Buffalo Bills Week 18: Division Clinching, not Flinching

Before a play was run on Sunday night in Miami, both teams knew that they’d be playing an 18th game. Both teams wanted to secure at least one home playoff game. Both teams understood that going into the postseason with a win always looks better and lends itself to better results in the playoffs. Here are four takeaways from a grudge match in Miami, and another division title for Buffalo.

Takeaways From the Buffalo Bills Division-Clinching Win

Early Bad Decisions Yielded Bad Results

Going for it on fourth down late in the first quarter when your kicker had a 52-yard attempt? Soft Cover 2 against Tyreek Hill all night? Josh Allen throwing off his back foot half the time. Gabe Davis once again turned a different direction than Allen expected him to, leading to a pick. Overthrowing Diggs on a huge deep route that actually would have probably scored. James Cook dropped a sure touchdown late in the second quarter. Two picks in the endzone. All plays that could have dug the grave of the Bills.

Another killer was the throw to Ty Johnson in the field of play at the end of the first half. Year one or two Josh Allen, the decision could be forgiven. Year six JA17?  It could have been a fatal mistake. This game was destined to go down to the wire and be decided by one score. You absolutely can’t let opportunities pass by because of your own self-inflicted mistakes.

The offense was moving the ball in the first half but not scoring. The defense had forced a turnover early in the game but no points came from it. This game seemed up for grabs with neither team looking dominant or better. It’s the little things that go your way that make the big things successful. It’s the little things that don’t go your way that get exacerbated.

The simple answer keeps echoing back: you have to put points on the board. Not attempting a field goal, throwing endzone picks, and bad clock management leads to not even a chance for a field goal at the end of the first half. Monstrous miscues, but at least this time, not nails in the coffin.

How in the world was a defense called to allow a one-on-one with Hill against Benford? Even the best corner would have had no chance against a front-shoulder throw when the defender had to protect against a fade route because they had no backside help. Why you would set up your player for a no-win situation, when a touchdown is the result, is inexcusable, especially on game #17 of the season. Make someone else beat you in that scenario, don’t make it easy on the Dolphins.

One Lucky Play Kept the Ship from Sinking; Another Turned the Tide for Good

Be honest here Bills Mafia. Did you know who Trent Sherfield II was before the second quarter of the game? Could you have told us his number? Where he attended college?  What round he was drafted in?

Here are the answers: jersey number 16, Vanderbilt, and he went undrafted in 2018. Regardless, he cemented his legacy and lore in Bills history. A tipped ball that could have easily been yet another Josh Allen pick instead ends up in the stat sheet as a touchdown pass to the sixth guy on the depth chart. Top receivers get paid tens of millions to make that toe-tap catch. Sherfield makes $1.42 million. Give that guy a bonus.

Then, another unlikely lucky play on a punt when Deonte Harty backs up, seems to make a bad decision by attempting a return, and then 96 yards later a stunned South Beach sees a tie game in the fourth quarter. The ‘whatever it takes’ mentality of the Buffalo Bills of the past month became a ‘whomever it takes’ mantra in Miami. Even with Diggs having a more ‘Diggs-like’ night (seven catches for 87 yards), it was unsung players and a tight end that had missed a third of the season that came in clutch for the Bills.

Every great team is a good first and then overachieves. They are also usually lucky, at least once.  A field goal schtoinks off the post and goes in. A ball is dropped. A quarterback inescapably escapes from a sack and throws for a first down. You have to take advantage of the luck when it shines down on you because invariable an unlucky shadow will cross your path as well. The Bills needed luck, and they got just enough of it. At this point, Buffalo fans don’t want the Bills to win pretty; the gritty, ugly, grungy, grass-stained wins are working out just fine.

Injuries Piled Up and Got the Defense Down, But Not Out

The Bills defense had done an admirable, even amazing job, at getting past injuries to stars all year long. Add to that the on-the-field absence of healthy stars, notably Von Miller, and the defense was still top seven in most categories. Then, guys started going down. Dodson. Douglas. Dawkins cuts his hand. Davis, on offense, injures his knee. Eventually, it catches up to you, and then its effects overtake you.

It becomes too much for any defense to handle and fix. Attrition is a universal detractor and even Miami had several key injuries during the game. In the end, the will of Buffalo’s defense was stronger than the pain and the injuries. Now, Bills Mafia has to hope that the in-game injuries are temporary and that the players can play next week because it won’t be getting any easier.

Rise of the Tight Ends

Dalton Kincaid is a budding star. Maybe he’s not a Travis Kelce, but he’s making a name of his own and becoming Josh Allen’s most reliable relief valve when needed, and a potent route runner the rest of the time. Most defensive backs don’t want to see Kincaid running downhill at them, asking for contact, and often delivering the hit instead of taking it. He also has shown great acumen in his understanding of defenses, finding a soft spot and making himself a huge target for Josh Allen on blitzes and busted plays.

It was also nice to see a healthy Dawson Knox contributing and catching a tough touchdown. It’s been said that this might be his last season with Buffalo, but he is a fan favorite and the kind of ‘lunch pail’ player who will be winsome no matter where he winds up. I wouldn’t mind the Bills keeping him around and using the two tight-end attack for the foreseeable future.

The Bills are AFC East champions again. Western New York will host at least one playoff game, again. The Bills are riding a five-game winning streak now. Do you want your team to face them in the playoffs? No, you really don’t.

Main Image: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

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