Following an underwhelming first half, the Buffalo Bills pulled away from the Cleveland Browns to win their Week 11 clash, 31-23, and improve to 7-3 on the season. It’s a much-needed win after two straight close, tough losses, and especially after a very chaotic week of rescheduling everything just to make the game happen.
As is tradition, we will explore what was the most inspirational part of the game, an inquiry into a critical player on this Bills defense, a player that requires a better performance, and an irksome unit on the defensive side of the ball.
Inspire – Cook and Singletary:
There are several things that could be viewed as very inspirational for this Bills team after this game.
The much-maligned run defense shutting down the vaunted Browns’ rushing attack to a total of 80 rushing yards is one area of encouragement.
For me, the most inspiring part is not how few rushing yards they allowed, but how many rushing yards they got without Josh Allen as the focus. The Bills finally committed to the run game in the second half and were generously rewarded for it. Devin Singletary scored another TD, but James Cook looked his absolute best as a pro and has continued his upward trajectory since the bye week. Cook looked confident, fast, strong; everything they needed him to be as their second-round pick coming out of Georgia. This is the first time the Bills seemed to commit to the run game – and part of it certainly came from the early struggles of Allen and the passing game – but hopefully the success of the run game will force Ken Dorsey to find some more consistency and rhythm calling run plays for the offense instead of finding random spurts and moments to sprinkle it in.
Inquire – Tyrel Dodson vs. Tremaine Edmunds:
This isn’t so much asking as it is telling everyone how important Tremaine Edmunds is to this defense. The Browns had a clear intention to attack the middle of the field, and it worked for most of the game. The Bills got bailed out in the red zone by numerous drops by Browns TEs, but it should not erase the fact that backup linebacker Tyrel Dodson simply cannot affect the game in the same way that Edmunds can. Edmunds’ size, speed, intelligence, and length create opportunities for other players to make plays on the ball. The middle of the field is not targeted nearly as much, and he can hit, tackle, clog up passing windows, and contest catches far better than Dodson can. Edmunds has been the target of Bills fans’ ire for several years now, but the last six quarters of play should hopefully show fans not just how important Edmunds is to how the defense runs, but how good he is as a player on his own. Dodson struggled, and it’s certainly true that Edmunds is not a perfect player either, but Edmunds is very obviously the better player and should be leading this defense for a long time.
Require – Josh Allen:
Josh Allen has been struggling for a while now. It’s not just the injury to his elbow, though one can imagine that it certainly doesn’t help things, but Allen was extremely inaccurate to start the game. While he did improve in the second half, the Bills (rightfully) dedicated to the run game to not only help alleviate a struggling passing game, but also because the run game was finally working effectively. Allen didn’t make the game-breaking turnover in this game, but it was clear that the passing game and Allen were out of sync from the start. Some of it might have to do with the change of schedule and setting, as the Bills had a very chaotic and shortened week of practice and travel just to make this game happen. But it isn’t just this game, it’s the last couple of games for Allen, and it’s time to wonder just how the Bills’ offense and Allen can refocus and start playing more consistently and effectively.
Irk – Bills’ Pass Rush:
This is two straight weeks where the Bills’ pass rush has been largely lacking. The Bills attacked with the blitz against the Browns but didn’t find much success until the second half. That Bills’ pass rush that won early in the year with four-man rushes and a deep pass rush rotation has since been very inconsistent with both sack production and pressures. While Jacoby Brissett is a surprisingly elusive QB (and played very well overall), the Bills should not have been as lacking in the pass rush department as they were. The most consistent rusher seemed to be either Von Miller or Ed Oliver, who had a tremendous day defending the run as well.
The Bills have a quick turnaround to play at 12:30 PM on Thanksgiving in this exact same stadium as they take on the red-hot Detroit Lions, who are riding a three-game win streak. The Bills are choosing to fly home and then fly back for this game in order to give the players as much normalcy as they can during this brutal snowstorm in Buffalo. The Bills have a tough task ahead of them against a very tough Lions team, but they are more than capable of beating a Jared Goff-led offense. For now though, the Bills should celebrate a hard-fought win and look to continue that streak against the Lions this week.