Is there anything better than a Sunday afternoon during the Fall, watching your team rewrite the history books? Yesterday, I had the joy of watching my beloved Detroit Lions become the first team in NFL history to blow six consecutive games in which they held a double-digit lead, dating back to Thanksgiving of 2019. The fighting Matt Patricia’s are now 2-14 in their last 16 games and they have turned snatching defeat from the jaws of victory into an art form.
After the Saints mercifully put me out of my misery, the 4:25 games came on, and I was immediately reinvigorated as the Bills took the field against the Oakland, I mean Los Angeles … make that the Las Vegas Raiders. I knew you all would be counting on me to bring an honest, unbiased view of the Bills, and I take that job as seriously as Matt Patricia takes his. I will admit that I’m developing a bit of a man-crush on Josh Allen that is making it difficult to stay impartial.
1) Brian Daboll
Josh Allen has been great, and I’ll get to him in a minute. But it’s time for someone else to occupy the top spot of the “Good” column, and that man is offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Daboll and Josh Allen are perfectly in sync, and what I witnessed yesterday was an OC who is locked in and had the defense on its heels for most of the game. There are a couple of examples I want to highlight where Daboll really shined.
The first is the TD to Gabriel Davis in the first quarter. You’ll notice Davis lined up in the slot to the right. On the snap, he fakes like he’s going to block the DE before crossing the field. As he hits the far hash, he turns his route up the field, and his defender has no chance to keep up with him. Davis ran a great route, but Daboll schemed him open.
The second play is the 4th and 1 in the 3rd quarter from midfield. Everyone was expecting either a run up the middle or a Josh Allen keeper. Instead, Daboll brings Isaiah McKenzie in jet motion who takes the handoff at full speed and easily turns the corner for a 14 yards gain. The drive didn’t result in points, but it was just another example of Daboll pushing the right buttons at the right time.
2) Josh Allen, MVP
We’re 25% of the way through the 2020 season. At this point, Josh Allen’s continued dominance isn’t a fluke. It’s a pattern. Assuming he stays healthy, he should remain in the MVP discussion if the Bills prove to be an AFC contender. There are still 12 games to go, but Allen is currently on pace for 5,300 yards, 48 TDs, and 4 INTs plus another 350 yards rushing and 12 scores. If he were to maintain that pace, it would be arguably the greatest single-season we’ve ever seen from an NFL quarterback. Allen looks like the 3rd best quarterback in the league right now behind Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson, but not by much. The MVP hype is real.
The two most pivotal moments of yesterday’s game were the two 4th quarter fumbles the Bills defense caused. Josh Norman’s punch out move on Darren Waller was a thing of beauty, and it allowed the Bills to just about put the game on ice. For a defense that has struggled at times to stop their opponents, those turnovers were huge and should give the defense some more confidence moving forward.
1) Pass Defense
The pass defense continues to get shredded. The last three quarterbacks (Fitzpatrick, Goff, Carr) have all thrown for over 300 yards against the Bills. It’s not just the yards; it’s the efficiency. Derek Carr was 32-44 passing on the day and was consistently finding guys open. I know a lot of people are asking what happened to the defense, and I do think there is a reasonable answer.
COVID affected the offseason, and it’s clear the offenses are miles ahead of the defenses at this point. It’s consistently happening around the league, not just to Buffalo. In 2019, there was one team that averaged over 30 points a game and two teams averaging better than 400 yards of offense per game. Through the first quarter of the 2020 season, there are ten teams averaging over 30 points per game and eight teams averaging above 400 yards, including the Cowboys averaging over 500 yards per game.
By the way, the Bills are one of the teams averaging over 400 yards and 30 points per game.
2) A Missed PAT!
Tyler Bass has been much better since the disaster in Week 1. But he missed a big PAT yesterday that would have given the Bills an 8 point lead in the 4th quarter. Luckily, the defense caused the two fumbles, and Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs took care of the rest, but that could have been a big miss. If a game against New England for the division title or a playoff game comes down to a Tyler Bass field goal, I don’t know that I would feel confident if I were a Bills fan.
1) Josh Allen’s Shoulder
Now, I’m used to my quarterback getting battered, bruised, and injured. And as a Lions fan, losing Matt Stafford might be the difference in 6-10 and 2-14. But this Bills team has Super Bowl aspirations, and those hopes literally hinge on the arm of Josh Allen. When he went down late in the 2nd quarter, I was nervous for y’all. He came back, he looked fine, but it was an important reminder of how delicate a balance it is between winning and losing.
By the way, that hit was dirty and uncalled for. I’m surprised nothing much was said on the telecast, but Arden Key drops the crown of his helmet and his forearm into Allen’s head after he’s already let go of the ball. It should have been roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness.
This was the most complete game the Bills have played this year. The Raiders are a solid team and the Bills felt in control all afternoon. If the Cam Newton-less Patriots lose to Kansas City on Monday night, the Bills will have a two-game lead in the division. Four wins is nice. As a Lions fan, I’ve experienced four wins since the start of the 2019 season. Save me a seat on that Buffalo Bandwagon.