The chicken wings in Western New York haven’t tasted this good in a solid month, and the bleu cheese was just a little bluer. The Buffalo Bills looked every bit the team that most people expected to see all season, finally. While the past five weeks of Buffalo bumbling haven’t been forgotten, this game certainly does give hope to the Bills Mafia, and hopefully a potential look at what could be to the rest of the league.
Here are four takeaways from a no-doubt, get-right, stop-the-bleeding win for the favored sons of Niagara’s thunder.
Takeaways from the Bills’ Decisive Win Over the Jets
Dominating Defense, Even When ‘Next Man Up’ is Every Other Man Up
Ok, let’s be realistic here. The dominating performance was against the Jets, who hadn’t scored a touchdown since the Carter administration. That noted, the defense was hungry and humble all game long to the tune of four turnovers, six sacks, and only six points allowed. After a week of speculative shouting about all the coaches, not just the fired one, Sean McDermott made a statement of his own by calling a great defensive game.
It’s a simple stat but one that rings true most of the time: he who takes the ball away more wins more. Buffalo had been abysmal in getting takeaways the past five games. They’ve only forced two. An opportunistic defense only takes you so far; you need to add greedy and ball-grabbing to the mix. The pass rush is beginning to become a massive problem for the opposing offensives, the run defense remains stout, and the secondary is constantly in a ‘bend but don’t break’ pattern. If you can add getting turnovers to the mix, you have a chance to control and win games.
When Taylor Rapp left in an ambulance, you begin to wonder how many more losses the defense could take. Dane Jackson and Taron Johnson also left the game with head injuries. Against the lowly Jets, it didn’t matter much. Against teams like the Chiefs, Eagles, and Cowboys, it may become a more noticeable problem. Josh Allen may end up at middle linebacker before the season is done.
The Disappearance of Diggs
Besides Allen, Stefon Diggs is the most dangerous offensive weapon for the Bills. His last three games went: six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown vs. the Bengals; three catches for 34 yards and no scores vs. the Broncos; four catches for 27 yards and no scores vs. the Jets.
Obviously, teams are focused on stopping the best guy. Makes sense. Heck, Buffalo held Garrett Wilson to two catches for nine yards on eight targets, and Wilson fumbled, so turnabout is fair play. In a way, it’s a compliment that Diggs is having a harder time lately and not seeing more results from his efforts. I’m sure he’s frustrated, but he has to be happy with the win and the fact that the offense played well.
It stands to reason that Joe Brady will find ways to free Diggs as he continues to change what needs to be changed and tweak what needs to be tweaked. Diggs’s numbers this year are still Pro Bowl-caliber and eye-popping: 77 catches for 895 yards and seven touchdowns. It is concerning that Diggs has had a few ‘not a factor’ games, but it’s not time to panic (that was done with the firing of Ken Dorsey, you can’t upset the fruit basket anymore). Diggs is too good of a player to be out of the loop for long, and Josh Allen is too good a quarterback to not find ways to get Diggs the ball with more frequency in the coming weeks. Given the opponents over the next four weeks, he’ll need to make it a priority.
Fewer 4th Down Risks Equaled More Points and a More Complimentary Offense
Maybe Joe Brady trusted Tyler Bass‘s foot more than Ken Dorsey did. Maybe Buffalo understood that in this type of game, points would almost always be better than taking risks. Either way, Bass went four for four with long kicks in the uncertain air of Highmark Stadium and Buffalo eclipsed 30 points for the first time since Week 4 against the Dolphins.
Even Josh Allen was ‘Mr. Hyde’ free, taking check-downs, finding short completions, using legs without recklessly throwing his body around. The offense looked in control for four quarters, the only glaring mistake being the hail-mary at the end of the first half. It was unnecessary, unneeded, and gave Josh Allen a quasi-false stat of an interception (extending his streak to six straight games).
Can the Bills put a finger on what changed on Sunday to make them look some much better? Whether the fingers point at Joe Brady, Josh Allen, McDermott, or just the Bills deciding enough was enough, Sunday’s game was what Bills Mafia had been clamoring for, pleading for, and demanding. Finally, Buffalo delivered.
That trade for Rasul Douglas may be the sneaky best deal of the trade deadline before it’s all said and done. He has changed the dynamic and brought energy and confidence to a beleaguered battered and proud defensive unit. Imagine what the defense would look like with a healthy Tre’Davious White and Matt Milano alongside Douglas.
An explanation from the league as to how an ineligible man downfield penalty can be reviewed and then overturned, and yet the egregious and horrible calls that have plagued the league, changed the outcome of games, and made the sport at times unwatchable, go unreviewed would be nice. At this point, it is astonishing the inconsistent and new ridiculous ways that the officiating tarnishes the game.
It might be hyperbole, but at this point, the Bills are, or should be at least, in playoff mode. They have to have the intensity and focus of a team that cannot afford to lose another game, or the season is over. Realistically, and with high probability, another loss makes a playoff spot an unlikely conclusion. Can the Bills maintain this level of success and efficiency for another six games? It’ll be fun to find out.
Main Image: Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK