The Buffalo Bills beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past Thursday, winning 24-18 in what could have been another in a list of heartbreaking losses had one more bounce gone awry. However, when quarterback Baker Mayfield’s last-ditch Hail Mary fell harmlessly to the turf at Highmark Stadium, it was Buffalo who emerged with the victory and a 5-3 record heading into what should be an epic clash with the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend.
Our five Bills to watch — plus a bonus positional group — all performed fairly well this week, as the team really played well in spite of what the close score would suggest. It was a good bounce back for a Buffalo team that was in desperate need of some good news.
Here’s how our five Bills to watch fared on Thursday.
WR Gabe Davis
Well, not only did quarterback Josh Allen rediscover his WR2, but it seems that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey realized he could do more with Davis than just send him deep or have him run a slant off an RPO. Davis had by far his best game of the season, hauling in a career-high nine passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, his first TD grab since Buffalo’s Week 5 loss in London. Davis was targeted a team-high 12 times, tying with Stefon Diggs for the lead in that category. As usual, Davis was sound in the run game as a blocker, but it was really refreshing to see how much damage he can do when the game plan gives him the chance to do more than just run far and straight.
TE Dalton Kincaid
Aside from me filing the initial article prior to Dawson Knox’s wrist surgery, the suggestion was clear: Kincaid needs more snaps, and with that, he needs more targets. Well, the snaps came naturally given that he was the only healthy tight end on the roster last week, and with that, the targets and production increased, as well. Kincaid saw seven targets, more than any Buffalo player other than Diggs or Davis, and he caught five of those targets for 65 yards and his first NFL touchdown. He once again showed great run-after-catch ability, and both his hands and his understanding of where he is on the field were on full display, as well. Kincaid’s effort was a highlight reel in and of itself, but it comes in the midst of what has been an uptick in production as the season continues to progress. In Buffalo’s first six games, Kincaid had 17 catches for 118 yards. He missed one game with a concussion. In Buffalo’s last two games, Kincaid has 13 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. With a greater role in the offense for Kincaid moving forward, it makes an elite Bills passing attack that much tougher to defend.
G O’Cyrus Torrence
Well, it certainly helped that Vita Vea didn’t play, but Torrence was back to the stud rookie we’d seen in the season’s first month. He and the rest of his line mates protected Josh Allen quite well, and they opened up plenty of holes in the run game, as well. Buffalo averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and their top two rushers — James Cook and Allen himself — carried 21 times for 108 yards and a touchdown. It was Latavius Murray’s five carries for seven yards that killed the overall average. Those goal-line stuffs weren’t on Torrence, however, as much as they were on iffy play-calling and strong efforts by a stout Tampa defense. Torrence has another tough task ahead of him this week, as an aggressive Cincinnati defense that loves to blitz, stunt, and otherwise confuse offensive protections is waiting.
DT Poona Ford
The big guy did a nice job on Thursday, as did the rest of Buffalo’s defensive front. Ford was DT4 in terms of snaps, as starters Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips took the majority of the playing time. Time Settle Jr. had more reps than Ford, as well. While he played the fewest snaps among the interior defensive linemen, he still managed as many tackles (2) as Oliver had on the night. Ford also had a quarterback hit, one of ten the Bills managed on Baker Mayfield in the game. He obviously can’t play much more than 40-50% of the snaps, but Ford’s ability to eat space is something that the Bills are going to be able to use going forward.
LB Tyrel Dodson
You know what? I killed Dodson a little bit in the writeup last week, so I think it’s important for me to note how well he played in the game. After a week where the New England Patriots picked on him repeatedly in the passing game, Dodson looked much more composed in that phase this week. He was in the right position, and the defensive scheme also looked a bit different — Buffalo went with more three-safety dime looks rather than a nickel — so it left the linebackers, and Dodson in particular, less exposed in the passing game. Those three-safety looks allowed head coach/defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to disguise his coverages a bit more, as he could alternate which of the three safeties came down to serve as more of a linebacker depending on the situation. Dodson had five tackles, good for fourth on the team in the game.
BONUS: The Entire Secondary
Buffalo’s secondary did a nice job against two extremely talented receivers. Both Christian Benford and Dane Jackson more than held their own, and nickel defender Taron Johnson was himself. While Johnson did allow a touchdown catch to Chris Godwin, the six players who played in the back end, which includes the aforementioned corners plus safeties Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, and Taylor Rapp, all did a nice job containing the Tampa passing attack. Mayfield was 25-of-42 for 237 yards and two touchdowns. The secondary dropped a few interceptions, as well, and had those passes been secured, it would have made for a more convincing final score. However, the secondary did have five pass breakups on the day.