Despite a second-half Green Bay Packers surge that coincided with a partial Buffalo Bills collapse, the Bills were able to hang on and defeat the struggling NFC North team, 27-17, in a Week 8 clash. Sean McDermott continues to be undefeated coming off the bye week, and the Bills improve to 6-1 on the season. It may have taken longer than expected after a terrific first half, and some Aaron Rodgers heroics certainly made some fans nervous by the end of the game, but the Bills ultimately avoided the trap and earned another victory.
As usual, after any Bills win, we will look at the most inspiring part of the game, the position group that has us asking some questions, the aspect of the team that requires a better performance, and the most irksome parts of the game overall for the Bills.
Inspire – Bills Run Game:
The Bills were willing and able to establish a run game against this Packers defense. Granted, the Packers’ defense is, by design, not geared toward stopping the run, and Buffalo certainly took advantage of that. Devin Singletary continues to look phenomenal as the lead back for this offense, finishing with 14 attempts for 67 yards. He ran with decisiveness and toughness all night while the OL opened up great holes for him, and frankly, he should have gotten more carries, particularly in the second half. In addition, James Cook appears to be establishing a rhythm now as a runner, breaking off a few good runs early in the game and finishing with five carries for 35 yards. He also recorded a 41-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter Overall, this was a part of the offense that the Bills had been missing consistency from, and now it seems that they have established a good rhythm and consistency to provide a counter punch for when teams sell out against the pass. More importantly though, when the Packers were attempting their comeback late in the fourth quarter, the Bills were able to effectively chew enough clock to keep the Packers from having enough time to mount a successful comeback.
Inquire – Slot Receiver:
It was an up-and-down night for Isaiah McKenzie, who had an early snafu that led to a loss in the red zone but also had a good catch on a later drive to set himself up for a score later on. The calls to see more Khalil Shakir on offense will continue to grow as McKenzie’s performance remains inconsistent. Shakir’s primary reason for not being on the field as much seems to be his inability to block consistently, which is fair, and something he needs to improve moving forward. Regardless, the platooning of the slot position (which also includes Diggs in some respect) seems to not have a particular reasoning behind it, or worse, it appears to be a bit too obvious what the intentions are for the Bills on offense when one player is in vs. the other.
Require – Josh Allen:
Josh Allen did not have a terrible performance overall, (13/25, 218 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) but it was certainly lacking from what we have seen from him so far this season. After starting hot in the first half, Allen seemed to be pressing the second half to push the game out of reach early. An aggressive goal, and one that should be applauded in today’s NFL; what came of that aggression was multiple turnovers and missed opportunities. This is not all on Allen, as the Bills should have been a bit more run-oriented in the second half than they were, but Allen made similarly poor decisions on both of his INTs, forcing the ball over the middle of the field across his body. It’s a standard rule of quarterbacking, that this is something you should never do based on the angles, but Allen is a bit of a rule breaker when it comes to how the QB position is played and has gotten away with that type of play before. It’s not so much the aggression and the confidence that is the issue here, it’s more about knowing the situation (having a multiple-score lead against a team that cannot throw the ball consistently) and playing based off that. The Bills were fortunate that Allen’s first turnover was followed immediately by a Jordan Phillips pass deflection that landed in Matt Milano’s arms for an INT. They were unfortunate that on third-and-goal from the three-yard line, Allen tried to force the ball to Gabe Davis on a short route, scrambled when it wasn’t open, and tried to force the ball over the middle for a TD regardless, leading to a Jaire Alexander turnover. Throwing the ball away and taking the FG (or even going for it on fourth down) is a much more preferable option to turning the ball over (again) by throwing across your body over the middle (again). This is ultimately not a point of concern moving forward, as we know what Josh Allen is capable of, but he should have performed much better tonight than he did.
Irk – Bills Run Defense and Tackling:
The Bills had a challenging task ahead of them going against Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon in the run game, but it felt like the Bills had a number of opportunities to make some tackles and Jones would stay on his feet, breaking a tackle or two, or Dillon would simply barrel forward with power for extra yards. It wasn’t necessarily missing a bunch of open-field tackles, more that they weren’t able to rally consistently when one of the backs was breaking a tackle. Tackling has been a bit of a touch-and-go issue for the McDermott-era bills before, but not so much this season. It’s not a major concern at the moment, but something to keep an eye on.
While the Bills clearly preferred to have the Packers drive down the field for as long as possible, the Bills run defense seemed to be a bit out of sorts for most of the night. Beyond just the aforementioned tackling, the Bills’ defensive line seemed very focused on shooting a gap and getting upfield penetration, leading to some being washed out of the play or getting too far upfield to make a play on the ball carrier. For a team that has been extremely disciplined so far, and especially coming off a bye, one would expect a stronger or more consistent performance from the Bills’ run defense tonight, especially with the Packers missing starting LG Elgton Jenkins. This is not an isolated issue either, as the Titans were able to move the Bills’ defensive line effectively in Week 2 as well. The Titans weren’t able to take advantage of the push their OL was getting in that game, and the Bills were missing some of their IDL as well, but regardless, this is something that teams see as a weakness and can take advantage of. The Bills will have to figure out some solutions to this, including perhaps switching to more five-man fronts or base looks on defense, rather than staying (almost) exclusively in nickel.
The Bills will face the New York Jets next Sunday at 1:00 P.M. in MetLife Stadium. The Jets, who had some life for a few weeks and ripped off some quality wins, stumbled against the Patriots this week without star rookie running back Breece Hall in the lineup. While Bills fans should certainly feel confident in a win next week, the Jets’ defense is aggressive, tough, well-coached, and will not go down without a fight. The Bills should not take this team lightly, but should continue to stack wins in their effort to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC for this postseason.