No one saw that coming. Even the most confident Bills fans around had a tough time believing Buffalo could travel to Minneapolis led by a rookie QB in his second career start and beat arguably the best defense in the league on their home turf. Believe it or not, that’s exactly what happened. Here are my top four takeaways from the surprising 27-6 Bills win:
Josh Allen is enthralling
The Josh Allen most envisioned in the pre-draft process, including me, would have been a complete train wreck in the situation described above. An unprepared rookie with accuracy issues and lack of experience playing without a great supporting cast should have a tough time against a dominant NFL defense. The rookie QB keeps proving people wrong (yeah, me too).
Fake screen post wheel. Good sell by Allen pic.twitter.com/O0ZPTGJAal— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 23, 2018
It’s really difficult to find a more composed first-year QB who isn’t bothered by the lack of weapons around him or the poor protection. Allen just keeps making plays with his powerful arm and his incredible wheels. He’s becoming a mix of Cam Newton and Big Ben, a tough guy to bring down and a threat on the ground, but also a pass-first QB. Brian Daboll’s offense is clearly molded to his skillset, and it’s great to see Allen so comfortable already.
Allen obviously had his share of head-scratching plays, but it’s undeniable that he’s looking way more ready than most people expected. If he can keep learning from his mistakes and avoid making the same mistake twice, the Bills’ offense will become a tough one to defend sooner rather than later.
Complete defensive performance
After struggling terribly for a game and a half, head coach Sean McDermott took over the defensive play-calling duties. The result was the Bills outscoring the Chargers 14-3 in the second half of last week’s game. Going to Minnesota, DC Leslie Frazier was back at the helm against his former team, and it was a resounding success.
Edmunds— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 23, 2018
“Pop goes the weasel cuz the weasel goes pop!” pic.twitter.com/7WW8Bzj5qG
The unit kept the high-intensity level shown in the last two quarters before today’s game and dominated the Vikings’ offense early. Two sack-fumbles by Trent Murphy and Jerry Hughes gave the offense great field position to open a comfortable 17-0 lead. The defensive line was stout against the run, the linebackers were flying around making plays, and the secondary was all over Minnesota’s receivers. It was a complete game on the defensive side of the ball, refusing to allow Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense to sustain any positive drives until the game was already decided in the 4th quarter.
Cover 3 by the Bills causes Cousins to hold the ball. pic.twitter.com/ajShIApKVQ— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 23, 2018
Frazier successfully calling the defensive plays was very good news. It allows McDermott to focus on his head coach duties, but it also gives the team an option when the defense “needs a spark”, like he said last week. Today was the defensive coordinator’s day of glory, and the HC recognized it.
After a well documented tough week for Leslie Frazier, in which Sean McDermott stripped him of his play-calling duties... Sean presented Leslie with the game ball saying “all him.” #Bills pic.twitter.com/9mL24GUf4X— Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) September 23, 2018
Ground game finally works
When analyzing Buffalo’s offensive matchups versus the Vikings D, it became clear the only shot to have a positive game was establishing the run and winning the time of possession battle. With the news about LeSean McCoy missing the game with injury broke, it became even more improbable. Thanks especially to backup running back Chis Ivory, it happened. Ivory had a very good game, running with decisiveness and finishing the day with 56 yards on 20 carries. It wasn’t dominant, but his ability to consistently gain positive yardage on early downs helped Allen in the passing game. The QB himself was another threat on the ground, and Marcus Murphy also gave the team positive snaps.
Triple option? pic.twitter.com/NqbLXztPTz— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 23, 2018
With the running game working, Brian Daboll opened up the playbook, and the offense looked dynamic. It was refreshing to see after two weeks in which the team struggled badly to have any consistency on this side of the ball. Center Russell Bodine starting in Ryan Groy’s place helped, as he’s the superior run blocker between the two.
During the first week of the NFL season, the Bills claimed a pair of former young Patriots prospects in CB Ryan Lewis and P Corey Bojorquez. Both are showing they may become huge steals for Buffalo.
Bojorquez had a rough first game. Replacing Colton Schmidt, he fumbled a snap versus the Ravens in an awful loss. Since that difficult day, he’s been very impressive. Today, he had five punts downed inside the 20-yard mark, totaling 10 on the season. It’s an impressive mark for a rookie; he’s showing great control in his powerful leg.
On the other hand, the CB had more ups and downs. After being claimed, Lewis was cut and re-signed to Buffalo’s practice squad. With Vontae Davis quitting on the team and Philip Gaines injured, he was signed back to the 53-man roster and started today. Oh boy, what a great first NFL start for the second-year cornerback. Playing opposite Tre’Davious White, Lewis was a major part of the outstanding game played by the team’s secondary. If he can continue to play at this level, he can become the final piece of this great group. It’s still early, but he showed promise.