Heading into Thursday’s showdown in Texas on a national stage, the attention from all corners of the country was on the Dallas Cowboys. Even CBS for the first quarter plus of the actual game, couldn’t get out of its own way when talking about the favored home team.
By the end of the game, however, the Buffalo Bills showed that these aren’t “the same old Bills,” as they thoroughly dominated Dallas in a 26-15 win that moved their record to 9-3.
With that in mind, and Thanksgiving goodies still in the stomach, let’s look at whose stock took a turn for the better and whose foot is sliding downhill.
Buffalo Bills organization
Really this was a win that put the Bills as a team in the consciousness of the nation. While CBS continually talked about the chaos in Arlington, the Bills showed that they have a direction and leadership to get them to their ultimate goal. Brandon Beane’s additions paid off in big ways against the Cowboys. As always, Sean McDermott provided a steady hand, even after Dallas easily marched down the field at the start of the game for a touchdown. Perhaps, most importantly, you never hear about the Pegulas meddling in things. They let the football people handle the football and it’s paying off in a big way.
Just a month ago, Ed Oliver was barely seen on the field against the Cleveland Browns, a strategy McDermott has used before with younger players (i.e. Matt Milano). Like Milano, the “benching” seemed to work and against a vaunted Cowboys line, Oliver broke out. The Houston product registered two sacks, one of which was of the strip variety. That led to the Bills’ go-ahead touchdown. Even when he wasn’t making plays, Oliver was creating pressure and opportunities for others. In the most important stretch of the year, Oliver seems to be rounding into peak form.
Allen continued his stellar play and gifted Bills fans with his best performance as a professional. He finished with 19 completions on 24 attempts, 231 passing yards and one touchdown, 43 rushing yards and another score, and a highlight that will most definitely stick with him through the rest of his career. Following Oliver’s aforementioned strip-sack, the Bills faced a 4th-and-1 situation. Going for it, Allen fumbled and, in reality, that would have ended the drive for almost every team in the league. Not for Allen. The second-year QB somehow found the ball, scooped it up and dragged a defender a few yards for the conversion. After that play, it was all Bills.
For most of his tenure in Orchard Park, Star has been the target of a lot of venom from Bills Mafia. Analysts would argue that most of that criticism isn’t warranted, but it’s hard to support him when he rarely shows up on the stat sheet or in the mouth of the announcers. Against the Cowboys, however, Star provided his two biggest plays as a Bill. The first big play was his first career interception on a screen pass. The second play was deflecting a field goal attempt at the end of the first half that kept Buffalo ahead by six. Those two plays, for at least one week, should provide Lotulelei with a reprieve from the vitriol.
Last, but certainly not least, is the “uncoverable” Beasley. In his return to Dallas, Beasley had a standout game, amassing six catches for 110 yards and one score. The Bills may have downplayed the return of No. 10, but to show how much it meant to him, all you had to do was see the locker room reaction when Beasley was the last to enter. It was a special day for him and the Bills as a whole.
For as well as the Bills played overall, it wasn’t a good day for Hauschka. He missed a field goal and an extra point, and received a lucky doink off the right upright for one of his made field goals. In what is shaping up to be a special season, Hauschka’s struggles are a massive concern and could cost the Bills in the postseason.