December 7th …. a date which will live in infamy. Before we start, let’s be sure to remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, a day that took thousands of American lives and launched us into the greatest conflict the world has ever seen. Let’s also remember days and times like that as we complain about 2020. Gratitude is just a change in perspective.
With all of that said, let’s take a look at this Monday Night Football game between the upstart 49ers and the impressive Buffalo Bills. This team is different. I know it has been said, but I’ve struggled to embrace it: this is not your same old Bills. The coaching is impeccable, the quarterback is cooler than my ex-wife on Valentine’s Day, and this team is loaded with young talent thanks to the wheeling and dealing of our master poker player, Brandon “Big Baller” Beane.
This was not just any win. As many of you heard a thousand times on the broadcast, the Bills had not won a MNF game in the 21st century. (That’s a long time, for those keeping track.) But our boys rose to the occasion and put together maybe their most complete victory in a long time. In case you missed the game (SHAME!), here are the highlights:
With all that in mind, here are 10 things I think I think …
1. Sean McDermott sees a wall and runs through it … and the team follows him.
Sean McDermott is to narratives about the Bills as the Ice Road Truckers cast is to reading Dostoyevsky: not a fan. Since becoming head coach, McDermott has broken the 17-year playoff drought, has finally beaten the Pats this season, and now he demolished the storyline that the Bills can’t get it done in prime time. That’s good since our next three games are not played at 1 pm, that cozy and comfortable place for Buffalo. Here’s hoping he smashes two more narratives this season: win the AFC East for the first time since 1995 and sweep the division. Both are in sight. Powder up with that process, and go get ’em, coach!
2. The defense is coming alive. Be afraid, AFC contenders. Be very afraid.
Oddly enough, the defense has been the weakness this season. With so many new pieces, it felt like McDermott and Frazier simplified the defense early on so players wouldn’t be confused, but now Frazier is dialing up all sorts of looks, blitzes, and fronts. We are setting the terms on plays, not the other way around, and with Milano’s return, a healthy secondary, and inspiring play from some of our young guys, the other teams in the AFC better watch out because, as John Randle so famously said, “Regulators, Mount up! We’re coming.”
3. Brian Winters finally found his correct position.
Yes, Winters reared his ugly head last night for a short while, but, man, what a difference it made to not have him in the lineup against a very good SF defense! The Bills gave up one sack, which was Allen’s fault for holding the ball too long, were down in penalties by a fair amount, and the run game was solid. I think Winters’ (mostly) absence contributed to all of these facts. I think we should bust out a tried and true old nickname for old man Winters … the Judge. That’s right. He should spend so much time on the bench that he can’t help but be the Judge. “So it shall be written. So it shall be done!” – Rameses Nannini II
4. Tremaine Edmunds outshined Matt (also known as “Mike” apparently) Milano
The Kaiju, Tremaine Edmunds, rose from Tokyo Bay last night and swept across the city, destroying everything in its wake! Edmunds played better than Milano this week, and the upturn of the defensive play correlates perfectly with the confident playmaking of our monster in the middle. Edmunds only finished the game with seven tackles, but he was moved all around the line, helped gang tackle, and made huge stops when it mattered most. This kid is special when he is healthy, and he is helping to turn this Bills defense into a force. The league had best check themselves if they want to take this unit lightly because Kaijus, well, don’t like to be toyed with.
5. Cole freakin’ Beasley.
I’ve said for a while that John Brown is the most important piece on this offense. I may need to amend that. In big games, in games that matter, Cole freakin’ Beasley is dropping stats like he drops beats. The Bease stung the Niners with 130 receiving yard on nine catches and added a TD in front of Richard “Talks a whole hell of a lot till a 5’7″ smurf makes him look silly in the end zone” Sherman. The trust between Beasley and Allen has continued to grow these two seasons, and when Brown is back, this offense is going to be scary because it has not yet reached its potential. Shall we schedule potential for … let’s see, next Sunday at 8:20 pm?
6. The struggles of CB2, Levi Wallace.
Look. I hear a lot of hate directed toward Levi Wallace right now. And, it’s kind of fair. But let’s be real here. The 49ers determined long before game time that they were not going to throw at Tre Day. So, Wallace had his work cut out for him. I like Wallace. I trust him. He allowed some big catches, but he mainly kept the play in front of him and forced the opponent to earn it. And let’s get one thing straight: Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are a couple of Clydesdales. And yet, despite the obvious talent of these two impressive WRs, they only had 11 catches on 18 targets. I will take that catch rate. That’s not all on Wallace, obviously, but he’s proven to be a trustworthy piece in this defense, and we should not be too hasty to throw him under the bus. That being said, I am kind of keen to see a little more from Dane “I will plunder your villages!” Jackson.
