After a brutally cold, windy day, the Buffalo Bills emerged victorious against the Bears in Chicago, winning 28-13. The win gives the Bills the AFC East title for the third straight season – an impressive accomplishment that comes just one week after securing their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. This win also helps Buffalo hold onto the No. 1 seed in the AFC, keeping pace with their rival Kansas City Chiefs and maintaining a lead over the Cincinnati Bengals, who they face next week. It was a tough game, an ugly one for most of it, but as usual, an ugly win is far better than an ugly loss.
As usual in these post-game recaps, we’ll take a look at who turned in the most inspired performances, what position group has some questions surrounding them, a player who requires a better performance, and the side of the ball that gave the most irksome performance of the day.
Inspire-Run Game and Run Defense
When Ken Dorsey finally decided to commit to running the ball, everyone found success. Both Singletary and Cook ripped off big TD runs in the 2nd half, and Cook in particular looked very comfortable making a cut at the line and accelerating through for consistent yardage. Singletary finished with 106 yards rushing and a TD, and James Cook nearly secured his first 100-yard rushing game but fell just short with 99 yards and a TD. Josh Allen, of course, gained plenty of yards on his own as well, punishing the Bears when they couldn’t contain him, and finished the day with 41 yards and a TD.
In addition to running the ball effectively, the Bills shut down the Bears’ run game after their first drive. They played their run fits well, tackled effectively, rallied to the balls and played good containment against one of the most elusive and speedy runners at the QB position in the NFL. Ed Oliver was disruptive, with players like Tim Settle and Jordan Phillips also getting in on the action. Kingsley Jonathan also turned in a very good performance for his first time being called up from the practice squad. Shaq Lawson has also been stepping up in the run game as well as a pass rusher in Von Miller’s absence. It looked like it was going to get ugly early, building off their poor performance from last week. Instead, they took it on the chin early and recovered to put together a very good performance overall.
This might be a bit unfair given the conditions and how poorly Allen played, but there are times when the Bills seem to be unable to get the ball into the hands of Stefon Diggs for long periods of time. Diggs obviously commands a lot of attention, but when that happens, other players like Gabe Davis need to step up. After a bad non-catch on the sideline and a fumble in the 3rd quarter, Gabe Davis was unable to do that today. Furthermore, it’s clear the Bills understand their own struggles at WR as they brought back Cole Beasley to try and generate some sort of production from the slot position. It’s time to start figuring out what the Bills need to do to keep their WR production consistent from week to week.
Coming off a very good Josh Allen performance a week ago, the Bills were on the receiving end of a bad Josh Allen game. Allen had some very good plays, but far too many boneheaded turnovers and missed throws. Buffalo absolutely needed to run the ball more given the struggles they would have throwing the ball in the weather conditions, but regardless, there were far too many mistakes from Allen – particularly when they simply needed him to be average.
Too many turnovers and missed throws, and when the run game is working, it should be leaned on until it doesn’t work. Allen is going to be going against a much more talented Bengals defense next week, and this type of performance is not going to cut it against them.
For the second straight week, the Bills’ special teams’ play has been a problem. It was an ugly day in all four phases of special teams as muffed kicks, penalties, and missed kicks from Bass, along with two big returns by the Bears cast a shadow over a typically strong unit.
It’s a tough and confusing couple of performances from Matthew Smiley’s unit, which has been performing well for much of the year. Given how much the Bills have spent on special teams exclusive players like Siran Neal, Taiwan Jones, and Tyler Matakevich, they should be playing well, and for much of the season, they did. Getting closer and closer to the playoffs is not the time for this unit to start slumping, and whatever the issue may be, it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
The Bills will be playing the Cincinnati Bengals next week on Monday Night Football, with the winner likely ending up with the no. 1 seed in the AFC. The Bills continue their stretch of wins, and will certainly enjoy having some extra time off between their game today on Saturday, and their next game on Monday night. It will be one of the toughest teams the Bills have faced all season, as the Bengals have a very good offense paired with a very good defense. The Bengals along with the Bills seem to comprise one of only a handful of teams in the NFL that can play complete, complementary football, and it will be a fascinating duel with huge stakes on the line.
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