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Takeaways: Bills win a solid game against pesky Panthers

The Bills had a solid-not-spectacular day

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills beat the Carolina Panthers on Sunday to set up a huge AFC game next Sunday. Before we get to that matchup, here are my takeaways from this week’s game.

Offensive line shuffle exposes Spencer Brown

The Bills had to shuffle their offensive line this week; one was planned and one was unplanned. With left tackle Dion Dawkins added to the COVID-19 list on Wednesday, they were able to prepare, but guard Jon Feliciano was added on Sunday morning. With Cody Ford back in the lineup at right guard and Spencer Brown getting his first NFL start on the left side of the line, it was a struggle from the start. Brown, who had a rough go a week ago at right tackle, continued that trend on the left side. He allowed pressure on Allen early but hey, at least he recovered a fumble on an Allen strip-sack in the first quarter. Brown had two holding calls in the first half plus a questionable false start, and allowed a big hit on Allen that was called roughing the passer. He started the third quarter with a holding call that negated a Panthers penalty, but was bailed out by a roughing-the-passer call. He was called for taunting after a block in the fourth quarter and head coach Sean McDermott took him out of the game. He’s a rookie, and used to playing on the right side, so we aren’t going to destroy him, but it was a bad day at the office for the sometimes-promising rookie.

Slow start on offense; what else is new?

The Bills didn’t get their initial first down until about 14 minutes into the game. Stefon Diggs didn’t get a target until the second quarter, which might have something to do with it. Buffalo went three-and-out on their first two possessions, having problems with their OL and penalties among other things and netting -3 yards. They scored touchdowns on their next two drives and settled in for the rest of the game.

Solid, not spectacular offense

Only two teams have hung 30+ points in regulation against the Panthers this season, but now it’s up to three. Carolina came in allowing 177 yards through the air on the year, but the Bills were able to top that, squeezing out 193 yards passing and three passing touchdowns. The rushing offense had a relatively nice day, too, hitting 121 yards with the first RB touchdown in a month. Devin Singletary wasn’t able to get over the 100-yard mark despite 22 carries, so not a great day. It’s not the tape offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is going to show perspective employers, but they had a nice day in the red zone...

Red-zone problems solved?

Against a very good Panthers defense and with their offensive line in shambles and a QB on a hurt foot, you would expect the Bills’ red-zone offense to suffer. Instead, they scored four red-zone touchdowns and were only held out of the end zone once. A Tyler Bass field goal to end the first half was the lone blemish on the day. Gabriel Davis may have played his way into the starting lineup and had two of those scores in big moments; one on 3rd & LONG, and one on fourth down to seal the victory.

Defense is overlooked, but stout

They said it in the broadcast, that members of the defense feel like the unit is overlooked. With Josh Allen on the other side, it’s an easy problem to have. Once again, the defense was very, very good. Carolina was 7-of-17 on third downs (41 percent), they held Cam Newton to 124 yards passing on 38 attempts, and the Panthers averaged 3.8 yards per play. Carolina’s kicker being out helped keep the score low, but it’s still the tenth time this season holding an opponent to 21 points or less.