The Buffalo Bills moved to an 8-3 record and kept the AFC East lead after beating the Los Angeles Chargers, 27-17. With the result, Bills head coach Sean McDermott kept his perfect record coming out of bye weeks and the Bills still are well-positioned to make the playoffs for the third time in four years. Here are my top three takeaways from today’s game:
Defense Trending Up
After a disastrous start to 2020 the Bills’ defense had been rebounding before the bye week, and I expected a jump in production with today’s game coming off of the bye. For the first time this season, all of the top CB options were available, and Levi Wallace got the starting nod opposite Tre’Davious White.
With an extra week to game plan for the Chargers’ offense and fix the issues that have been plaguing the unit’s performances all year long, Buffalo’s defense had their most impressive game of 2020.
Despite a few big gains by Los Angeles’ running backs, the problematic run defense was able to eliminate any consistency from the Chargers on the ground. Rookie Justin Herbert had to throw the ball a lot, primarily in obvious passing situations, playing exactly to Leslie Frazier’s schematic strengths.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) November 29, 2020
Herbert finished the day with 316 yards, but he needed 51 passing attempts (and a hail mary completion) to achieve it, and threw only one TD alongside one INT. He was consistently fooled by the Bills’ defensive looks and couldn’t keep his stellar level of play from previous weeks. His top WR, Keenan Allen, was held to four receptions, 40 yards, and one score, and Mike Williams added just three catches for 26 yards.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) November 29, 2020
If not for Buffalo’s offense consistently giving the Chargers opportunities late in the game, it could have been one of the year’s easiest wins so far. No doubt that the defensive performance contributed heavily to this outcome, and it’s a very promising sign going forward.
There was more good than bad coming out of the bye week.
Despite some pretty clear mistakes, especially on the offense, making this game closer than it should had been, I’m of the opinion that the team came back from the bye week stronger than before.
Yeah, for some moments it looked like the Bills would blow that lead, giving the Chargers several opportunities to come back. However, it happened because of a few bad individual plays (Devin Singletary’s fumble, Allen’s fumble and interception), not because they were playing a bad game as a team.
The defense seems back on track, which is huge going forward. The offense has proven to be prolific and finally got the running game going today. Singletary ran for 82 yards on 11 attempts (7.8 ypc), and Zack Moss added 59 yards on nine attempts (6.6 ypc). Allen was an integral part of the ground game yet again, with 32 yards and one TD.
— Bills QB Watch (@BillsQBwatch) November 29, 2020
Mitch Morse came back, and it’s hilarious to imagine that he isn’t one of the top five offensive linemen on the team. He and veteran TE Lee Smith, having an opportunity to play meaningful snaps on offense for the first time this year, were crucial in the success on the ground.
— Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) November 29, 2020
The passing attack didn’t put up the usual lofty numbers, but don’t be fooled; Andre Roberts consistently gave the offense an awesome field position to start drives, and penalty yardage could have improved those totals. Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Gabriel Davis all had their moments and contributed to the win.
This Bills trick play 😳
Cole Beasley throws a dime to Gabriel Davis
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 29, 2020
Overall, it should have been an easy win, given how the Bills outclassed the Chargers all game. A bad stretch in the fourth quarter made the score closer, but instead of it resulting in a bad loss, it just made the score closer. That’s a sign of how well prepared the team was for this game.
OL strong on the ground but very questionable in pass protection
With Cody Ford placed on injured reserve, today the Bills started what looks like the team’s starting OL for the first time in a long time. Mitch Morse was back at center and Jon Feliciano moved to LG, with Brian Winters keeping his RG spot. The rushing attack finally worked, but the pass protection was less than ideal, to put it mildly.
Nobody puts a hand on Joey Bosa? Okay.. pic.twitter.com/yxe4nDkNE7
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 29, 2020
Chargers star DE Joey Bosa dominated his competition, no matter who was in front of him. To make things worse, sometimes there wasn’t anyone in front of him, something that’s completely unacceptable when facing this type of player, elite at his position. LA missing Melvin Ingram opposite him makes it even more mind-boggling.
Joey Bosa just wanted a hug 😅
— PFF (@PFF) November 29, 2020
Bosa created huge problems for the Bills’ offense, who refused to run the ball away from his side and struggled big-time to keep him away from Josh Allen. As a result, the Bills’ QB couldn’t get into a rhythm and the Chargers were able to hang around all game.
It’s good to see the running game working properly, but the pass protection needs to be better. Winters in particular hasn’t played well, and maybe moving Feliciano to the right side and re-inserting Ike Boettger as the LG could be a better option.
- For some people, it was Josh Allen’s worst game in 2020; I don’t feel this way. His INT was bad, a bad decision with the pressure getting into his face, and he a forced throw where his arm was hit. The botched snap also shouldn’t happen in an ideal world, but it’s part of the game. Other that that and few bad passes, I thought he did well. He scored in the air and on the ground and, as always, was the centerpiece of the offense. If those are his bad games, I can live with it.
- It’s great to see Tyler Bass keeping it up, consistently hitting his kicks. The kid is a weapon and it’s also interesting how he is used on kickoffs. He can force touchbacks any time he wants, but he kicks it high, inside the 5-yard line, and forces opposing teams to return it for short yardage, generally being stopped around the 20-yard mark. The sample size still is short, but right now, there isn’t a kicker in the NFL playing much better than Bass.
- The Bills tested several different combinations as their DT pairs, and at least for today, it worked. It looked like Quinton Jefferson was preferred as the 3-tech guy over Ed Oliver, who played a lot of 1-tech. Anyway, late in the game and in clear passing downs, they played together and were interchangeable. Oliver flashed his potential on a sack, but I’d like to see this type of impact more often.
- Andre Roberts — what a weapon. He’s not bringing it to the house, but he consistently gives the Bills a big advantage with the short field, and you’re also not worried about ball security with him.