The Buffalo Bills were favored by two touchdowns — minus the point-after attempts — on Saturday against the Los Angeles Chargers. With just around five minutes left in the game, it looked like the Bolts would pull off a huge upset, as they held a 22-21 lead over the Bills. A loss would have absolutely devastated Buffalo’s playoff hopes and, as things turned out, would also have given the Miami Dolphins a divisional crown.
Instead, quarterback Josh Allen led the 18th game-winning drive of his career, leading the Bills on a 13-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in kicker Tyler Bass’ 29-yard field goal to put the Bills ahead for good. Neither Allen nor Bass made our players-to-watch list this week, but there were quite a few standouts from that list who made a big impact on the outcome of the game.
Here’s how our five Bills to watch performed this week.
WR Gabe Davis
Davis was due for his monthly huge output, and he didn’t disappoint on Saturday night. While he saw just six targets in the game, second to Stefon Diggs, Davis made the most of those targets. The first catch he made on the night was a big one, as he made a great grab down the right side of the field and gained 17 yards for the Bills late in the first quarter. His second grab, though, flipped the whole game. Allen once again found Davis deep down the right side, but this time, it was good for a 57-yard touchdown to cut the Chargers’ leads to 10-7 in the second quarter. Davis’ next grab was a 20-yard catch-and-run on Buffalo’s second scoring drive, and he added another huge catch — this one a 36-yard gorgeous grab up the left side of the field to set up Buffalo’s third touchdown of the game.
“Big Game Gabe” picked a good night to show out, as he caught four passes for 130 yards and a score. That score tied his single-season career-high, as he now has seven touchdown receptions for the third time in his four-year career. Davis has 43 catches for 725 yards on the season, both of which are close to eclipsing the career-high totals in those categories he set last year (48 catches for 836 yards). Davis has been the definition of a boom-or-bust guy this season, and if he could work a few more “booms” in there over the next two months, that would be tremendously helpful for the Bills.
TE Dawson Knox
With tight end Dalton Kincaid seeing a light snap load again — he played fewer snaps than Knox for the second straight week — some fans have begun to speculate that Kincaid’s shoulder injury, which has led him to wear the red non-contact jersey in practice of late, is limiting him more than the team wants to let on. That left some extra play time for Knox, and while his stat line wasn’t big (two targets, two catches, 26 yards), it was the timing of one of his grabs that made for a huge play.
On the first play of what would become the game-winning drive, interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady dialed up a beautiful play call: He had Allen fake a toss sweep to running back James Cook out of shotgun, a play the Bills have run often of late with Ty Johnson. The Chargers’ linebackers bit hard, and that left Knox wide open over the middle. He snared the catch for a big 17-yard pickup to set the drive in motion. I think Brady leaned a little too heavily on the run last week, and after Cook’s huge night against the Dallas Cowboys the week prior, I understand why. That run reliance also opened up the play-action at a crucial time in the game, and Knox was ready when called upon.
DT Tim Settle Jr.
Settle started at defensive tackle next to Ed Oliver this week with Jordan Phillips on Injured Reserve due to a wrist injury. Settle played more snaps (30) than anyone other than Oliver at defensive tackle. Settle entered the game with 10 tackles on the season, adding one sack and two quarterback hits on the campaign. He notched three tackles during the game, and he was the only defensive tackle not to register a hit on quarterback Easton Stick. Now, numbers aren’t everything, especially at a position like defensive tackle, where Settle was lining up at one-tech often to allow Oliver his chance to shine. However, nobody is double-teaming Settle, instead choosing to double Big Ed, and No. 91 still had himself a day (four tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits). Even Poona Ford, who has spent much of the year as a healthy scratch, outplayed Settle in his snaps — notching two tackles, one tackle for loss, and a sack. Perhaps I’m misjudging Settle here, but I think there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Ford becomes the game-day active and Settle the healthy scratch.
LB Tyrel Dodson
I didn’t really notice Dodson much, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as he used to be someone I’d see all the time when he blew an assignment in coverage. Of late, Dodson has been exceptional, so a lighter game statistically (three tackles, one big tackle for loss on the drive following Buffalo’s first touchdown) isn’t anything to worry about, overall. Credit the Chargers for designing some open looks over the middle for Easton Stick, using the play-action game and some high-low layered concepts to cause issues in the coverage Buffalo wanted to play. Dodson has been a pleasant surprise over the last month or so, and he remained that way on Saturday.
CB Rasul Douglas
Buffalo’s newest cornerback didn’t have an interception or a pass breakup, but he made a huge impact in the game as a pass rusher. The Chargers had moved into Bills territory on the first possession of the second half, and they faced a third down from Buffalo’s 40-yard line. Douglas came off the edge and disguised his blitz perfectly to sack Stick, setting him back to the 50 and forcing a punt. While the Bills would turn the ball over on the following possession thanks to an interception by Josh Allen, Douglas’ sack likely kept points off the board, as Chargers’ kicker Cameron Dicker could absolutely have hit from 57 yards out if needed. In a game decided by just two points, Douglas’ sack was a tremendous play. He finished with five tackles on the night.