I love the Buffalo Bills. I hate watching the Buffalo Bills lose. When they lose to a team that has as poor a record as the Cleveland Browns do, it makes accepting that loss much harder. Sure, the Browns were favored and, yes, they have far more talent than your average three-win club. However, I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, the Bills had turned a corner and would be able to win a game like this one.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. The Bills snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday, managing to blow a late lead before embarking on a head-scratching final drive that ended with a 53-yard field goal coming up short and left. Rather than overtime, the Bills had their third loss of the 2019 season.
How did our players to watch fare this week? It was a mixed bag, that’s for sure.
QB Josh Allen
It’s starting to become less about the plays Allen does make and more about the ones he leaves on the field. Allen throws some beautiful passes, especially off play-action passes and on intermediate crossing routes. He put a ball right in Cole Beasley’s gut at one point through three defenders, and he was able to consistently hit John Brown on balls downfield. He even found Robert Foster for the first time this season, and he was able to score two more rushing touchdowns while avoiding turning the ball over yet again. However, Allen barely completed 50% of his passes, hitting on 22-of-41 passes for 266 yards with no passing touchdowns. He was late to find Dawson Knox on what would have been a wide-open touchdown pass, and he made some bad throws that prevented the Bills from extending drives. At one point, he could have used his legs to pick up a first down and keep the offense on the field, but he instead fired a prayer into double-coverage deep down the field intended for...checks notes...Cole Beasley? Allen has progressed this season, which has certainly been encouraging. However, he is still at the helm of an offense averaging 19 points per game, and is ranked 24th in passing yards and 25th in passing touchdowns. He just can’t complete a pass that travels more than 30 yards in the air, negating what was thought to be one of his biggest strengths. I want to see him come out and play flawless football for 60 minutes against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Greedy? Absolutely. But after a big loss, it’s what he and the rest of the team need to do in order to move past it.
WR John Brown
Allen’s top target had another solid game, as he hauled in five passes for 77 yards. He was targeted 11 times, and there were a few moments of “oh, what could have been”—an incomplete pass on fourth down on Buffalo’s first drive and an incomplete pass to end the team’s final drive chief among them. Brown isn’t the prototypical “No. 1” wideout, as he’s smallish (5’11” and 178 pounds), but he’s the top target in Buffalo’s passing game, and he’s quietly having a great year. He only has two touchdowns, but his 47 receptions and 680 receiving yards lead the team. He has already eclipsed last year’s leader in receiving yardage, Zay Jones, who finished 2018 with 652 yards in 16 games. In fact, you have to go back to 2015 to find a Buffalo receiver to finish a year ahead of Brown’s current total, which should tell you all you need to know about the state of Buffalo’s offenses over the last few years. I’d love to see the team incorporate some quicker passes to ensure that Brown has the ball in space—screens, quick tosses off of motion, etc.—but the way they’re using him now has been pretty effective.
LT Dion Dawkins
Dawkins held his own against Myles Garrett, one of the league’s best pass rushers. Garrett was credited with one tackle and two quarterback hits on the day. He did not sack Allen, who was only sacked once on the afternoon. Considering Garrett’s gaudy stat line entering the game (10 sacks, 28 tackles, 15 QB hits), Dawkins should be commended for a strong day.
DT Corey Liuget
The newest member of Buffalo’s defensive line only played 17 snaps, and he made one tackle on the day. I saw him used in conjunction with Star Lotulelei and Jordan Phillips down on the goal line, as the Bills went heavy to combat Cleveland’s personnel grouping. In the early part of the game, Buffalo kept the Browns out of the end zone during a ridiculous goal line stand, as they held Cleveland out for eight straight plays. The final play was a stop of Nick Chubb where Liuget made his only tackle on the afternoon, so it’s safe to say that he made an impact in his first appearance with the team.
CB Taron Johnson
No matter where receiver Jarvis Landry lined up, the Bills were unable to stop him on Sunday. It wasn’t Johnson who allowed Landry to catch a touchdown on the first drive of the game—that distinction went to Levi Wallace, who also allowed the game winner—but Johnson did not have a bang-up day in coverage overall. He made four tackles and had zero pass breakups. The Browns ran some nice motion plays and quick-toss concepts that stressed the edges of Buffalo’s defense, and Johnson was washed out by receivers and tight ends on a few of those plays. Johnson hasn’t had nearly as strong a second season as he did during his rookie year, when he was arguably one of the league’s best slot corners.