The Buffalo Bills defeated the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, winning 31-23 in an ugly game that looked like it wouldn’t end well for the “home” team in the early going. Buffalo overcame a slow start and persevered to earn their seventh victory of the 2022 NFL season. In doing so, they avoided the first three-game losing streak of quarterback Josh Allen’s career.
There were definitely some ugly moments in the victory, but it’s hard to cry over a game that the Bills led by three scores in the fourth quarter before ultimately coming out on top. Along the way, our five players to watch had quite a bit of impact on the outcome of the contest.
Here’s how those five Bills fared this week.
QB Josh Allen
Buffalo’s first three drives covered 10 plays, resulting in zero first downs. Allen completed four of his first 10 passes for just 27 yards. Of those throws, even the ones that were completed looked bad, as Allen seemed to be thinking through every bit of every throw rather than just letting it fly. Then, on Buffalo’s final drive before halftime, Allen went to work. He completed five-of-six passes for 57 yards, including a gorgeous 28-yard strike to Gabe Davis down the left sideline to put the Bills in range for their first touchdown of the day. He delivered just a few plays later, finding a wide-open Stefon Diggs in the back of the end zone for a five-yard score that gave the Bills a 13-10 lead heading into halftime. Buffalo would not relinquish that lead. While Allen was anything but sharp, completing 18-of-27 passes for 197 yards and that one touchdown, the big thing he did well this week was protect the football. Allen didn’t turn it over this week, and while the Bills still have plenty of issues in the red zone, they were at least able to leave those situations with points instead of empty possessions in Week 11. Allen looked far too hesitant against teh Browns, so maybe those turnovers affected him mentally more than we realized. In any case, he did enough for the Bills to come out with a win, even though it wasn't his best day at the office.
RB James Cook
The rookie exploded this week, as offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey unleashed him as more than just “that guy who takes some toss-sweeps on 2nd & 2.” Cook ran it effectively between the tackles this week, too, and he totaled a career-high 86 yards on just 11 carries. He was the target on two consecutive passing plays, too—one of which was a screen pass that the Browns sniffed out before Allen could complete it, and the other of which was a slant pass where Allen threw a terrible ball. Cook looked every bit like a guy who deserves snaps moving forward, and he was a nice complement to fellow running back Devin Singletary, who also rushed for 86 yards on his 18 carries. Singletary also scored a touchdown, breaking through for a five-yard score in the third quarter. He and Cook carried the offense this week.
TE Dawson Knox
In what has been a very Diggs-centric passing attack this year, it’s been difficult for some of Buffalo’s auxiliary parts to make a difference. Knox, though, has been especially absent from the offense, as he had only caught 24 passes for 240 yards coming into Week 11. That’s an average of 2.7 catches per game and 27 receiving yards, hardly strong numbers. This week, though, Allen connected with his tight end on plenty of passes, as he targeted Knox a team-high seven times. Knox rewarded that faith by catching all seven of those targets, including the team’s first first-down of the game, for 70 yards. Knox also caught Allen’s final attempt—an 11-yard pass on second-and-seven with four minutes to go in the game that helped Buffalo run out the clock on their victory.
DT Ed Oliver
Last week, Big Ed had a solid game that wasn’t totally apparent on the stat sheet. This week, Oliver was a wrecking ball yet again, and he has the stats to back it up this time, too. Oliver had five total tackles, which was tops among Buffalo defensive linemen for the day. He also had a quarterback hit and three tackles for a loss. After blowing up Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings last week, Oliver continued making a mess of opposing blocking schemes by crashing the Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt party in the backfield. Cleveland came into the game averaging 168 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry on the ground. This week, Cleveland had just 80 yards rushing, averaging a paltry 3.1 yards per attempt as a team. Oliver and company were a big part of the reason why.
LB Matt Milano
The undersized Boston College alum just keeps making an All-Pro case with each passing game. Milano was all over the turf of Ford Field, making plays in the backfield (three tackles for a loss), on the quarterback (he sacked quarterback Jacoby Brissett on a beautifully designed blitz call from defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier), and in the passing game. He even recovered a fumble after Brissett failed to handle a bad snap from his backup center. Milano had a total of 12 tackles, trailing only teammate Tyrel Dodson, who led the game with 13. Milano has been outstanding all year, and he played one of his best games of the season on Sunday against the Browns.