had to challenge the play. Looking at the replay, it appeared Brown reached over the goal line with the nose of the football. But the officials in New York saw otherwise and ruled the play stands as called. It’s worth mentioning that McDermott is now 3-17 on challenges since becoming head coach of the Bills, according to Pro Football Reference.
Eventually, Allen punched the ball in from one yard out in the first play of the fourth quarter. But that leaves the offense with its third zero in the third quarter in just four games. Scoring zero points right after halftime is not a part of the winning recipe.
If Buffalo is going to want to go far in the playoffs, they will have to face many high-power offenses in the future. They need to fix the doughnut in the third quarter, or else the 4-0 start will mean nothing later in the season. Buffalo’s next three opponents (Titans*, Chiefs, and Jets) have scored a combined 42 points in the third quarter this season.
You could point to no preseason and limited training camp for the poor performance. But everyone else in the league did not have a preseason either, so you cannot make that excuse
3) Injuries Continue to Mount on Both Sides of Ball
Did you hold your breath when Josh Allen headed to the locker room after landing on his left shoulder late in the first half? I panicked at the thought that Matt Barkley was going to replace Allen, as there is a clear drop off in talent between the two.
However, Allen said that his shoulder felt fine in his postgame presser.
“I mean I just kind of landed on it a little funky, it’s just the left shoulder, it’s not the right one you know thank god but we’ll be all right. It’s no big deal, I got to play through the pain and obviously we’ll get some treatment on it probably this week but it shouldn’t inhibit anything,” Allen said.
Great, Josh, it was not your throwing shoulder. But here is the thing: you need to stop putting yourself in these situations. I get that you are a mobile quarterback and can throw on a dime. But Allen could have easily thrown it to Diggs for the first down if he did not put his head down instead of a dangerous flip pass.
Sure, he returned with a sleeve on his left shoulder and played with little wincing. That is beside the point. Throw the ball away, and live another day instead of risking your health for a dump pass. This was not the only key injury Buffalo dealt with on Sunday.
Matt Milano left the game late with a pectoral injury during a tackle attempt and did not return. The team has not given an update on his injury, but rumors are swirling that it could be like Feliciano’s injury. (Update: Milano is considered week-to-week, which is a cause for concern). Hopefully, Milano’s injury is not serious, considering he just came back from a hamstring injury.
With their win, Buffalo moves to 4-0 for the first time since 2008. That year, Buffalo finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs. However Buffalo’s coaching staff and roster has a heightened advantage over that 2008 roster.
Buffalo Looked Dominant
There is no denying that Buffalo controlled most of their win against the Raiders. What are your thoughts about the Bills win on Sunday? And who are some players that Bills fans should be excited or worried about? Let me know by connecting with me on Twitter.