The Buffalo Bills were back on the Sunday Night Football stage after a long time, and they took advantage of the opportunity to establish themselves as one of the top contenders in the AFC to a national audience.
With a well-rounded effort, Buffalo kept Pittsburgh within striking distance when things weren’t working properly on offense, and took the lead and never looked back after adjusting on that side of the ball. Here are my top three takeaways from this impressive win:
OC Brian Daboll deserves all the props
The clash of titans was expected: Buffalo’s high powered offense taking on Pittsburgh’s stout, top-ranked defense. For an entire half, the Steelers were dominating the matchup with timely, well-disguised blitzes getting home and killing any rhythm by the Bills’ offense. Josh Allen was pressured on almost every snap, and the receivers didn’t have any time to separate against the good Steelers secondary.
I talked about this Stack set earlier in the yr. It helped the Bills a lot in pass pro. Williams doesn't have to worry about getting beaten out wide bc of help by Knox. Williams can play inner half of Watt. OL slides to Heyward. RBs & of TEs releasing holds 2nd level for Diggs. pic.twitter.com/mLy7Y86i3u— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) December 14, 2020
After a three-point performance in the first half, it was clear that adjustments were needed. Daboll inserted new formations and made some personnel changes, like using two-tight end sets, something we barely had seen in 2020 before the second half against Pittsburgh. With better protection, Allen had enough time to deliver strikes all over the field, especially to star WR Stefon Diggs.
*Daboll's use of personnel with Davis & his size being the deep option— Cover 1 (@Cover1) December 14, 2020
*Beasley's nuance to the route
*Shoulder fake by Allen
*Arm talent to make this throw in a condensed area
All led to the Bills beating a 2-on-3 Coverage pic.twitter.com/2tEa0b5b9P
Obviously the players’ execution on the field was equally important, but Daboll put them in a situation to succeed. It’s refreshing to see the Bills’ offense being able to find answers and play so well against a strong opponent. Daboll is a big reason why they’re at this level.
Defense back on track at the right time
Despite the surge of the Bills’ offense in 2020, the team hadn’t been looking stronger than it was a year ago. The main reason was the underachieving defense. Injuries, lack of preseason and time to find how to utilize the new signings properly, and some poor individual performances all contributed to the less-than-ideal results on the field.
This hasn’t been the case after the bye week. The team is getting healthier at the right time, and the coaching staff, led by Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier, found ways to maximize the skill-sets of players that otherwise were weak links in the group. Look no further than at A.J. Klein’s case. Seen as a liability before, he has been playing so well that, even with Matt Milano back from injury, it’s been difficult to take Klein out of his early-down linebacker role, where he’s been playing at a very high level lately.
Glad to see the Bills utilizing their double-A mug look w Edmunds & Milano again. Good disguise by Hyde here. The Bills make it look like they are defending the bunch set w a traditional check. Instead, Hyde drops out as the Bills play Tampa 2. Johnson playing above the scheme. pic.twitter.com/B8qyZrY9pc— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) December 14, 2020
The DL rotation finally seems figured out and the secondary is finally healthy, too, now having three solid number two CB options in Levi Wallace, Josh Norman, and rookie Dane Jackson. Overall, the unit found ways to stop the run without being too exposed in the passing game, one of the biggest difficulties early in the season.
Edmunds jumped the crossing route where Ben wanted to go with the ball. pic.twitter.com/28RzQUANmA— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) December 14, 2020
Buffalo’s finally looking like a well-balanced team, one that should be a major problem for any opponent they face in the playoffs.
Daryl Williams is back to All-Pro form
When the Bills signed Daryl Williams to an incentive-laden one-year deal last offseason, it looked like just another Sean McDermott/Brandon Beane move for a former Panther for depth purposes. Well, 14 weeks later, the right tackle has re-established himself as an All-Pro tackle.
Williams wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot, but he was able to win the RT job and never looked back. He’s been steady all year, and Pro Football Focus named him one of their mid-season All Pros. Yesterday was another game where he showed why he deserves all recognition possible.
Bills’ RT Daryl Williams did a great job blocking Steelers’ pass rusher T.J. Watt on Sunday night and was lauded for his performance. Against Pittsburgh, Williams played 75 snaps and allowed only one quarterback pressure, per @PFF. (📸 via @usatodaysports) #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/9i4IaGpgFS— alex brasky (@alexbrasky) December 14, 2020
Facing maybe the most feared edge rusher in the league at the moment in T.J. Watt, Williams played incredibly well, constantly shutting him down in one-on-one situations without much help. His performance allowed Buffalo to shift the double teams to Cam Hayward, who’s been a problem inside, and helped Buffalo to correct their protection schemes and beat a tough defense.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Brandon Beane deals with his next contract. He has surely earned it, and alongside Dion Dawkins, he’s been forming a really strong and underrated tackle duo worth being kept together long-term.
- Stefon Diggs is awesome. He legitimately is one of the top five WRs in the game right now, and the same can be said about his QB, Josh Allen. When was the last time we could say this? Diggs’ next reception will give him a team record, surpassing Eric Moulds’ 100 receptions in 2002.
- It’s great to see Tremaine Edmunds back in form. Maybe his shoulder injury was tougher to deal with than we thought. Anyway, his performance jump, alongside Klein’s, make me believe Frazier and McDermott just found better ways to utilize them together, disguising better what they’re doing snap by snap.
- I’m happy for Levi Wallace’s performance after being called out by Frazier last week. He started strong, but after sitting out for a series where Josh Norman got an opportunity, he came back and was beat for a TD. Despite the lowlight, he kept balling and made an awesome INT on a play where he got beat but recovered well. I don’t expect Wallace to be lights-out going forward, and he should continue to be part of a committee with Norman and maybe even Dane Jackson in the mix. The Bills should get good enough production opposite Tre White, though.
- Another guy who got his perseverance rewarded was Taron Johnson. His pick-six was a game-changing play, and it was only his second career INT, one that he showed great recognition skills to jump an out route and make Big Ben pay. Taron is reliable as a tackler, but he needed this play in coverage. Hopefully he recovers quickly from the concussion he got late in the game.
- Still in the comeback game department, Zack Moss was really good after a forgettable game against the 49ers. He ran well between the tackles, protected the football, made nice reads, and consistently gained a few yards after contact. It’s the best he looked this year, a performance to build on.