The Buffalo Bills earned their third victory in 12 days on Thursday night, and this was a big one. The Bills defeated the New England Patriots in a Week 13 clash, all but sealing their longtime rival’s fate as the basement dwellers of the AFC East. This also serves as Buffalo’s first divisional win of the season following two close, frustrating losses to the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets earlier in the year. The Bills find their first division win against a lost Patriots team and are looking to keep that momentum going as they face a tough stretch of divisional opponents to tend the season.
As is tradition, we will break down who gave the most inspired performance, what situation is going to cause a lot of questions throughout the next week, the player who requires a better performance, and the most irksome aspect of this game.
Inspire – Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs (and Ken Dorsey):
A superb night for Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs who connected numerous times in clutch situations, including a TD on a supremely well-run route by Diggs. It’s incredible watching a great QB and a great WR be completely in sync, especially in a critical division game, but the way these two are able to consistently produce even though their opponents know exactly where Allen is going to go is nothing short of spectacular. Allen trusts Diggs and gives him as many opportunities as possible to make a play, and Diggs trusts Allen to give him the ball.
But it wasn’t just Allen and Diggs tonight as offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey seemed to figure out some answers to the red zone question that has been a problem the last month or so. The offense seemed to use more play action and more motion with Isaiah McKenzie and Nyheim Hines to help Allen process the field a little quicker and easier, and Allen did what we are accustomed to seeing and made big plays. In addition to that, Dorsey also seemed to find a very good balance between the three RBs tonight, splitting carries between Devin Singletary and James Cook, and sprinkling Hines in with Cook on certain looks out of 20 and 21 personnel. There seemed to be a bit more cohesion for the offense as a whole, and considering the fact that Dion Dawkins was not available for them (and backup tackle David Quessenberry played through an injury essentially from the start of the game), Dorsey deserves quite a bit of credit for finding little tweaks to the offense to help make things work together for them. Some missed opportunities to be sure, but this was certainly a very good step forward for the Bills’ offense and Ken Dorsey as a whole.
It was also great to see defensive starters come back into the fold. Not just Tre’Davious White, but Tremaine Edmunds and Greg Rousseau, both of whom had very good nights even if they didn’t really show up on the stat sheet.
Inquire – Kaiir Elam:
The most curious aspect of tonight was the deactivation of rookie first-round pick, Kaiir Elam.
Elam, who has had the usual ups and downs of a rookie cornerback throughout the first part of his debut season but had been playing better as of late, was expected to be the starter Thursday opposite of Tre White. Instead, Elam was a healthy scratch with early reports saying that it was not injury related (as he was not on the injury report this week), and it didn’t have to do with any illness that other Bills players have been dealing with the last few weeks. It seems that Elam was simply benched with Xavier Rhodes starting in his place.
It’s a strange decision, to say the least, and when the Bills have been struggling to find a starting pair of CBs to put on the field in White’s absence, the last thing that was expected was to have Rhodes being the one who gets the run in the early part of the game. It will certainly be a question throughout the next 10 days, and with Christian Benford on IR and Dane Jackson struggling as of late, it seems that the choices for the Bills are either Rhodes (whose athleticism has waned) or Elam (the first-round pick with athletic traits). For an outsider writing weekly recaps after every game, the choice seems quite obvious! We’ll see where the Bills coaching staff decides to go with their decision.
Require – Damar Hamlin:
Damar Hamlin had a tough night that unfortunately ended in an ejection after a rough hit against a defenseless receiver near the end of the game. Hamlin struggled to make the play on the Patriots’ only TD of the night, taking a bad angle on the first-quarter bubble screen to Marcus Jones. Hamlin has had a number of good and even great moments this year filling in for Micah Hyde, and the Cover 1 Film Room has broken down how he could be the future starting safety for this team. Tonight was a game to forget for Hamlin, however, and the Bills need him to take the extra time from now until the Jets game to figure out what they can do to help him. Hamlin needs to step up for what will end up being a very tough stretch of games to end the season.
Irk – OL and Injuries:
The offensive line continued its struggles this week. David Quessenberry was put in the unenviable position of having to fill in for an injured Dion Dawkins this week, and to add injury on top of injury, Quessenberry was hurt almost immediately in this game and toughed out the rest of the contest on what seemed to be a bum leg. Quessenberry’s struggles can be excused somewhat for that in and of itself, and he does deserve some credit for playing through a leg injury.
The play of Spencer Brown, on the other hand, seems to be a continuously rising concern as the season goes on. Brown showed promise last year at right tackle, particularly as a run blocker, and the addition of Aaron Kromer as his offensive line coach seemed to be a match made in football heaven. The reality has been less than divine, as Brown has been struggling, particularly in pass protection for most of the season. These mistakes are often masked by Allen’s ability to scramble, elude rushers, or simply take off and run for yards, but at a certain point, the Bills are going to have to make a decision on what Spencer Brown’s future is with this team. Obviously cutting or waiving him in 2022 isn’t an option and it would be foolish to suggest that, but the Bills need to approach 2023 with the notion that Brown should not be the only answer they have at right tackle.
The Bills get a much-needed 10 days off before facing another division rival in the New York Jets. The Jets are coming off a win against a beleaguered Bears team, but the Jets are also dealing with a bit of an identity crisis at QB with Mike White starting in place of the now-benched Zach Wilson. Regardless, the Bills need to win this game and avenge their earlier loss to the Jets this season in order to keep pace with the Dolphins for the AFC East title. A Bills game at home at 1:00 PM after 10 days’ rest sounds like a good starting point for a Bills win.