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Game Balls: Devin Singletary rings in the New Year

Devin Singletary’s running angry—and we’re here for it

Atlanta Falcons v Buffalo Bills Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

It seemed nearly a given not so long ago that the Buffalo Bills fielded a highly productive rushing attack each season. Usually, that came at the expense of a dominant passing game. So while many of us had found reasons to doubt the abilities and scheme fielded by the current regime, it’s clear now one thing was lacking: consistency. By that I mean who was running the football—and when.

Devin Singletary had endured a bit of a slump following a promising rookie season, albeit one that didn’t make him a household name outside of Bills Mafia. His sophomore campaign met with regression. So 2021 was ultimately going to be a season full of questions. And for much of the season, questions loomed large. Then came December. National media kept harping during the team’s mid-season struggles that the Bills wouldn’t go far in the playoffs if they were to make it at all—all because they couldn’t or didn’t run the ball well.

Apparently Singletary took that notion personally. While it’s fair to credit the offensive line during the Bills’ recent running renaissance, it’s Devin Singletary who’s gone full Animal. Last Sunday represented a career day for the 5’7”, 203-lb running back against the Atlanta Falcons. With the passing game once again hampered by inclement weather, anyone watching knew the Bills would need to run the ball. Run the ball they did. Led by Singletary who notched the first two-touchdown game of his career while running for a career-best 110 yards, Buffalo earned its third straight victory ahead of the playoffs. The last few weeks have shown us a different runner than we’ve come to expect in Devin Singletary. He’s run with determination and more burst through the hole, and he looks a lot faster when he gets to the second level. On Sunday, Singletary ran like a man possessed—and Atlanta wanted none of it.

About those looming questions? They’re in Motor’s rearview mirror. Singletary has set career-highs in rushing attempts (169), rushing yards (782), and rushing touchdowns (6) this season. He’s now clearly the lead back in what had been a RB-by-committee approach for much of 2021 and prior. Had he been utilized as we’ve seen the past month, it’s likely a 1000-yard campaign this season for Singletary.

As for defense, Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips are both having great seasons. Sunday was more of the same, with both players dominating during key moments in the game. Oliver almost singlehandedly kept points off the board for the Falcons following Josh Allen’s third interception. Atlanta had a golden opportunity set up at the Bills’ 25-yard line, but Oliver had other plans—assisting on a tackle for a loss, followed by a sack, and forcing a throw incomplete on third down. The Falcons were forced to punt, wasting what seemed like a guaranteed score. Oliver finished with four tackles, one for a loss, a pass deflection, a quarterback hit, and a quarterback sack on 32 snaps.

Harrison Phillips might be the Bills’ comeback player of 2021. Against the Falcons, he contributed four tackles and a sack. Phillips also recovered a fumble that Greg Rousseau forced of Matt Ryan in the first quarter. In a turn of events, He also led all defensive lineman in playing time, logging 36 snaps. The season that Phillips is having may convince general manager Brandon Beane and the front office to prioritize signing the twice-consecutive NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee to an extension this offseason.

Admittedly, special teams didn’t have a banner day against Atlanta. When the Falcons forced a Marquez Stevenson fumble, things could have really spiraled out of control. Fortunately, Jake Kumerow’s head-up play to recover the ball in the end zone kept Atlanta from scoring an easy touchdown. So while Buffalo was in an early two-point hole, Kumerow’s effort minimized the bleeding and saved Buffalo at least five points.