For the first time since 2008 the Buffalo Bills are 4-0, Bills Mafia. The fourth win came on the road to the dangerous Las Vegas Raiders (2-2) in another game where the offense played really well but the defense had its fair share of issues. Here are my top three takeaways from today’s game:
Brian Daboll’s offense is the real deal
The Buffalo Bills offense has been awesome in 2020 and there’s no reason to not expect they continue to produce at a high level. After four weeks of exceptional play by Josh Allen and his weapons, it’s fair to believe that the occasional rough game would be the exception, not the rule.
Two major impacts on the Bills offense this year: Stefon Diggs and play-action. Here are examples of both and how they can impact one play.— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports) October 2, 2020
First, Devin Singletary screen pass. Watch the attention Diggs draws back side, leaving numbers advantage for Bills on the play: pic.twitter.com/YGxeoKRyLd
I’m confidently saying it because of the way Buffalo has beaten its opponents. They were able to adjust to several different strategies adopted by their four different opponents and put up 30 points or more in all games. No matter if you play zone or man, if you send the house or stay home and play coverage, this Bills offense has the answers to make you pay.
Allen has been in command of the offense, not just executing the plays extremely well, but also knowing how and when to make adjustments pre snap. Daboll has taken advantage of the several toys he has on his hands and utilized every single one, creating nightmare matchups for opposing defenses. Stefon Diggs has added another dimension to the passing offense and the rushing game has been efficient, with or without Allen being part of it.
They’re going to have huge challenges ahead and, obviously, no team or unit can dominate all its games. However, I’m confident this offense can continue to score a lot of points all season long, and Daboll can become a real candidate for a head coach position next year. Hopefully the Bills have someone close to him picking up his brain and learning, because that’s the type of offense I want in Buffalo for a long time.
I wonder if this was intended to go to Singletary. Its the same option route/play they ran to him vs. Dallas last year. But watch Allen work through the progressions. He doesn't even set and step to his target, but what he does do is swing that right hip through. pic.twitter.com/qnqE06pmuM— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) October 5, 2020
Defensive flaws being exposed
If there is one thing that Buffalo Bills fans grew used to trust in recent years, it’s the Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s defense. This 2020 season has been rough, though.
The defense has struggled to stop opposing offenses in different ways this year, and the adjustments made have caused a short blanket effect.
Run defense pic.twitter.com/qm84VIk1UU— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) October 4, 2020
After staying in nickel most of the day against the Rams in Week 3, and allowing huge chunk of yards on the ground and via play action passes, Buffalo adjusted it today. It played more base with A.J. Klein on the field, and big nickel, with safety Dean Marlowe instead of Taron Johnson on early downs. The bigger and stronger Harrison Phillips also started at the 1-tech DT spot, instead of Quinton Jefferson.
The changes proved to be a success against the run, holding up-and-coming Josh Jacobs to just 48 yards on 15 carries. The running game was kept in check all day long, with some Derek Carr scrambles, late in the game, being the only exception. The Bills had the Raiders sort of where they wanted most of the day — third and medium and third and long situations
I said it in our matchup show, the Bills need to have early down success to put Carr in 3rd and long. pic.twitter.com/Ij2lGd7UTC— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) October 4, 2020
When in third and long, the Bills defense gave Carr trouble, but the problem was the third and short or medium situations, where Buffalo couldn’t get a stop and leave the field there. Levi Wallace left the game early with and injury and Josh Norman soon was burned by Nelson Agholor for a big play. Luckily, an illegal formation penalty nullified the Raiders touchdown, but this scare forced Frazier to be less aggressive with his play calling.
The result was Carr picking apart the Bills secondary, playing soft soft zones the majority of the time, with quick passes, not allowing the defensive line to generate any pressure. Norman clearly was a liability when playing man coverage and Tremaine Edmunds struggled again covering the middle of the field. Add that to poor tackling and you have a bend but don’t break defense not being able to leave the field.
Assist to Poyer and Norman pic.twitter.com/3CarReIVIR— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) October 4, 2020
Later in the game, the defense was able to play its best football since Week 1, causing a pair of turnovers, pressuring Carr and not allowing easy completions. They were exposed on a big play, again, with Jordan Poyer needing to interfere in a deep pass to Nelson Agholor. Anyway, I think that’s more the type of playing level we expect from this defense. It’s not 2018 and 2019 Bills defense level yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Lack of elite pass rusher hurting Bills DL
As mentioned before, when the Bills defensive line isn’t pressuring the opposing quarterback, most of the time it’s due to them getting the ball out too quickly. In Jerry Hughes, Ed Oliver, Trent Murphy, Mario Addison and Jefferson, Buffalo has a nice group of players capable of winning their fair share of one on one matchups and generating some pressure.
What Buffalo doesn’t have is a true dominant pass rusher, prime Mario Williams like, capable of single-handedly changing the dynamic of a game. For comparison sake, I’d say this Bills defensive line is the 2019 Bills wide receivers group.
Hughes is good, but he’s more of a John Brown than a Diggs as a No. 1 option. Then you have Addison, Jefferson, Murphy and Oliver, all nice, like Cole Beasley, but not your No. 1 target, or in this case, pass rusher. This unit needs a Diggs to take the next step.
Oliver with a hell of a play. pic.twitter.com/bztn6NSbc9— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) October 4, 2020
Oliver is the best bet at becoming a true dominant pass rusher but, at this point, he’s way better stopping the run than going after the passer. Until Buffalo doesn’t find this type of player, this unit, which is good, needs better play from the secondary and linebackers in coverage to impact the game.
- 2019 seventh round pick Darryl Johnson got another opportunity ahead of rookie A.J. Epenesa, and made the most of it. He flashed on two really strong rushes, getting the first sack of his career. He also forced Carr to move off his spot, allowing Jefferson to make a huge play with a strip sack fumble and recovery.
- Speaking of a forced fumble and recovery, what a play by Norman. That’s what you can expect from him — good tackling and a knack for creating turnovers, via good hands and nice instincts on interceptions and the extremely good use of the “Peanut Punch” technique to create fumbles. When used correctly, he can contribute a lot.
- Another weak link in this Bills defense has been nickel Taron Johnson in coverage. He’s good against the run and tackling, but he needs to play better covering slot receivers.
- Special teams up and downs continues. Tyler Bass missed extra point is a concern, as Corey Bojorquez struggling to give his gunners a shot at pinning the Raiders inside the 10-yard line. On the bright side, Andre Roberts again showed why he’s an elite returner. The defense needs to give him more opportunities.
- Brian Winters started at right guard again, but left the field injured. Quinton Spain came in but, surprisingly played right guard instead of his traditional left spot. The Bills seems dead set on keeping Cody Ford on the left side, allowing Jon Feliciano to recapture his right guard spot when healthy again.
- Tyrell Dodson came in for an injured Matt Milano late in the game and again did a good job. There’s no reason to stick with the slow footed Klein in base defense over Dodson. Trying the athletic second year pro there can be a good solution to play better the run without sacrificing much the pass defense.