Despite dealing with some important injuries on the defensive side of the ball, plus a dangerous Dolphins team trying to rebound from a week-one loss, the Buffalo Bills notched another win in Miami, 31 to 28. Buffalo starts a promising season at 2-0 and will take on the Los Angeles Rams next week. Here are my top three takeaways from today’s win.
Josh Allen’s improvement is real.
Allen’s Twitter haters can’t refuse to admit it. They meme his mistakes and stick to their pre-draft evaluations, but it doesn’t matter. Everybody who actually watches his games know the truth: Allen is an elite playmaker and is developing nicely into a franchise quarterback.
700+ passing yards, 6+ TDs, 0 INTs, first two weeks of a season:
Peyton Manning, 2013
Tom Brady, 2015
Patrick Mahomes, 2019
Josh Allen, 2020
— ProFootballReference (@pfref) September 20, 2020
Unlike last week, today, Allen did most of his damage from inside the pocket. Trying to avoid exposing his QB to extra hits and potential fumbles, OC Brian Daboll changed his play-calling and took the designed QB runs out of the game plan. The result was an outstanding showing by his third-year signal caller.
Allen's final stat line: pic.twitter.com/Eu8HvL6ruo
— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports) September 20, 2020
Unlike last week, when Allen’s performance was completely attached to his rushing ability and the simple fact of Stefon Diggs’s addition making things easier for him, today, Allen’s improvements were undeniable. He succeeded throwing several nice touch passes, especially on crossing routes, laying right into his receivers’ hands. He consistently progressed through his reads and found the open man, avoided costly mistakes, and used his legs to buy time in the pocket or scramble when necessary. Of course, he had his “Josh Allen Experience” moment, running over a couple of opposing linebackers and firing up his teammates.
— Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) September 20, 2020
Allen had the best performance by a Bills QB in a long time, throwing for more than 400 yards for the first time in his career. His 417 passing yards tied the third-best mark ever by a Bills QB (Drew Bledsoe in 2002), sitting behind 463 yards by the same Bledsoe in 2002 and Joe Ferguson’s 419 in 1983. Even better, he played at his best when it mattered the most, being completely clutch and leading the team to the second win of the season.
Allen's 4th quarter today pic.twitter.com/8L8mBKY7Aj
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 20, 2020
His chemistry with the recently-added Stefon Diggs (eight receptions for 153 yards and one TD) was impressive, and it’s exciting to think it’s just the beginning. John Brown could be utilized more as a deep threat, were he exceeds, and you still can’t sleep on Beasley. With the QB showing improvement in deep ball placement, this offense will be a nightmare to defend. Allen is the dynamic centerpiece of this up-and-coming unit.
— MeRk (@Merk256) September 20, 2020
Defense struggles, weak links exposed
The Buffalo Bills’ defense is one of the best in the league and has won several games for this team. However, some key injuries have tested the depth here, and the results have been concerning.
Without linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, and cornerback Josh Norman on IR, Miami OC Chan Gailey and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick found two major holes to exploit in the passing game. When Leslie Frazier called man coverage, Fitz attacked Levi Wallace. He was following DeVante Parker, who was questionable for the game with a hamstring issue. This matchup provided easy yardage for the Dolphins’ offense until late in the game, when McDermott and Frazier put Tre’Davious White on Parker, moving Wallace to Preston Williams’ side.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) September 20, 2020
When Buffalo played zone, Fitz explored the backup linebacker duo, A.J. Klein and Tyrel Dodson, in coverage. They routinely were fooled by play action and looked lost in coverage. Tight end Mike Gesicki, as expected, was a matchup nightmare inside, and Buffalo had no answer for him. Klein is too slow-footed and can’t be relied upon as a coverage linebacker. Dodson was really good against the run and always was around the ball, but he doesn’t possess Edmunds’ size or long arms to help covering the middle of the field.
In the end, Buffalo’s bend-but-don’t-break defense, paired with the clutch play by the offense, was enough to guarantee this win. They need their starters back as soon as possible, though, or the offense will be asked to carry the team to wins by itself, week after week.
Dawson Knox underachieving
The Bills had been expecting more consistency from the second-year tight end in 2020. After struggling with drops in his rookie season, Knox reportedly worked hard on his hands this offseason, trying to establish himself as a reliable weapon for Josh Allen in the middle of the field.
So far, the results haven’t been up to par. In two games (two starts), Knox has been targeted six times, tallying three receptions for 64 yards and no scores. His hands continue to be suspect, with the former Ole Miss TE dropping one pass on three targets today. Even when he was capable of making a big play, he finished it by fumbling the football.
Knox left the game with a concussion. He is supposed to be an important piece in this offense and needs to become a more reliable player, otherwise, Buffalo will need to find alternatives. Today, we saw how having a good TE can help an offense.
With Knox’s struggles and WR Gabriel Davis playing so well, I expect Brian Daboll to continue with his fair share of four-WR sets going forward.
- Nice game by Tyler Bass, hitting all four extra points and one important 39-yarder in the first half. Nothing amazing, but important to build his confidence after his first game.
- I don’t get all the hype on Zack Moss so far. Yeah, he can be good and hopefully he is soon, but so far he isn’t more impressive than Frank Gore was last season. Outside of one good run, he was very pedestrian again today. Free Motor; he’s by far the most dangerous runner.
- Cody Ford’s development is starting to worry me. He wasn’t impressive in week one, and today the coaching staff moved him between both sides as part of a rotation with Quinton Spain and Brian Winters. The second-round pick from a year ago needs to get better, sooner rather than later. Buffalo wants to win now, and the five best players should be on the field. I’m not sure Ford really is part of that.
- A.J. Epenesa saw his first action of the season and was unimpressive. The Bills really don’t need him a lot right now, but it would be good to have more from their second-rounder as part of the DL rotation.
- Corey Bojorquez continues to be inconsistent. He punted four times and averaged 41 yards per punt. One poor punt gave the Dolphins a short field to score just before the half.
- Jerry Hughes saw more playing time on the left, and every time you see him there, pay attention to his spin move. Today, he executed a beautiful one, providing a direct path to Fitzpatrick.
- The pass rush in general was good. Fitz could consistently find an open receiver quickly, but when he needed to hold the ball a bit longer, Hughes, Addison, Oliver and others were able to get to him.