The Buffalo Bills won a game they probably should have lost. It’s such a crazy thing to say when their opponent was the reeling New York Giants, who came in as 14-point underdogs and with a list of injured players a country mile long. The Bills didn’t win tonight so much as they escaped.
In the end, quarterback Josh Allen made magic happen for one play and that was all Buffalo needed to walk out of Highmark Stadium 4-2. Tight end Quintin Morris made his first catch of the season, on his first target, and took it over the goal line for six.
As postgame opinion pieces go, this one may feature a fair amount of takes that age poorly. I can live with that. But it’s difficult for me to see this team making much noise the rest of the season playing the way they have the last two weeks. Success isn’t sustainable playing games the way the Bills did in front of a national audience tuned in for Sunday Night Football.
Bills Mafia is with you, Damien Harris
It was an all-too-familiar scene for people watching the Bills in primetime following the injury to running back Damien Harris. When the stretcher and ambulance appeared it brought back memories of what safety Damar Hamlin went through last season, just over 10 months ago. Thankfully initial reports mentioned that Harris had feeling in his extremities despite suffering a neck injury. We’ll all continue to hope for the best, while doing our best to lift his spirits the Bills Mafia way. Get well soon, Damien!
Bills found a way to win when the chips were stacked against them
As noted on the NBC broadcast when reporter Melissa Stark was interviewing quarterback Josh Allen postgame, the Buffalo Bills won their first game in almost exactly 36 years when shut out through three quarters at home. The last time this happened? October 18, 1987 — against the New York Giants.
If anyone knows Josh Allen, it’s Brian Daboll
Prior to the game, I mentioned that if anyone knows Josh Allen and might be able to devise a plan to stop him, it’s Brian Daboll. True, he doesn’t call the Giants’ defense, but to think he didn’t spend considerable time sharing intel with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale... that would be foolish to believe. Allen seemed off all evening, even prior to his having to leave the game for evaluation of a potential head injury. Allen’s only comfort once again came via wide receiver Stefon Diggs. There were questionable decisions and reads made throughout the night, but I don’t believe those later in the game had anything to do with the reasons he had to leave the game for two snaps. It’s quite possible Daboll had the secret sauce to fluster Allen into the role of game manager.
On the subject of Allen leaving the field
I found the comments made by color commentator Chris Collinsworth to be irresponsible when framed around the play where Allen ended up briefly leaving the field. Collinsworth essentially suggested that Allen wasn’t properly cleared to return and might have suffered a head injury. I get protecting players, but his comments did nothing but create undue concern and introduce speculation. Should I be wrong on this point, I’ll gladly take my lumps and apologize for suggesting Collinsworth was in the wrong. I’ll go to bat more often than most for him, but it just felt like he was reaching for something in that moment.
The Bills tried their best to give the game away
Full credit to Daboll and the Giants for putting together a fantastic game plan to stifle the Bills, and position themselves to win a game no one believed they had a chance in on the last play. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor came to play, and the Giants are in good hands with him as their starter. I took exception to the way Buffalo managed the clock near the end of each half. Incredibly, the Giants had the ball inside the one-yard line to end both halves. Thankfully, the Bills held strong on defense — well, they at least held well to end the game.
You can’t commit pass interference in the end zone against most teams without giving up points. As regulation expired, linebacker Terrel Bernard interfered with tight end Darren Waller, giving the Giants an untimed down at the half-yard line. Waller was the target again, and the play was a good one — but somehow, nickel corner Taron Johnson managed to break up the pass, with what appeared to be a little help from Waller’s jersey. The calls don’t always go against the Bills, y’all.
Buffalo’s offense needs to work through some issues
I do believe most of the issues are easily solved — if the parties involved can work together toward a common goal. We’ve seen the magic that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey can create as a play caller — and helping Josh Allen to record an NFL-perfect 158.3 rating while dismantling the Miami Dolphins. Starting over at coordinator isn’t the answer at this point. But there should be plenty of room to improve on the unit’s deficiencies before the season gets away from them. I’ll drill down into a few of them below.
Allen-to-Diggs is as good as ever — because it has to be
Allen continually targeted Stefon Diggs, who caught 10 of 16 passes for 100 yards. Some might say it bordered on obsessively. I’m not here to suggest Diggs should see less targets. Whatever those two do, almost always works out well for the Bills. But it concerns me how uninvolved the rest of the pass catchers were throughout the game. Failing to look their way didn’t allow a rhythm to develop elsewhere, and when it was needed most, Allen couldn’t connect with tight end Dawson Knox.
It may seem unfair to make these points when wide receivers Khalil Shakir and Deonte Harty each caught a pass (and Harty his first TD), but almost everyone other than Diggs continues to be woefully absent in the team’s passing plans. Against the Giants, that included Gabe Davis...
What happened to wide receiver Gabe Davis?
Following his early fumble, Davis was essentially written off. He ended his day with three catches on four targets for 31 yards and that costly fumble. Perhaps the film will show us how the Giants took him away. Hopefully that’s the case, because if Davis entered an in-game dog house for a mistake, it might be time to re-evaluate some of the disciplinary methods.
A running theme with the Bills?
Looking at stats from this game, it’s curious at best that the Bills didn’t run the ball more often.
- James Cook — 14 carries for 71 yards (5.1 ypc)
- Latavius Murray — 12 carries for 45 yards (3.8 ypc)
- Josh Allen — two carries for 11 yards (5.5 ypc)
Between those three players, that’s 28 carries for 127 yards (4.5 ypc). Most will say that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey called an unbalanced game, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Allen had 30 pass attempts, while the run game had 28 opportunities. That’s balance. But perhaps what needed to happen was for Dorsey to feature an unbalanced attack that asked Allen to be act more as a runner against the Giants.
Whatever the case may be — that the coaches and higher-ups have asked Allen to abandon his running game, or if Allen himself has taken up that mantle — it’s not helping the team. Allen not running is hurting the Bills’ offense. It’s time to re-introduce the dual-threat version of Josh Allen to the NFL.
The funk is alive with Tyler Bass
Yes, Tyler Bass is no longer perfect on the season. He missed two kicks against the Giants — two field goals he’d normally make. Kickers often entertain the idea of “getting in a funk,” and it would appear Bass has now entered that realm. Let’s hope it’s short-lived.
We’ll have more on this matter this week, but too many players on both sides of the ball lost their cool, and it cost them. Unfortunately, it cost the Bills the services of right tackle Spencer Brown for part of the game. We’ll have to wait and see if Brown ends up on the team’s injury report this week.
The London stat is alive and well... alarming
If you hadn’t heard this nugget about NFL teams that play in London and forego the bye the following week, have a seat. As noted in the social media post from October 10, 2023, and embedded below, “11-of-11 teams coming back from London have either been tied or trailing in the 4th QTR the following week without a bye.” And sure enough, the Bills were trailing, scoreless even (6-0), until the fourth quarter started. Let’s hope all that research the league is reportedly doing on these international games is put to good use.
Interesting stat— Z-Bot (@ZbotTweets) October 10, 2023
11-of-11 teams coming back from London have either been tied or trailing in the 4th QTR the following week without a bye.
(Via @wheatonbrando of @ActionNetworkHQ)
Bills are 14 pt favorites vs. the Giants.
Would be WILD to see BUF in this spot on SNF.