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Next Gen Stats from Bills-Lions: Buffalo’s secondary continues to struggle

Even though Allen has struggled, 17 to 14 = 6

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are back on the right track after winning back-to-back games over the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions during a two-game stretch at Ford Field. Now, the Bills prepare to face the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football. Although Thanksgiving feels like it was weeks ago already, the Bills did play just six days ago, beating the Lions 28-25, and the weekly Next Gen Stats (NGS) have dropped, giving us a better look into what went right and wrong.

The ongoing theme of Buffalo’s season thus far has been both offensive inconsistency—primarily quarterback Josh Allen—and injuries derailing the secondary, forcing backups into prominent roles.

In the second quarter, Allen scored his 18th scrambling touchdown of his career, seven more than any other QB since entering the league in 2018, per NGS. He’s also run for 306 more yards (2,037) and 27 more first downs (120) than any other quarterback on scramble runs. In a game where the Bills’ offensive line struggled with injuries, Allen was forced to use his legs, gaining +32 Rushing Yards Over Expected (RYOE) and throwing for 97 yards on extended drop backs (4+ seconds time to throw). On the season, he has +204 RYOE this season (third best among QBs) and has passed for 460 yards on extended dropbacks (second best).

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs continues to be the catalyst for the offense, finishing the day with eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown while gaining +32 yards over expected in just the fourth quarter after struggling earlier with -32 yards over expected across the first three quarters. Per NGS, Diggs had five receptions on slant routes, the most in a game over the last two seasons.

On the other sideline, quarterback Jared Goff took advantage of the defensive injuries and stuck to play action, completing 10-of-13 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns on such plays. He has the second-highest NGS passing score using play action this season (90).

Lions running back Jamaal Williams entered the game leading the league in rushing touchdowns and continued his strong campaign with an early first-quarter score to bring his total to 13. Per NGS, the Lions have run 10% of all plays in XL personnel (six or more offensive linemen), and have scored seven touchdowns, which ranks second most. Although he found the end zone, the Bills contained him to 66 yards on 18 carries and a -14 RYOE (tied sixth-worst in Week 12).

Buffalo’s secondary has had its fair share of struggles this season—particularly covering the opposing WR1. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had almost all of his production come against single-high safety coverages, catching 8-of-9 targets for 121 yards, per NGS. Outside of single-high coverage, he only caught one pass for one yard. He had a +17.2% Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) on the day. Wide receiver D.J. Chark had the lowest average separation (one yard) and cushion (2.2 yards) and was held to just two catches for 16 yards, with one of them being a touchdown.