The Buffalo Bills knocked off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18, in a game that felt nowhere near as close at the final score. There are no shortage of positives to discuss following a much-needed win for a Bills team that now sits at 5-3 and with 10 days off until their next game.
QB17 is back
Quarterback Josh Allen — QB17, JA17, JFA, Josh Alien — whatever you want to call Allen, he will remain HIM. There’s likely no one tougher than Allen, who’s made of the right stuff... the likes of which would fit in well with the sports long-gone eras. Nearly everything Allen does well appear to be magic. But David Blaine he isn’t. He’s just really proficient at football, a sponge who continuously soaks up knowledge of the game at every turn. Allen finished 31-of-40 for 324 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception; adding seven runs for 41 yards and one touchdown. All that despite Buffalo’s offense having barely been on the field in the fourth quarter.
It was a welcome sight seeing Allen run early and often, but an even better sight seeing him defer to the slide to end his runs in the second half. If Allen can continue finding his best slide, he should be able to remain out of the most intense danger.
Allen is now 21-5 after a loss, the NFL all-time leader in this measure.
Ken Dorsey shows adaptability
On as short a week at they come in the NFL, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey dialed up an efficient passing attack that found weaknesses in Tampa’s coverage unit. Allowing Allen to operate in more 11-personnel sets (both out of necessity and likely some goading), helped the Bills rediscover their passing mojo. The up-tempo looks of Dorsey’s no-huddle attack were lethal to the Bucs, and Allen voiced his approval of the look in the postgame. It will be interesting to see if its use continues. If so, the offense will need to find better paths to success running the ball out of those looks if it hopes to continue fielding an efficient and productive wrinkle.
Coming out party for TE Dalton Kincaid, WR Khalil Shakir
I’ve been critical of wide receiver Khalil Shakir, believing he wasn’t the difference maker Buffalo’s offense needed this season. Well, he was every bit the player his team needed in the first half, where he did most of his damage. Shakir finished with six catches on six targets for 92 yards, making plays underneath and downfield. If my doubting him leads to more success Shakir’s way, I’m happy to play his literary foil for the time being. As I see it, Shakir just needs more opportunity, and he proved why in Week 8.
That’s also true of rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid, who... Had. A. Game. Kincaid caught five of seven targets for 65 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Kincaid had to wait seven weeks to find pay dirt, incredibly — and he nearly scored twice, if not for a shovel pass early in the first quarter that Tampa Bay’s stout goal line defense snuffed out. It sure seems like 11 personnel favors Kincaid. While tight end Dawson Knox will be missed, it’s inspiring to know the Bills have Kincaid and a sudden opportunity to accelerate his development as a featured receiver in Buffalo’s offense. When Knox does return, his role as a more traditional TE feels secure, but it shouldn’t keep Kincaid off the field even if offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey decides 11 personnel favors Allen and the offense (hint: it does.). Kincaid is more than a tight end, and will be a true x-factor for Buffalo down the stretch if he’s utilized outside traditional tight end looks.
Gabe Davis lights up Highmark Stadium
A huge shoutout to Gabe Davis for what felt like one of his most complete games as a pro. There have been games by Davis with more yards and TDs, but his availability as a dominant WR2 outlet for Allen was nothing short of impressive. It more than possible that too many Bills fans have short-changed Big Game Gabe. Davis caught nine of 12 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. He was everything the offense needed throughout much of the night.
Sam Martin played lights out
Words about Martin’s play and stats to illustrate his day at the office won’t do his effort justice. Martin was magnificent, time and again rock-solid in placing his punts inside the five-yard line — or at least positioning the down team to make it so.
Four punts for 180 yards, with three downed inside the 20 (actually all three were inside the 10). Martin was playing chess all night.
I’ll also say that despite all the feel-goods from tonight’s bounce-back win, there were a few concerning moments — of which I’ll do my best to point out in this space of my late-night write while listening to Green Day in the background.
Chief among those is of course the health of quarterback Josh Allen, who rolled out both his own vintage and out of the pocket — the later of which at one point nearly cost him game snaps or more. Thursday’s win was the second game of the year where Allen had to enter the blue medical tent, and both times his right shoulder required a closer look. Thankfully, he exited the tent ready to play, and told the Thursday Night Football Night Cap team that he’s fine. I’ll never be one to say Allen needs to run less (more on that another time), as I believe that’s part of who he is and that which provides plenty of the fuel that makes his game so special. But it would be great not seeing him enter a tent again this season — especially when it’s that all-important shoulder that’s now broken a pair of pretty intense falls to the turf.
Two very unlucky bounces, one unfortunate drive
Late in the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers were the recipients of two fantastic bounces their way — on back to back plays... at the goal line. That led to points. First was wide receiver Mike Evans incredible one-handed grab off the bounce of cornerback Christian Benford’s helmet. Then, on the smart decision to go for two, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips knocked Mayfield’s pass into the air, another favorable bounce into the Buccaneers’ bounty.
A lucky bounce amid a concerning trend
It might sound strange to say, but the Bills were lucky to escape with a win — had wide receiver Chris Godwin turned around to find the football we might be talking about a very different set of situational football circumstances. For the third time in as many games, Buffalo’s defense was faced with stopping its opponent from scoring on the last play. The third bounce of the night proved the luckiest for the Bills.
Buffalo’s defense has a problem getting off the field late in games, magnified by the losses of defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, linebacker Matt Milano, and cornerback Tre’Davious White. Edge rusher Von Miller can’t get back to full health soon enough, as when able to get to quarterback Baker Mayfield, Miller made good things happen for his side.
Buffalo’s offense scored zero points in the fourth quarter. Curiously, instead of going for it on 4th & 1 from the Bucs’ 44-yard line with a bit more than 10 minutes to play in regulation, and rights to run the more clock out or add points to the board — the Bills chose to punt the football back to the Buccaneers. Despite yet another incredible boot by punter Sam Martin that should have been downed at the one, Siran Neal was unable to gather the ball before a touchback. That gave the Bucs new life, which they methodically doled out in a touchdown drive that proved detrimental to their needed time.
Every member of Bills Mafia understands how important linebacker Matt Milano is, and most now have a good idea that defensive tackle DaQuan Jones is just as important if not more so. That’s especially true in end-of-game moments.
Buffalo’s defense simply isn’t able to stop teams in crunch time at the moment. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, something needs to change if the hope to make a postseason run and plenty of noise within the tournament.
We’ll have much more on the Buffalo Bills’ thrilling Week 8 win, but for now the comments section is yours to reflect on all the moments that moved you during Thursday Night Football.