Bills earn solid win against Panthers, 31-14

12/19/2021
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After a tough OT loss in Tampa last week, the Buffalo Bills came back home and outlasted a tough and stingy Carolina Panthers team that took the game into the fourth quarter, ultimately winning 31-14. While the Bills likely should have had this game in hand earlier, injuries and inconsistencies offensively forced a tougher game.

Below we’ll explore the inspiring player of the game, the player that leaves the game with some question marks, what part of the team requires a better performance, and the most irksome part of the game.

Inspire: Gabriel Davis

With Emmanuel Sanders out for this game, Gabriel Davis stepped up and reeled in five catches for 85 yards, and two TDs, making big plays all game. For whatever reason, it took until the last month of the season for Davis to get more involved in the offense. While the Bills have receivers aplenty to throw the ball to, Davis might have the strongest and steadiest hands, is a fantastic blocker, and his size presents defenses with mismatches when lined up as an H-back or slot receiver. Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox both played well in this game, but Davis showed his consistency and versatility, and should continue to be one of the primary options moving forward for this offense. 

Inquire: Devin Singletary

Devin Singletary got the lion’s share of the carries this game, going for 22 carries and 86 yards and a TD today. It wasn’t a dominant showing, but it seemed to be a positive step moving forward for the run game, especially against a very good run defense. The question is how committed the Bills are to giving Singletary this percentage of carries. Zack Moss was deactivated for this game, but Matt Brieda was only given one carry for one yard. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s simply a question of what the plan will be moving forward. It seems that Singletary is who they have the most confidence in, and he seems to be playing with more decisiveness as well, which is good to see. 

Require: Run defense

Much has been made about this run defense in the last couple of weeks, but this might be their worst showing as of late. When talking about the Colts, Bucs, and Patriots, these are some of the best OLs in the NFL, with angry, bullying mentalities. The Panthers have one of the worst, if not the worst, offensive lines in the NFL in 2021. Newton is no longer capable of leading a consistent aerial attack, it was obvious how often the Panthers would run the ball, and the Panthers still managed to get consistent yards on those plays. Some of that was not just Newton being more athletic than the other defenders, some players were simply being moved off the line of scrimmage. 

It wasn’t all bad for the defense, as the pass rush was on point all game. Efe Obada had a great game against his former team, getting several hurries, and two clutch sacks in a row in the fourth quarter. The Panthers also made it clear that they weren’t going to let Ed Oliver ruin their day, as they schemed runs away from him, or used guards to hit him with quick trap plays. It’s been a theme for Oliver all year: a great season that hasn’t shown up in the stat sheet. 

Irk: Offensive Line

Another week talking about the problems of the Bills’ OL. They had a tough assignment going against what might be the most athletic pair of pass rushers in the NFL in Hasson Reddick and Brian Burns, and having Dion Dawkins hit with COVID again certainly doesn’t help things. Then Jon Feliciano was placed on the COVID list this morning, creating more shuffling along the line.

Spencer Brown was forced to start at left tackle and struggled almost all game, missing blocks, giving up pressures, and tacking on five penalties on top of it all. With Brown being moved to LT, Daryl Williams was pushed back out to RT, where he played adequately, if somewhat unspectacularly. Overall, it’s another week of wondering why the Bills felt comfortable with this group as a whole coming into this season, especially when trying to make an AFC Championship game. The Bills under Brandon Beane have been pretty good about self-scouting, but seemed to have missed the mark when looking at the big picture of their OL. 

The Bills now have a week to rest up and prepare for a rematch with the New England Patriots in Foxborough. The Patriots are coming off an uncharacteristically sloppy loss against the Colts, and are currently sitting at 9-5, one game ahead of the Bills in the AFC East. Next week’s game will decide who takes control of the AFC East, and given the Bills’ remaining schedule, will likely decide the AFC East altogether. December football means the games get tougher and the stakes get higher, wheat separating from chaff, and we’ll see what kind of team the BIlls are after that game.

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