The Buffalo Bills needed a get-right game, and they got a get-right game, beating the Las Vegas Raiders into submission and winning 38-10 in the home opener of the 2023 NFL season After last week’s debacle against the Jets in primetime, the Bills went home, regrouped, reorganized, and earned one of the most convincing wins of the early season.
Below we’ll discuss a player on the team that gave an inspiring performance, a position group that is leaving us with some questions, a unit that could require a better statistical performance, and a specific part of the game that proved a bit irksome.
Inspire – Josh Allen:
There’s no one else that deserves this spot today. After last week’s abysmal performance, Josh Allen had his get-right game today, and man, did it look right. Allen completed his first 13 passes against the Raiders, and it was a combination of big plays and smart plays. The Raiders tried their best to keep everything in front of them and did a good job of tackling on most plays, but Allen played smart, took what was given to him, and found the right times to press the defense, take shots, and make plays. He looked calmer, more in control, and in full command of the Bills’ offense today. Ken Dorsey dialed up great plays for Allen, keeping the offense in rhythm, and Allen delivered. Most importantly, after having a disastrous four-turnover game, Allen kept the ball out of harm’s way, finishing the game completing 31 of 37 attempts with 274 yards, three passing scores, and no turnovers.
Inquire – Run Game Rotation:
The Bills got all their RBs involved today, giving touches to James Cook, Damien Harris, and Latavius Murray. Cook got the majority of the totes, with Murray and Harris finding the endzone. It seems pretty clear through two weeks of action that the Bills view Cook as their lead back. They seem comfortable giving Cook the ball in most situations as both a runner and a receiver, and he’s produced well in these first two games, as he finished the day with 123 yards rushing on 17 carries plus another 36 yards on four receptions.
Both Harris and Murray were brought in as bruising, grind-it-out style backs to help take pressure off both Cook and Allen in short-yardage situations. With both Murray and Harris getting carries and finding success (Harris with seven for 33 and one TD, and Murray with six for 22 and a score) what will be Dorsey’s plan moving forward? Will it look similar to today with a balanced approach between Murray and Harris, and having Cook lead the way? Or will there be opportunities for Harris and Murray to be the lead(s) with Cook more in the scat-back role? It’s a question to ponder moving forward, but it’s also a great “problem” (if one wants to call it that) for the Bills to have.
It also helps to have a much improved offensive line, as the usual stalwarts of Mitch Morse and Dion Dawkins have been reinforced by free-agent addition Connor McGovern and rookie second-round pick O’Cyrus Torrence.
Require – Pass Rush(?):
To say that this unit “requires” a better performance would be a stretch, but let’s talk about the Bills’ pass rush today. The Raiders do not have a porous offensive line, their major weakness being Greg Van Roten at guard. The Bills also found plays in the backfield in both the run and the pass, with Ed Oliver making great stops early, and others providing pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo. However, the Bills finished the game with zero sacks. While this would normally be disappointing, the fact of the matter is that Garoppolo knew he needed to get the ball out quickly against a fearsome, aggressive Bills defense, and he largely did early on. After that, it seemed like there were a few too many opportunities where Garoppolo had more than enough time in the pocket, and the Bills’ pass rush did little in that regard. Overall, it certainly was not a bad day for the defensive line, and sacks are not the end-all-be-all for how good a pass rush unit is, but the Bills had some opportunities and could improve a bit in that area to finish on some of those plays.
A much more specific irk, and one that goes back a bit. The Bills let the Raiders score early, and quite easily, with the Josh McDaniels’ script only needing five plays to right down the field and score first. This was not an unusual sign for last year’s Bills with Leslie Frazier calling the defensive plays as well. It’s not an overly alarming trend, as many coaches view those opening drives as a sort of feeling-out period of what the other side is going to throw at you. Some coaches are very good with their opening scripts, but falter as the game goes on and they have to go off the script. Sean McDermott, on the other hand, seemed to be able to lock in on exactly what McDaniels wanted to do against the Bills and executed well afterward. Regardless, it is often a tough pill to swallow when the first plays against your team generally seem to work, and you’re put in an early hole.
The Bills will travel to Washington to take on the Commanders at 1:00 p.m. next Sunday, as they look to move to 2-1 on the season before facing the Miami Dolphins at home in Week 4. While most people are likely looking ahead to that Dolphins game, neither fans, nor the Bills, should be looking past a potentially feisty Commanders squad.