The Buffalo Bills pulled out a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in a must-win scenario in Week 14. The game proved to be another close battle between quarterbacks Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, but an under-the-radar player burst onto the scene to be one of the game's most impactful players. Bills running back James Cook had himself a stellar performance and was Buffalo’s best playmaker besides Josh Allen. Cook made multiple splash plays and helped jolt the Bills to an early two-score lead. Let’s take a closer look into just how important Cook was to Buffalo’s success on Sunday.
By the numbers
James Cook filled the stat sheet:
- 10 carries for 58 yards rushing (5.8 yards per carry)
- 5 receptions (5 targets) for 83 yards and 1 touchdown
Cook led all skill position players on both teams in rushing yards, receiving yards, and total yards. Cook's 15 touches resulted in an impressive 9.4 yards gained per touch.
Cook also led the team in explosive plays with seven snaps that gained more than 10 yards (25, 12, 12, 27, 11, 11, and 15).
This is the first play of the game for the Bills, and it might be my favorite from the day. Some might think that this was an “out of structure” play by Allen and Cook, but I’m not so sure that this wasn’t just the way they drew it up. I’ve seen this type of action in college football, and it’s a play I enjoy. It appears to me that they enticed Kansas City’s DE up the field on purpose so Cook could release behind him. Notice how Cook didn’t make any effort to block the DE, he just slipped behind him and released slightly upfield. Allen acted like he was going to scramble and everyone's eyes were on him. But the whole time I think Allen knew he was throwing to a wide-open Cook with room to run on an over-pursuing defense.
This is a beautiful play design by interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Cook ran a wheel route out of the backfield and up the seam, which ended up with him being wide-open for a touchdown. It was wide open because the wide receiver in motion garnered the attention of the frontside safety and tight end Dalton Kincaid ran at the backside safety. This left Cook open for an easy touchdown.
Buffalo’s offensive line did an outstanding job of blocking up this play and giving Cook a lane to run in up the middle. Cook’s vision in Week 14 against the Chiefs was top-notch.
Another wheel route by Cook for a big gain, but this time he ran it up the sideline. Before this video starts, Josh Allen is seen making “adjustments” at the line. I would guess that he likely saw the defender who would be covering Cook positioned on the line of scrimmage (I highlight this in the video). Allen knows Cook has the speed to beat this defender and was happy to throw to a wide-open Cook for a 27-yard gain.
A simple check-down pass to Cook turned into an 11-yard gain on this play. Allen liked the matchup Cook had on the linebacker, and took the short throw to pick up a nice chunk of yardage on 2nd & 15.
Cook had another nice cut on this 11-yard run. The Bills’ offensive line executed well and left Cook some running room up the middle. It’s nice to have an offensive tackle who’s athletic enough to pull and make a block like left tackle Dion Dawkins did for this rep.
Bills center Mitch Morse is underrated. To snap the ball, then pull and get outside leverage on a charging linebacker is no small task. Morse’s efforts enabled Cook to get around the outside for a 15-yard gain.
James Cook is emerging as a legitimate threat behind Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs at just the right time in the season. The Buffalo Bills haven’t made Cook a “workhorse” back yet, but his production of late will make it hard for Joe Brady to avoid giving him more touches. Finding creative ways for Cook to get the ball in the backfield as a runner or in space as a pass catcher is something I expect Buffalo’s offense to focus on as they prep themselves to make what’s hopefully another impressive end-of-season run toward the playoffs.
Through 13 games in 2023, Cook has carried the ball 163 times for 789 yards with one rushing touchdown; adding 38 catches on 44 targets for 391 yards with three receiving touchdowns. If Cook can continue operating as a reliable weapon for the Bills’ offense the rest of this season, opponents will have a much tougher time dedicating resources to stopping Allen and Diggs. Let. James. Cook.