The Buffalo Bills were able to win some battles on Sunday against the New England Patriots, but they ultimately lost the war, dropping a tightly-contested 16-10 game. Buffalo’s defense played fantastically, but struggles with ball security and special teams led to the team’s undoing.
How did our five Bills to watch fare this week? It was a mixed bag, for sure.
QB Josh Allen
Yikes. Allen spent much of the day running for his life, to be fair, as the Patriots were able to pressure him early and often, consistently flushing the young quarterback and preventing him from progressing through his reads. Allen’s footwork looked bad, especially in the first half, as he misfired repeatedly on short, quick throws meant to give him some rhythm. After the pass rush started coming through, Allen found himself trying to make something out of nothing, firing three pretty bad interceptions on balls he shouldn’t have thrown.
The good is that he seemed to settle down after the half, as he looked far better in the third quarter than he did in the beginning of the game. In the first half, Allen was 5-of-17 for 60 yards and two interceptions. In the third quarter, he was 8-of-10 for 93 yards with one interception. The turnovers were a big problem, but he clearly looked more comfortable in the third period, especially during an opening drive where he repeatedly hit short, underneath throws in moving methodically down the field for the only touchdown drive New England has allowed all season. He only threw one pass in the fourth quarter before a dirty helmet-to-helmet hit by Jonathan Jones knocked him out of the game.
It wasn’t a good day for Allen, but it’s not the end of the world. Bill Belichick’s defenses have a habit of eating young quarterbacks alive. Allen needs to learn from his mistakes and continue his growth, but first, he’ll need to heal.
RB Frank Gore
The veteran has been worth every penny this year, as he continues to look far younger than his years. Gore has a penchant for gaining tough yards, and he’s shown a little explosion, as well. He broke off a 41-yard run on Sunday, and he totaled 17 carries for 109 yards. He was targeted once in the passing game, though he failed to haul in the pass. Gore did most of his damage in the first half, carrying nine times for 88 yards in the early-going. In the second half, the Bills went more with T.J. Yeldon in an effort to provide a better receiving target, first for Josh Allen and then for Matt Barkley. Yeldon actually played more snaps than Gore in the game, appearing on 45 snaps as opposed to 38 for the venerable veteran. In the fourth quarter, Gore saw only three carries for three total yards even though the team was within one score. If rookie Devin Singletary is able to play next week against the Tennessee Titans, Gore may see his snaps dialed back even further, but on Sunday, he was one of Buffalo’s brightest spots.
TE Dawson Knox
I said in our Slack channel this week that I thought Knox, a former high school quarterback, would throw a pass this week. I had the play right, but it was John Brown throwing the pass instead. Knox played more snaps (54) than any other Bills tight end, but he was only targeted three times on the game. He caught all three of those targets, totaling 58 yards in the process. I wish I knew why he wasn’t a bigger part of the game plan to begin the contest, as his size (6’4” and 254 lbs) and athleticism was one of the more favorable match-ups Buffalo had this week. On the fourth-down pass to Zay Jones, in particular, Knox’s size and obvious contested-catch ability would have been hugely beneficial. Instead, the staff went three-wide with Lee Smith in to serve as an extra blocker. I’d rather the Bills have split Knox out and thrown the bigger target the jump-ball if that’s the play they wanted to execute.
OL Cody Ford
At this point in his young career, Ford is not doing the job at right tackle. He has been consistently beaten in pass protection, and while he has been better in run-blocking situations, he hasn’t been good enough in them to justify continuing to rotate with veteran Ty Nsekhe. To be fair, Nsekhe was the right tackle on Matt Barkley’s interception, when it appeared that a miscommunication between Nsekhe and T.J. Yeldon allowed linebacker Kyle Van Noy to come through untouched. Perhaps all of this rotating is preventing the line from gelling as a unit, as the group continually has to adjust to a different guy at the position. Ford struggled with New England’s pass rush all day, and Pro Football Focus graded him at a 38.2 in pass blocking for the day. I understand that the coaching staff wants to give Ford reps, and I also think he’s going to be a very good offensive lineman in time. However, he isn’t a very good offensive lineman right now. He should be relegated to sixth-man status.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Well, Buffalo’s 21-year old middle linebacker looked outstanding on Sunday. He was great in pass coverage, nearly intercepting a slant in the fourth quarter that could have been returned for a touchdown. He was aggressive in run pursuit, but not overly so, hitting holes when they were there and playing his assignments when he couldn’t make the play himself. When the day was over, Edmunds had 11 tackles (a game-high total), two tackles for loss, and that one pass deflection. New England does a phenomenal job opening the middle of the field through jet-action and pick plays, but Edmunds read his keys well and played sound football. More days like this one from Edmunds will only make a great defense even better.