Let’s face it. The loss to the Cleveland Browns was about as brutal as it gets. The offense was terrible, the defensive line was a nonfactor and as a whole, the Buffalo Bills had a lackluster performance. It was clear that something had to be done if this team was to have any aspirations of making their second postseason berth in three years.
Fast-forward a week. The Bills are playing the Miami Dolphins. Although this Dolphins team is well… terrible and as injury-depleted as could be, the Bills came out with a different attitude. They played, as head coach Sean McDermott preached during the week, “fearless”. We may not know how good this team is, but it’s clear that this coaching staff is incredibly self-aware.
This is crucial for the Bills, not only for this season, but the future as well. Welcome to this week’s Thursday Thought: Self-awareness is key to a Bills playoff push.
Let’s start by discussing changes that were made. To begin with, the offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, spent the game in the coaching box rather than roaming the sidelines like he had been doing. This gave Daboll a bird’s eye view and a different perspective of what Miami’s defense was showing. The quarterbacks coach, Ken Dorsey was talking to Josh Allen throughout the game, and Daboll would occasionally use the phone to communicate to his starting quarterback.
Another change that was made was the offensive personnel used during the game. Gone were the numerous sets and formations that seemed to use any offensive player who was activated for the game. Instead, the same general skill position players were in on most offensive snaps. This included: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie, Dawson Knox, and Devin Singletary. With Frank Gore, Tyler Kroft and Pat DiMarco coming in occasionally.
Additionally, there were some players who didn’t play many offensive snaps, like Lee Smith and Robert Foster. This was likely and an effort to simplify the offense for Allen and allow the second-year quarterback to think less and just play his game (like I called for last week).
Defensively, two big changes were made. The first being the cornerback spot opposite Tre’Davious White. Throughout the entire season, that job had belonged to second-year cornerback Levi Wallace. Although Wallace shined last year, the past few weeks have been tough for the former undrafted rookie.
The coaching staff noticed this and gave more opportunities to former first-round pick Kevin Johnson. As the game went on, it was easy to see that Johnson was playing at a higher level than Wallace. This was proven as Johnson was Buffalo’s highest-graded defender according to Pro Football Focus, who gave Johnson an overall grade of 82.2.
The second change made was the overall mentality and aggressiveness of the defense. The Bills defensive front had been struggling to get pressure on the quarterback and stop the run. To alleviate some of the problems, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier sent blitzes, stunts and other exotic looks at the Dolphins offensive line. The result was a dominating performance that led to holding the Dolphins to 23 yards on the ground and seven sacks.
The fact that this coaching staff had the self-awareness to see the struggles of their football team, and instead of sitting on their hands, decided to fix these issues is huge. It’s moves like these that can make or break a football team and proves that this coaching staff, and this team, are ready to win.
Mitch Broder is a contributor for The Buffalo Fanatics. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mitchell_broder