7. Brian Daboll just sent out his resume and expects a callback.
Damn, Daboll! You’re thirsty for that sweet sweet head-coaching nectar. On the biggest stage, ol’ KFC fingers put together a fantastic game plan to dominate a good Niners defense. That McKenzie wheel route man-beater was a thing of beauty. If he continues to show off like this through the next three games, be prepared to look for a new OC. I love Daboll. He’s good, but I’m not the biggest believer. I’ve not loved his historic struggle with adjustments and imbalance on offense, but I don’t think he’s called a better game in Buffalo than last night. Before you leave, Brian … do us a favor. Win one for the Process!
8. Micah Hyde had his best game all season.
Somehow, Micah Hyde is the forgotten man in this Bills secondary. He doesn’t have all of the stats because he doesn’t play along the line of scrimmage, but last night, Frazier and McDermott inched him closer, and Hyde had his best game all season. He lead the team in tackles (tough tackles) with 12, had a pass defensed, a key goal-line tackle to save a touchdown, and a trademark Hyde-terception! Dr. Jekyll may seem dormant deep in the secondary, but you better watch your back for the emergence of Mr. Hyde!
9. How about a kind word for Darryl Johnson?
Can we take a second and give some props to this young guy? Johnson has done everything the coaching staff has asked him to do. He’s been patient, waited his turn, takes pride in his Special Teams play, and he has improved consistently since he has been in Buffalo. On Special Teams, this guy is rolling down the tracks like a Union Pacific carrying lead and Monster Energy drinks! He and Siran Neal must be terrifying to opposing returners, and you love to see it. That run stop last night showed guts, determination, and how people overcome difficulty to get stats (ahem … Mr. Oliver?). Great job, Darryl! You and those Stretch Armstrong limbs have a bright future on the Buffalo Bills!
10. In case you missed it … Josh Allen is the guy.
Why didn’t I lead out with this? Well, I left this until last for two reasons. 1.) Always leave the best for last. 2.) We already know this. Guys, is this even a hot take anymore? It’s not even lukewarm! This take is as cold as Gisele Bündchen as she watches Tom Brady wipe off his makeup and whine about his day every single night! Allen is not just a dude. He IS the guy. He IS a top-five QB. He (as our dear leader, the King has stated many times) is in the MVP discussion. Last night, against a good defense in prime time, Allen completed 32/40 passes for 375 yards, four TDs, at a clip of 9.4 yards per attempt. That is ridiculous. Through 12 games this season, he has over 3,400 yards passing, 26 TDs, and 8 INTs with a 69.9% completion percentage on eight yards per attempt. This guy is great. There’s no question. This isn’t even news anymore, and the fact that we have to pretend this is still news is getting old. Jack, Jim, Doug … we love you guys. But there’s a new sheriff in town, and he looks damn good in shorts.
- Bojo … man, that guy has a leg. Just to be clear, Bojorquez is averaging 50.5 yard per punt this season. The all time record single-season punt average is still held by Sammy Baugh set in 1940 with an average of 51.4 yards per. Get that record, Bojo. And bring that mustache back. #sexy
- Tyler Bass is becoming automatic. There. I said it. Nice job, kid!
- A.J. Epenesa is so close to popping on the field, you can feel it! I can’t wait for this kid to have his coming out party because it’s coming.
- Vernon Butler had a great game last night. He consistently put pressure on the QB and made trouble for RBs.
- Ed Oliver was … well, invisible. I know. I know. I’ve heard it all before. I know he’s better than it looks. I know he is getting double-teamed and so on and so forth. Marcel Dareus got double-teamed all of the time too, and he had 28.5 sacks in his first four seasons. Just saying …
- Gabriel Davis, Stefon Diggs, Isaiah McKenzie … these guys all played important parts in Buffalo’s win, and a full article is deserved for each, but my fingers are tired.
- Dawson Knox looked like his old self last night. That’s two weeks in a row with a TD, and last night he was throwing some haymaker stiff-arms. Let’s see if this young man continues on this trajectory.
- Devin Singletary was solid running the ball last night, and he’s a fantastic pass protector. Finally, Motor is really becoming Allen’s safety blanket out of the backfield, and he has a penchant for making that first man miss.
There’s so much I could talk about with this game, but I shall leave some meat on the bone for my fellow writers! If you have any thoughts, complaints, violent disagreements, or paternity tests I should know about, feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @AdamNannini
And be sure to check out my podcast, The NFL Basement, with Nate Asper, where we make NFL Game picks every week and talk about NFL history!
Finally, be sure to check out the Writer’s Room as part of the BF Tailgate show on Sunday mornings! I host every week and bring on a different panel of Bills writers to discuss the upcoming game.