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Bills 31, Cowboys 10: Three things we learned

Buffalo kept its playoff hopes alive with an absolute throttling of the hottest team in the NFL

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Buffalo Bills Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

In most circumstances, if you’d learned that Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen completed 7-of-15 passes for 94 yards in a football game after the 2019 season, you might immediately ask one of two questions:

  • How badly did he get hurt?
  • By how many points did the Bills lose the game?

As it turns out, however, the Bills can beat great NFL teams without Allen needing to be otherworldly. In their 31-10 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, it was a sterling defensive effort against the NFL’s hottest offense, in combination with a whopping 266 yards rushing by Buffalo, that salted a big win away fairly early.

Here are three things we learned from today’s massive Bills win.

James Cook continues to dominate

No single player has more directly benefitted from the Bills’ offensive identity shift since the Ken Dorsey firing than second-year running back James Cook, who has emerged as the Bills’ most prolific offensive playmaker over the past two games, in particular. This was a career game for Cook, who touched the football 27 times, accumulated 221 total yards from scrimmage (179 on the ground and 42 through the air), and scored two touchdowns. Dallas had absolutely no answer to him the entire day.

This marked the fourth consecutive game that Cook accounted for 100 or more scrimmage yards for the Bills, all of which have occurred since Joe Brady took over play-calling duties following Dorsey’s ouster. Cook has scored four touchdowns in those games, including the two today, and the Bills are 3-1 in those contests.

Most pertinently, Cook is doing his damage both on the ground and in the air. In that four-game span, including today, Cook has rushed for 353 yards (at 5.2 yards per carry), and caught 16 passes for 211 yards. He is as important to Buffalo’s playoff push as anyone, and the Bills can and will continue to look to heavily feature him in the offense. He has more than earned that role with his production and play over the past month.

Pass defense benefits from run game efficiency

Aided by the advantageous game script provided by the running game, Buffalo’s injury-depleted defense had arguably its best performance of the season against a Cowboys offense that hadn’t put up fewer than 30 points in a game since early November.

Dak Prescott was flustered for most of the game, routinely moved off of his spot and sacked three times in total. When he was able to operate more efficiently, he only averaged 3.9 yards per attempt on his completions (21-of-34), with no single Cowboys completion gaining more than 16 yards on the day.

The defense did give up some rushing yardage — Dallas ended up running for 89 yards at 4.5 yards per carry — but as the Bills’ lead ballooned while they dominated offensively, their run defense quickly became irrelevant. We’ve seen for years how a Sean McDermott defense can stifle an opponent when game script is in its favor, and that was no different today, even with several elite players across the line of scrimmage.

This was a definitive performance for McDermott and Buffalo’s defensive unit as a whole.

Bills climb to ninth in AFC playoff standings

With three games remaining in the regular season, the Bills remain on the outside looking in for the AFC playoff picture. That said, aided by their win over Dallas and losses by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos this weekend, the Bills now stand at ninth overall, with the same 8-6 record that the current sixth and seventh seeds (the Cincinnati Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts) possess. They’re still going to need help to get in, but as their play continues to improve, help might start to feel somewhat inevitable.

The Bills will next see the field this coming Saturday night, on the road against a 5-9 Los Angeles Chargers outfit that is devastated by injury and just fired its general manager and head coach. A win on Saturday night football is needed if the Bills are going to claw their way back into the playoff field. After what transpired against Dallas today, they’ll go into that contest with no shortage of confidence.