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Next Gen Stats from Bills-Browns: James Cook due for bigger role?

Bills DBs need to learn to knock the ball down on contested catches

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

After back-to-back weeks of gut-wrenching losses and not-so-positive Next Gen Stats (NGS), the Buffalo Bills got back on track with their 31-23 win over the Cleveland Browns. Last week’s stats weren’t in the Bills’ favor, highlighting how dominant Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson was and how bad quarterback Josh Allen was at times.

Allen wasn't asked to do much against the Browns, completing just 18-of-27 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown, but he found tight end Dawson Knox a career-high seven times for 70 yards. Per NGS, Knox averaged 6.5 yards of separation—most among all receivers.

Buffalo’s running game looked arguably the best it has all season and kept the Browns’ defense guessing all game long. Rookie running back James Cook posted the best game of his young career thus far, totaling 86 yards on just 11 carries (+32 yards over expected). Per NGS, he logged just 25% of snaps and ran against a stacked box on nearly half of his carries (45.45%), yet still ran for yards over expectation on 54.5% of his carries. Devin Singletary totaled the same amount of yards on seven more carries and +47% more snaps.

On the defensive side of things, the Bills did a very good job containing Browns running back Nick Chubb to just 14 carries for 19 yards, but noticeably struggled against wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper caught 4-of-7 targets over 10 air yards for 71 yards and two touchdowns, and recorded a 50.3% air yards share—his fourth game this season where's he accounted for more than half of his team’s air yards. The Bills made an effort to guard him closely as he only had 1.5 average yards of separation (fourth-lowest) but still managed to haul in two touchdowns, with his second having just a 19.4% completion probability. His fourth-quarter touchdown catch ranked as the fourth-most improbable catch of the week and 20th-most this season.

Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett was the one dealing Cooper these long balls all game long, throwing for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Again per NGS, despite throwing the ball into tight windows at the highest rate (24.4% of his attempts), he still completed 68.3% of his passes (+11.2% over expectation)—which was tied for fifth-best in Week 11.