Entering play against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills had punted just seven times all season. By the end of their 25-20 loss, Buffalo had punted six times, as the team fell flat against the Jaguars for the second consecutive matchup with the squad from Duval County, FL.
For most of the afternoon — or morning here in the States — nothing went right for the Bills. Whether it was penalties, injuries, or missed assignments, the game just had the feeling of one that Buffalo wasn’t going to win from the early moments of the contest. That’s not to say that all of the Bills’ players performed poorly; however, those positive individual performances weren’t enough to earn a victory.
Nevertheless, here’s how our five players to watch performed last week.
QB Josh Allen
In the early going, Allen took what Jacksonville’s defense gave him, for better or worse. It led to quite a few scenarios where the Bills threw the ball exactly where Jacksonville’s defense wanted them to throw it, which allowed a speedy, athletic Jaguars defense to swallow up Buffalo’s ball carriers before they gained much yardage. At one point in the first half, Allen was 8-of-12 passing for just 48 yards, and that was at some point in the second quarter. He finished the first half with a touchdown drive, hitting wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 15-yard score that he underthrew slightly, a harbinger of what was to come later in the game. Allen was 13-of-18 for 116 yards and that touchdown at halftime, but he didn’t lead another scoring drive until well into the fourth quarter. Prior to that, he had Diggs deep for what would have been a touchdown, but he underthrew it just enough that it was able to be intercepted by cornerback Darious Williams, who wrestled the ball out of Diggs’ hands on the way down. Allen threw another touchdown pass, this one to wide receiver Gabe Davis, with right around four minutes to go, but a long touchdown run for Jacksonville nearly iced the game. Allen somehow moved the Bills 75 yards in just 45 seconds, scoring on a three-yard scramble to give the Bills a chance. Buffalo would have needed a miracle, and they were unable to recover the onside kick thanks to a Jaguars player batting the ball out of bounds — which is illegal, but it went uncalled. Allen finished his day with fantastic numbers, going 27-of-40 for 359 yards, two touchdowns, the interception, and 14 rushing yards and a touchdown to boot. Like the offense in general, Allen took a while to settle in, and rhythm was hard to come by thanks to all the penalties. He was the least of Buffalo’s issues on Sunday.
RB James Cook
The Jaguars did well to bottle up Buffalo’s young running back, holding him to negative yardage on the day. He ran only five times on the day, but went backwards, gaining -4 yards. How strange is it that this is the second time a running back has totaled negative yardage in a Bills game this season, as Josh Jacobs ran for negative yardage when Buffalo beat the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2. Cook wasn’t much better as a receiver, either, making three catches for just 25 yards — with 18 of those yards coming on one play. Jacksonville’s top-ten run defense was exactly as advertised, and they played with so much speed that Buffalo’s horizontal routes and outside runs were entirely ineffective. Perhaps the sprint-draw play out of the shotgun could be retired for a bit, too, as it’s one of the oft-used run designs by offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey that hasn’t worked in either of Buffalo’s losses. Maybe it’s the odd-front run by both the Jaguars and the New York Jets that leads to difficulty controlling gaps in the run game for Buffalo’s offensive line?
WR Stefon Diggs
For a bit of this one, the Bills allowed Jacksonville’s defense to take Diggs away. That hasn’t really been happening this year, so it was frustrating to see No. 14 disappear for the first few drives of the game. After a bit, though, the Bills and Josh Allen started finding Diggs, and Stef delivered. He caught the Bills’ first touchdown before unveiling his Ronaldo celebration, the soccer celebration that he’d teased in the press conference leading up to the game. He made another big catch, a 48-yard gain off of play-action, that looked like it would be the start of Buffalo doing their thing on offense. However, the drive fizzled, and the Bills didn’t score a second touchdown until there were four minutes remaining in the game. He also lost on a 50/50 ball that became an interception — and, to his credit, he took full blame for the interception in his postgame press conference, saying that he views 50/50 balls as his alone and that he wants to make plays for his quarterback. What a diva, amirite? Diggs finished with eight catches for 121 yards on 11 targets.
DE Leonard Floyd
The Bills were down not only Greg Rousseau, who missed the game with a foot injury, but also Shaq Lawson, who missed due to a toe injury he suffered sometime after the team landed in London. Floyd played a season-high 46 snaps, and he even appeared on his first two special teams snaps of the year. While Floyd has played plenty of defensive snaps on the season, his additional usage on Sunday definitely came thanks to injuries to his teammates. Even Kingsley Jonathan ended up out due to injury at points, though he was able to return to play. Floyd finished with two tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits, and a forced fumble, yet he somehow wasn’t the most productive defensive end on the team. A.J. Epenesa had four tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits, three pass knockdowns, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. With Von Miller sure to be stronger with each passing game and Rousseau sure to return at some point, this is a dangerous pass rush in Buffalo.
CB Christian Benford
Well, Benford didn’t play, so the starting corners for the game ended up Dane Jackson and Kaiir Elam. Elam was so bad that he was benched for Ja’Marcus Ingram, who was activated from the practice squad due to Benford being inactive with a shoulder injury. Benford will probably remain questionable this week, as well, so it will be interesting to see what happens with Buffalo’s secondary. The Bills reportedly signed veteran Josh Norman to the practice squad, but that is not a glass that I think any of us want to see broken anytime soon.