No one saw it coming. The Matt Barkley-led Bills offense scored early and often, the defense continued their strong play, and the Bills completely dominated the Jets at MetLife Stadium, winning by an astounding 41-10 score. Buffalo improved to 3-7 and thrust New York (3-7) into last place in the division. Here are my four takeaways from the game:
Evaluation time for Buffalo
With the playoffs practically out of reach at this point, it’s time to give some opportunities to young guys in Buffalo. The team made some interesting moves before this game, signing former Broncos WR Isiah McKenzie in free agency and calling up WR Robert Foster and CB Levi Wallace from the practice squad. The moves proved to be valuable ones, with all three contributing heavily in the team’s impressive win.
McKenzie was the team’s primary returner and played a major role in the offense, constantly a jet motion threat. He finished the day with three runs for 32 yards (all on jet sweeps) and one catch for 14 yards on one target. He also returned one kickoff for 33 yards and four punts, averaging 10.5 yards per return there. The former Broncos 5th round pick in 2017 played perfectly the role in which the Bills’ coaching staff tried Ray-Ray McCloud without success. A nice debut for McKenzie and nice find by Brandon Beane.
— Nick (@Nick_Wojton) November 11, 2018
Foster and Wallace were also productive. Both were undrafted rookie free agents out of Alabama and showed a lot of promise in this game. Foster became the first Bills WR to eclipse the 100-yard mark since Deonte Thompson did it 19 games prior. he finished the day with three receptions on four targets for 105 yards. Levi Wallace started at the outside CB spot opposite Tre’Davious White and did a solid job, finishing the game with one tackle and one pass defended, which was nearly an interception.
In a year in which the team made so little investment on the offensive side of the ball, it’s important to find some promising young players in those bottom-of-the-roster situations. Those three and RB Marcus Murphy (14 runs for 69 yards on the day) made the most of their opportunities in this game.
A complete effort from the offense
“The offensive line is bad,” “the wide receivers suck,” “the QB position is a mess”. We heard all those things, and they aren’t completely wrong, but this game showed how those groups are completely dependent upon one another. The WRs can’t make plays if the QB doesn’t give them chances. The QBs will not be able to throw accurately if they aren’t protected. The OL can’t block forever and need the QB to throw the ball on time, but it’s difficult to do when your WRs get zero separation. All of this is even more difficult if the running game isn’t working, but if the passing game isn’t a threat, it’s easier for opposing defenses to stop the run.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) November 11, 2018
For one day, at least, everything worked perfectly on the offensive side of the ball. Matt Barkley gave the QB position some steadiness never seen before in 2018. The OL, with rookie guard Wyatt Teller starting, played well enough pass and run blocking. The WR group, led by an impressive Zay Jones (8 receptions for 93 yards and a TD), was reliable most of the day. This opened up the running game, and LeSean McCoy had his first big game on the season (23 carries for 113 yards and two TDs), looking decisive in his runs. An impressive day by the struggling unit, one to give hope to the fans going forward.
Finally a glimpse of what a Brian Daboll offense can do
Bills fans were growing impatient with the new offensive coordinator, but this was very unfair, in my opinion. Execution was a way bigger problem than schemes or play calling, and this game showed some of Daboll’s potential.
First of all, everything looks different when you get some good play from your QB, and Matt Barkley was awesome. The former USC star played like it was 2012, completing 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards, two TDs and zero turnovers. He did a great job with his reads, consistently finding the open man and delivering accurate passes. It’s everything we need to see Josh Allen doing, and it’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff deals with the situation going into the bye week. It was the best Daboll’s offense has performed this year, and Barkley was a major reason for their success.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) November 11, 2018
With the QB executing his job, all of the other groups also played better. The guys mentioned in the first section stepped up their games, and the result was a more explosive offense. Daboll utilized more speed on the field, consistently rotating Kelvin Benjamin out to have Foster and McKenzie there, and it worked. He was very creative, featuring a lot of motions and even scheming a TD grab for LT Dion Dawkins. Brian Daboll isn’t a problem, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of his offense with the pieces executing better.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 11, 2018
Some stepping up, others falling down
With the emergence of some young players, a few veterans are starting to lose playing time. Wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Terrelle Pryor are the biggest losers in this game. Both finished the game with zero catches on three targets each.
There is no point in being Kelvin Benjamin if you can't come down with this TD.
Contested catch only guy needs to win what's barely a contested catchpic.twitter.com/XJ8xuZOb4u
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 11, 2018
Benjamin had a clear TD in his hands on a perfectly thrown pass by Barkley in the end zone. It was the type of ball on which KB made his reputation in the league, going up and coming down in those contested catch situations, but he failed to secure the catch and score the touchdown. He’s not helping himself and is losing snaps to younger options.
Pryor played his second game as a Bill but also failed to have any impact in the game. It was a big game for him against his former team, but he failed to impress. With Zay Jones establishing himself as the clear-cut number one WR on the team operating mostly from the slot and Robert Foster starting to look like a dangerous deep threat outside, a big outside WR might be a priority for general manager Brandon Beane this offseason. The draft will have some interesting options available in the mold Beane likes, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he deals with this position next year. The rest of this season will be very important for Benjamin and Pryor to help themselves in free agency.