James Cook dices up Cowboys as Bills cook up 31-10 victory

12/17/2023
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The Buffalo Bills crushed the Dallas Cowboys and won 31-10 to improve their record to 8-6. It was an absolutely dominant performance by the Bills as they continue their push for the playoffs. At no point did the Bills not have this game in hand, winning on both sides of the ball and punishing the Cowboys from start to finish.

Below we’ll take a look at the most inspired performances of this game, inquire about a unit that had an excellent performance, look into a player that could have required a better outing, and, well, not get into anything irksome.

Inspire – James Cook and the Offensive Line:

There has never been a game in which the Bills’ offensive line and running backs have dominated with Josh Allen as the quarterback. James Cook had an unbelievable performance, rushing for 179 yards on 25 attempts, scoring a touchdown on the ground, and catching another 42 yards on a pair of catches, which included another touchdown. With the exception of one drop that should’ve been a second surefire receiving touchdown, Cook had the best performance of his career, making sharp cuts, quick decisions, and breaking tackles throughout the entire game. In short, he carried the Bills to a dominant victory against a top-level team. His involvement in the offense has been clear since Joe Brady has taken over as the Bills’ interim offensive coordinator, and this was his breakout game to put his name on the proverbial NFL map.  

Cook would not have been able to get this win had it not been for all of the Bills’ offensive linemen. Dion Dawkins, Connor McGovern, Mitch Morse, O’Cyrus Torrence, Spencer Brown, and heck, let’s throw David Edwards in there as well; they all won the line of scrimmage, displacing Cowboys’ defenders in the rain and keeping defensive player of the year candidate, Micah Parsons, in check. The investment that the Bills have made on the offensive line, bringing in McGovern, drafting Torrence, and continuing to develop Brown has paid dividends and OL coach Aaron Kromer deserves a ton of credit for how this group has performed throughout the year, but especially in this game. After last week’s game where they gave up a lot of pressure in the pass game, it didn’t really matter what happened in the pass game, because they completely dominated in the run game.  

Inquire – Defense:

Had it not been for the dominant performance by the Bills’ run game, the defense would absolutely be in the inspire section. The Cowboys and Dak Prescott had been on a tear coming into this game, carving up defenses, and dominating every game they played. What the Bills did today on defense is nothing short of spectacular, as they kept the heat on Prescott, sacking him three times and keeping pressure on him throughout the game. They also controlled the line of scrimmage on the ground, shutting down the Cowboys’ run game and limiting them to 89 total rushing yards. They also kept things clean in the back end, clamping down on CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Jake Ferguson, limiting the offense to less than 100 yards through the first three quarters. It was an incredible team effort by the Bills’ defense, dominating up front, controlling the game from the start, and *finishing* for all 60 minutes. The biggest positive for this Bills defense in these last two wins has been their ability to finish, a thing they struggled to do effectively before this. Sean McDermott has taken this defense in his hands in 2023, taken hits with injuries throughout the season, and now has them humming.

So, the real question that has to be asked is this: what changed after the bye week? What changes, if any, were made for the defense that they have been playing so much cleaner and sharper than they had been since the rash of injuries occurred?

Require – More Josh Allen?:

Josh Allen finished the game with seven completions on 15 attempts, for 94 yards, and a passing touchdown along with a rushing touchdown. If you had said that was going to happen before this game started, I would have said the Bills got wiped out and are sitting at 7-7. Instead, Allen was essentially an accessory to Cook’s dismantling of the Cowboys. This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, this is the sort of game some Bills fans have been begging for since Allen became a top-tier QB in 2020. After shipping off Zack Moss to the Indianapolis Colts and seeing Devin Singletary leave in free agency, it all came back to Cook and how he would develop as the Bills’ lead back. So far, the returns look good, if not great. It’s worth wondering, however, if Cook hadn’t been as dominant today, would Allen and the Bills’ passing game been able to step up to win this game? It’s a moot point, and an unnecessary hypothetical, but one worth considering nonetheless. 

Irk – Not much!:

There’s really not much to say here. The Bills won. They dominated the game and looked phenomenal the entire time. The one gripe one might point out is that the Bills likely wouldn’t have had quite the strong start had it not been for some timely penalties on the Cowboys. Three different personal fouls led to the Bills’ touchdowns, and while no Buffalo fans should be complaining about referee calls going their way, it’s worth noting that the Bills likely would not have been as dominant in the first half had it not been for those calls. Regardless, they came out in the second half and continued to dominate on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys had a chance to double-dip at the end of the first half, and at the beginning of the second half, but couldn’t get past the Bills’ defense in either situation. The Cowboys had a chance to adjust their defense in the second half to stop Cook, but couldn’t. The reality is that if it had simply been the Bills being injured, the second half would have looked different than the first, and it didn’t. 

The Bills go on the road this week to face the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night, at 8 PM. The Chargers, who have lost star quarterback Justin Herbert and fired head coach Brandon Staley in back-to-back weeks, look to be a team that is lost in the abyss. Will they play harder after their head coach was fired? Potentially. Will it be enough to beat the Bills with Easton Stick at quarterback? Probably not. In all likelihood, the number of times Bills fans will hear the phrase “trap game” this week will likely become nauseating, even if it is an accurate description. 

This is all to say, that the path to the playoffs is all in front of the Bills right now. Win out, take care of business, and you’re on to the dance, which is all any team can ask for when they start the season.

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