The Buffalo Bills concluded their preseason on Saturday, defeating the Green Bay Packers 19-0. In front of roughly 50,000 fans at Highmark Stadium, the majority of Buffalo’s starters saw extended action, while players on the bubble had their final chances to make their case for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Here are the four biggest takeaways from the game.
Josh Allen surgical with first-team offense
In his first preseason game since signing a six-year, $258 million contract extension, Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense were firing on all cylinders. Allen played nearly the entire first half, showcasing brilliant accuracy and touch while making several “wow” throws. With Stefon Diggs on the sidelines, Allen finished the afternoon completing 20-of-26 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
On the first drive of the game, Allen went 10-of-11 for 90 yards, capping the series off with an incredible 30-yard dart to Gabriel Davis on a post route for a score.
Allen showed great command of the offense while receivers Cole Beasley (four catches, 52 receiving yards), Emmanuel Sanders (four catches, 27 yards) and Davis (five catches, 75 yards, touchdown) all made themselves easy targets for Allen due to their great separation ability.
Allen’s performance in the final dress rehearsal before the regular season was dominant and should bring fans excitement as they head into their Week 1 clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Siran Neal bounces back
Cornerback Siran Neal was the subject of a lot of criticism after surrendering a 73-yard touchdown against the Chicago Bears. But against the Packers, Neal was perhaps the team’s most impactful non-offensive player. Neal recorded seven tackles on defense, adding another on special teams.
The special teams ace was all over the field on defense, making big tackles against both the run and pass. Neal played both outside and in the slot and his bounce-back performance should put a lot of the concerns about his abilities in coverage to rest. As the team’s fifth cornerback, Neal’s defensive snaps will be game-planned for specific roles that will put him in advantageous situations, so his early struggles in the preseason likely won’t be an issue during the regular season.
Run defense needs some work
During the first half, Buffalo’s run defense was cause for a bit of concern. Against Green Bay’s second and third-team offense, the Bills’ starters allowed 67 rushing yards on 16 carries. The defense gave up multiple chunk plays on the ground to Kylin Hill and A.J. Dillon.
Fortunately, Buffalo’s defense got the stops when they mattered most. A.J. Klein made a huge stop on third-and-goal during the first quarter that led to a big-time pass breakup by Tre’Davious White in the endzone to force a turnover on downs. Klein had another huge stop inside the team’s five-yard line that stalled another potential scoring drive.
On a positive note, Star Lotulelei looked great in his return to action. He got a lot of push up front and did a good job anchoring against double teams. His return should bode well for the team’s run defense as a whole and hopefully the team’s inconsistent performance on Saturday gets cleaned up as the Bills enter the regular season.
Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa close out strong preseasons
While neither managed to record a sack, both Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa were once again impactful coming off the edge for Buffalo’s defense. Each had multiple quarterback pressures, with Epenesa’s hurry resulting in an interception by Jordan Love.
Later in the first half, Rousseau got pressure with an inside move and Love forced a pass that was nearly picked off by linebacker Andre Smith. Rousseau started the game opposite Jerry Hughes, while Epenesa mixed in and even saw snaps at left defensive end, a shake-up from his usual spot on the right.
Overall, the three preseason games showed off what fans can expect from the team’s young group of pass rushers. The Bills are loaded along the defensive line and their depth was evident Saturday, as the team steadily rotated players in and out of the lineup.