The Buffalo Bills trounced the New York Jets, 32-6, on Sunday afternoon at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, in a get-right game for all three phases of the team as they embark on their push to secure a 2023 NFL playoff berth.
Buffalo’s defense and special teams led the way, forcing four total turnovers — including a fumble recovery by tight end Quintin Morris on the opening kickoff, and then two interceptions and a fumble recovery defensively, all turned in by their key trade deadline acquisition, cornerback Rasul Douglas — en route to the rout. Quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills’ much-maligned offense did plenty to capitalize on their advantage, amassing 393 yards of offense while scoring 16 unanswered points to open the game, and then 16 more unanswered points to close it.
Now 6-5 overall on the season, the Bills remain on the outside looking in of the AFC playoff picture, but now have the benefit of a palate-cleansing win over a division rival to help try to springboard them into their playoff push. Here are three things we know about the 2023 version of the Bills as the toughest portion of their schedule looms.
Joe Brady diversifies Buffalo’s passing attack
In his first game calling plays as interim offensive coordinator, Joe Brady easily earned a passing grade. Game script was clearly in his favor — the four turnovers sparked Buffalo’s offensive attack, and the unit’s lone reciprocating blemish came on a harmless Allen Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half — and he leaned on Buffalo’s proverbial B-list celebrities among the skill positions to keep the offense moving.
Buffalo’s starting wide receivers, Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, combined for four receptions for 27 yards against the Jets’ elite secondary. Allen, however, still threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns, with Buffalo’s running backs doing a big chunk of the damage on the receiving end of those throws.
James Cook (three receptions, 29 yards, and a touchdown) and Ty Johnson (three receptions, 47 yards, and a touchdown) provided the spark for the passing game, and then slot receiver Khalil Shakir scored on an 81-yard catch and run in the third quarter to blow the game open. Cook’s 73 rushing yards on 17 carries spearheaded a 130-yard ground effort, and when all was said and done, Buffalo’s running backs, Latavius Murray included, accounted for 195 total yards on the day.
Teams will continue to focus on containing Diggs as the season wears on, and with Allen struggling to consistently find the team’s other wideouts, Buffalo’s tight ends and backs have stepped up of late. It led to a more balanced-feeling attack on Sunday, and that’s going to need to continue as the difficulty of the opponent increases.
Turnovers, it seems, are pretty important
Including today’s game, the Bills now have a plus-9 turnover differential in their six wins, and a minus-9 turnover differential in their five losses. They’re 4-1 in games in which they won the turnover battle or drew even, and 2-4 in the games where they lost the turnover battle.
Allen, despite throwing an interception in a seventh straight game, played his cleanest game in a month and a half. He was decisive, chose his spots to be aggressive, and was otherwise smart in avoiding the huge, negative plays that have plagued this offense during their 2-4 run over the last six weeks.
We don’t know exactly what we’ll get from Allen going forward, since the offense is still trying to re-discover its former glory a bit, but it would be tremendously helpful if the team can keep from turning the ball over and making life for the offense easier. With so many injuries to work around defensively, the Bills are having to find new names to force those turnovers, and Douglas was the guy who came through in a big way today.
Buffalo’s going to need to keep scoring points in bunches as they prepare to play the league’s elite teams, but if the likes of Douglas, defensive tackle Ed Oliver, defensive end Leonard Floyd, and others can keep playing at an elite level and making big plays, the Bills still have a chance to win against those aforementioned teams despite their recent rough patch.
One game at a time is the only way
Much has been made about the shape of Buffalo’s schedule going forward, and with good reason — four of their last six opponents (the Philadelphia Eagles, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Miami Dolphins) have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
But the Bills know as well as anyone how quickly things can turn in the NFL. Two weeks ago, the Bills fell on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals, whose season now looks dead in the water after losing franchise quarterback Joe Burrow for the season with a wrist injury. The Cleveland Browns just lost their quarterback for the season, too.
All that matters right now is Philly. That’s who the Bills play next, and the Eagles will be coming off a short week, since they’re on the road tomorrow night to play the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. The one-game-at-a-time thing is overplayed coaching fodder, I realize, but the Bills’ backs remain up against the proverbial wall, and all they can and should focus on is the next task at hand. Things will change. Situations evolve. Tonight, the Bills are coming off of a big win, and need to carry as much of that confidence into next week as they can. The rest will have to wait.