Let’s not call it a gritty win. Or a bounce-back win. Or even a lucky win. It was ugly. The W looks just like all the rest in the column, but boy did it feel different. Here are four takeaways from a ‘you can exhale now’ win for the Buffalo Bills.
Takeaways from the Bills Ugly Week 6 Win
The Bills Offense Continues to Hit the Snooze Button
Once the Bills offense gets going it looks as good as any in the league. The problem is the Bills want ‘just five more minutes’ before they wake up, and a cup of coffee to boot. One word you would never think would be associated with the Bills offense would be: sputtering. But that’s what they looked like, out of gas, can’t shift out of first gear, the clutch is burned out. They lurched and stalled out and just looked clumsy.
Is this the same squad that dropped 38, 37, and 48 points on teams this season? The Bills got shut out for three quarters. If the conversation were led with that stat, you would assume it was a loss for Buffalo. This win was solidly because of the defense. Sure, the offense had 2 great long drives and scored touchdowns to the Giants field goals, but right now this squad is not placing fear into the hearts of any team.
I kept saying, “ok, this drive they’ll put something together”. Cook has some great runs in the second quarter, and then Bass misses a tough field goal. Drive after drive just didn’t get up to speed. Until late in the third quarter the offense didn’t even get in the red zone. For the second straight week, there was no go in the O.
It’s frustrating when people talk about ‘second-half adjustments’. Why are they waiting until halftime to decide that something isn’t working? If the engine sounds sour, you don’t just keep driving the vehicle. Diagnose the issues and try to fix them. The teams that win are the teams that can adjust and fix what isn’t working while the game is progressing.
All of a sudden, the offense is searching for an identity. It’s week six guys! Run and gun or ground and pound? (insert the ‘why not both’ memes here). Or at the least, a mix of both that works. The two scoring drives weren’t identity-revealing but they were at least a reminder of what could be and probably should be. Tonight, it was the exception rather than the rule. The teams that hoist trophies have it the other way around.
Side note: the most troubling thing about the offense tonight may have been Tyler Bass missing TWO field goals, in his home stadium. They weren’t gimme kicks but this guy had been a rock up to this point, and tonight was kicking rocks instead. In close games, you don’t want to second-guess your kicker. Let’s hope tonight was an exception.
The Defense is Putting on a Brave Face and It’s Working… So Far
The walking wounded. The survivors. The Bills defense is trying hard to cover up the holes left by their fallen stars. Most of the time they still look the part of a hungry fast and opportunistic group. The defense was good against the run but looked like they were overplaying routes and rollouts. They held the Giants to a pair of easy field goals that could have easily been touchdowns in the first half, which was big.
The biggest play of the first half was the huge goal-line stand by the Bills D to prevent even a field goal attempt. Daboll was livid with his coordinator, and rightly so, for a run play that Tyrod Taylor evidently checked to when the defense he saw didn’t give him happy thoughts. The Giants left a big three points on the field. How big were those at the end of the game when they had to go for a touchdown instead of field goal? The defense deserves the game ball for a gutsy performance and for bailing out the offense.
The Shadowy Ghost of Brian Daboll Still Lingers
It just seemed in the first half, Brian Daboll sort of had the offenses’ number still. The Giants defense was able to be disruptive, especially on pass plays whether bothering Josh Allen or bothering the receivers. Sure, Daboll was an offensive coordinator with the Bills, but this guy is smart and knows football. He lived a breathed and created the Josh Allen-led playbook. He has a familiarity with the mind of Josh Allen, and used it against him Sunday night.
Daboll is smart, doing more with less while the Bills did less with a fair amount more. One team came to play with nothing to lose. Spoiler alert: it was the Giants. They seemed loose, confident, and even a little cocky. Daboll and his staff kept the Bills off balance and exposed most of the game. Maybe it wasn’t a ‘revenge game’ for Daboll and Taylor, but they proved that the infuriating parody of football is alive and well and that if you don’t come to play, you’re gonna get played.
Buffalo Should Forget the Outcome of the Game, But Watch the Film Over and Over Again
The Bills should have won against the Jets. They didn’t. They should have lost against the Giants. They didn’t. So now that the football gods are calling things even, the Bills need to address a few things. The tape of this game needs to be worn out. Yes, they are moving on to focus on New England, but if they play next week as they did tonight, they risk an outcome that is possibly season-derailing.
I hate to say it but the Bills are in chase mode and the Dolphins are not going away. If they don’t learn and correct the Week 5 and 6 versions of the Bills, then the Week 2, 3, and 4 versions of the Bills will be a distant and dim memory. They have potential in spades but right now they are not digging any of it up. Each man on the team, to a man, needs to dig in and commit to improvement. If there are indeed turning points to a season, then the Buffalo Bills have reached one. You squeaked out a win. You got tough and pulled out a victory. Now what? How do you respond?
Everyone was having an off night. Even the Refs. No pass interference on a trip early in the game. No pass interference on a hold of Stefon Diggs in the middle of the second quarter. Calling PIs where there were none (and visa versa, as it were). The self-inflicted penalties were just crushing an already stagnant offense. A horse collar on Josh Allen not called in the third quarter. Holds that aren’t called (every play if you ask the defensive linemen). It was ugly on both sides and got chippy as well.
We all know the season is long, things change, and there is tremendous and agonizing ebb and flow. It’s part of what makes the sport great and the fans ravenous and extremely loyal. It’s also why so much of the game is scrutinized, analyzed, and endlessly broken down.
The refs are universally villainized and yet almost never are they held accountable for their mistakes, which perhaps not often, but more than rarely, affect a game and can have a ripple effect on the game, the season, and the entire sport. But this is true of every sport and so you soldier on and hope that the fate of the game is not placed into their hands. Between the ‘off’ officiating happening across the Sunday slate of games and the unusual amount of missed kicks (Justin Tucker missed an extra point??!!), some that decided games, it was a hard task to watch the action. Can we call it Sunday Ugly Sunday?
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