Forget about blowout wins, Bills Mafia. These Bills don’t care about style points and aren’t anywhere near perfect as a team. However, they sit atop the AFC East after another hard-fought win, this time against the longtime nemesis New England Patriots. Here are my top three takeaways from this game:
Promising game by the rushing attack
The Buffalo Bills entered this week 8 matchup against the Patriots with the 32nd-ranked rushing offense, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. With veteran guard Jon Feliciano back in the lineup, we have finally seen good and consistent performances by both of the team’s running backs, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss.
Zack Moss scores his 2nd TD of the day! @buffalobills
— NFL (@NFL) November 1, 2020
The bad weather was a factor that made the running game even more important today, and thankfully, the Bills’ offense could run the ball effectively. Singletary finished the afternoon with 86 yards on 14 carries (8.6 average) and Moss scored two TDs and ran for 81 yards on the same 14 attempts. Josh Allen added 23 yards and one score on 10 attempts.
Line play is improving. Boettger down block and Feliciano climbing creates a Singletary sized hole on the run that set up the second #Bills TD… for which Winters and Feliciano should get credit. #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/o19uVhjXPt
— Dean Kindig (@TCBILLS_Astro) November 1, 2020
Buffalo’s offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, called more run plays from the single-back formation with Allen under center, and it proved to be effective. He still had his fair share of shotgun plays and kept his preferred 12-personnel on the field most of the time, but the running backs, with improved blocking from the offensive line, took advantage of their opportunities. They made good reads, found the holes and hit without any hesitation. It was a good sign for a unit that had leaned heavily on the passing attack before this game.
After four great quarters, defense breaks down again
It was too good to be true. After holding the New York Jets’ offense to four yards in the entire second half of last week’s game, the Bills’ defense continued their dominance in today’s first half against the struggling Patriots offense. They held them to 44 rushing yards and just 6 points in the first half, making it look like another game where Buffalo could win without doing much on offense.
— NFL (@NFL) November 1, 2020
Unfortunately, the second half came and some old problems reappeared. Cam Newton was able to hit a few play action passes behind the Bills’ linebackers, and the defense couldn’t stop New England’s rushing attack. Newton was a big part of that, rushing for 54 yards and one score, but Damien Harris (16 attempts for 102 yards and one TD) and Rex Burkhead (26 yards on six attempts, 4.3 avg) looked unstoppable at times, too. If not for a big-time play by DT Justin Zimmer, forcing a Newton fumble to close out the game, the Patriots could’ve stolen this one late in the 4th quarter.
Justin Zimmer forces the fumble with less than a minute left in the game!
— NFL (@NFL) November 1, 2020
The Bills clearly haven’t found the answer at the 1-tech DT spot, with Harrison Phillips getting another opportunity as the starter after Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler started the previous two games, respectively. With Milano still playing only on key downs because of his injury, A.J. Klein is seeing a lot of playing time and costing this defense several opportunities to stop their opponents. It’s going to be interesting to see if and how Brandon Beane addresses those situations before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Belichick continues to be Josh Allen’s kryptonite
The Bills’ signal-caller hasn’t found much success against the mastermind Patriots HC, and it continued this way in today’s win.
Walk it in, @JoshAllenQB!
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) November 1, 2020
The weather didn’t help, for sure, but Allen never got into a groove passing the ball against New England’s defense, finishing the day completing 11 of 18 passes for 154 yards and one INT.
Despite all their absences on this side of the ball, most notably reigning DPOY Stephon Gilmore, Belichick still found ways to make Buffalo’s QB uncomfortable throwing the ball all afternoon. His defense consistently made it difficult for Allen to recognize who were the blitzers and from where they were coming.
Paired with what seemed like good man-to-man coverage, this strategy made Allen feel the necessity to get rid of the ball quickly or scramble to the sidelines to buy time, looking for an option to get open. It clearly made Allen change from playmaker mode to a sort of “avoid mistakes at all costs” mode, which limited the Bills’ offense.
JC JACKSON PICKS OFF JOSH ALLEN 💥
His league-leading 4th INT of the season!https://t.co/Yzq7YMmGbx
— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) November 1, 2020
In what looked like a miscommunication between the QB and his favorite WR, Stefon Diggs, Belichick’s strategy worked perfectly, resulting in an easy interception for JC Jackson. Until Allen finally figures out Belichick, the Bills-Patriots games will continue to be close. Maybe next time, with better weather, we can see better results.
- Good to see the OL playing with some nastiness. Credit to Jon Feliciano; his comeback jumpstarted this turnaround, even after losing center Mitch Morse early in the game. Buffalo will need more of this physicality to continue to be able to run the ball.
- Levi Wallace was back from IR and started opposite Tre’Davious White, even though rookie Dane Jackson was able to impress in his NFL debut last week. With Taron Johnson still struggling badly in coverage, maybe it’s time to give the rookie, or Josh Norman when he’s back, an opportunity inside.
- Give me Ryan Bates over Ike Boettger inside. I’ve always been higher on the former than the latter, but I thought Bates couldn’t play inside. However, he came in as the emergency center when Morse went down and the offense didn’t miss a beat. Next series, Feliciano moved in and Boettger assumed the LG spot. It’s understandable because the center position is so important for the QB between snap exchanges and blocking calls, so maybe it’s better have the veteran playing there. But if Bates can play center efficiently, I believe he can play guard too, and he should be an upgrade over Boettger.
- After almost forcing a fumble that would have given Buffalo a shot at beating the Kansas City Chiefs late in the game two weeks ago, Justin Zimmer wasn’t inches short this time. The revelatory DT punched the ball out of Cam Newton’s arms, guaranteeing the team’s win. Great to see his never give up mentality paying off with a game-changing play like this.