The Buffalo Bills seemed to think that their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began closer to 6:00 than 4:30, but once they figured themselves out, the game quickly became very entertaining. Buffalo trailed 24-3 before they showed any signs of life, and while they were able to force overtime, a win just wasn’t in the cards for the afternoon.
After a 33-27 loss, the Bills find themselves clinging to a playoff berth and suddenly dealing with an injury at the most important position on the roster. Each of our five players to watch played quite well on Sunday. Here’s how our guys performed in Tampa Bay.
QB Josh Allen
For the first half, it sometimes looked like Allen was going to have to do everything himself in order for the Bills to have any semblance of a chance. His offensive line looked like a series of subway turnstiles, and while his receivers were able to make some plays when he had time, he just didn’t have enough time for the offense to move consistently. In the second half, though, Allen went full god-mode, igniting the Buffalo offense and gutting out a historic performance. Allen became the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards and throw for 300 yards. Unfortunately, he became the fourth player to complete that stat line in a losing effort. Allen showed phenomenal athleticism and great accuracy all night. He dealt with constant pressure, he took check downs, he took deep shots, and he took off running when he had lanes. He threw a bad interception to Richard Sherman near the close of the first half, but he ran for one touchdown and threw for two more, finding Dawson Knox and Gabriel Davis for fourth-quarter touchdowns. Overall, Allen completed 36-of-54 passes for 308 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, adding 109 rushing yards on 12 carries, one of which went for a touchdown. On the negative side, Allen suffered an injury that head coach Sean McDermott is terming a “foot sprain”—which has Allen listed as day-to-day heading into next week’s critical matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
WR Stefon Diggs
Buffalo’s top wideout had a solid line on the night, as he caught seven passes for 74 yards on 13 targets. That’s not the issue. The issue is that NFL officials seem to have made the collective decision that it’s okay for Diggs to be mugged—repeatedly—without penalty. It happened not once on Sunday, and not twice, but thrice. Diggs can’t do much more than he’s done, as he catches what’s catchable, he fights through tough, physical coverage, and he’s kept his cool...for the most part. He turned and looked for a flag Sunday on what was an obvious holding call that, of course, went uncalled; had he continued running and looking for the ball, he may have had a touchdown. Instead, the Bills had nothing. Let me be clear: Buffalo didn’t lose on Sunday because of the officials. They lost because they didn’t show up in the first half against the defending champs. But when a team is allowed to play a certain way, there’s a cumulative effect on what happens in the game. When a team is allowed to hold once, they’ll continue to do it until they’re called. When they aren’t called at all, frustration is bound to follow. What transpired on Sunday was a disgrace. Good on Buffalo for controlling their controllables and keeping focused on the comeback.
WR Cole Beasley
Allen went to his top slot guy often on Sunday, and Beasley delivered. He caught a team-high nine passes on the night for 64 yards. Especially in the second half, Allen looked for Beasley to move the chains and bail him out after looking at his downfield options. Beasley made just two catches for 13 yards in the first half. Of his seven grabs between the second half and overtime: two converted first downs, two went for nine yards immediately preceding first-down conversions, and two came right before Buffalo converted a fourth-down. Beasley was sure-handed in big moments on Sunday.
CB Levi Wallace
In a game where the opposing team threw for 363 yards, it’s not often that you’ll be able to praise the corners. However, most teams don’t have the greatest quarterback of all time, a future Hall of Fame tight end, and two of the best wide receivers in the league, either. Wallace more than held his own in his first real test as Buffalo’s CB1. He was called for a brutal pass interference penalty in overtime on a play where Mike Evans bear-hugged him from behind to initiate contact, bailing Tom Brady out on what would have been, at best, an incomplete pass on 1st & 10. Instead, it was a 19-yard penalty and a first down. Wallace managed two tackles on the evening.
CB Dane Jackson
Speaking of corners who played well, Dane Jackson looked great at times on Sunday. He was physical in both run support and in coverage, he didn’t allow any big plays in man coverage, and he was able to fit right into the defense for much of the night. On the play where Tampa Bay won the game, a 58-yard touchdown to Breshad Perriman, it’s possible that Jackson was supposed to pass the man on his side of the field (Mike Evans) off to the corner on the other side, leaving him to cover Perriman. The miscommunication led to the game-winning touchdown. Without knowing the call, I can’t rightly say whether it was Jackson’s responsibility to stick Evans or pass him, but it’s clear that Jackson thought he was sticking and his teammate, Levi Wallace, thought it was a pass-off situation. Jackson had seven tackles and two pass breakups on the night.