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Bills 38, Raiders 10: Five things we learned

The Bills are back in the win column after a thorough trouncing of Las Vegas

Las Vegas Raiders v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Well, that was much more fun to watch than Monday night, wasn’t it?

The Buffalo Bills quickly moved past their season-opening, 22-16 loss to the New York Jets this past Monday with a thorough domination of the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2 at Highmark Stadium. After the Raiders went up 7-0 early, Buffalo outscored their outmatched opponent 38-3 for the remainder of the contest, and the outcome of the contest was not really in doubt for most of the afternoon.

There was plenty to like from what transpired on the field in Orchard Park this afternoon; here’s five things we learned from the big win.

The Bills can nickel and dime offensively now

Josh Allen completed 31-of-37 passes in this game. The 83.8% completion percentage was the second-highest of his career (or third-highest, if you count the postseason — which gives you, dear reader, an opportunity to remember the New England blowout). Through the hullabaloo of his four-turnover performance in Week 1 (more on that in a moment), Allen has quietly completed 76.9% of his passes through two weeks.

The reason? Buffalo is working more in the short and intermediate area. Allen got into trouble when he left that area of the field against the New York Jets, but the team doubled down on that game plan against Vegas, with great success — Allen was brutally efficient, taking just two sacks and making several plays on the run as Buffalo’s offense exploded for 450 yards and 38 points.

No Bills receiver saw more than seven targets, but five of them saw at least four: Stefon Diggs (7 for 7-66-0), Gabe Davis (7 for 6-92-1), Dalton Kincaid (6 for 5-43-0), Dawson Knox (5 for 3-10-1), and James Cook (4 for 4-36-0) all got in on the action fairly heavily. Note that four of those five players averaged less than 10 yards per reception. When Allen is spreading the ball around, this offense can still be deadly, even when they’re not forcing the issue downfield.

James Cook is a huge part of this team’s plans

This was a career day for Cook, Buffalo’s second-year running back, who accumulated 159 all-purpose yards (123 on the ground, 36 through the air) on 21 touches. He yielded red zone touchdown runs to Latavius Murray and Damien Harris, but Cook’s backups combined for 15 total touches, proving that Cook is the alpha in what has a chance at being a highly productive backfield.

More importantly, Cook’s production through two weeks has been impressive; this was his first career 100-yard rushing game. The Bills are putting a lot of trust in this young player when they have viable veteran options behind him, and Cook is capitalizing on the opportunity. If he continues to play well and stays healthy, he could be in for a very big year.

Turnovers are kind of important!

This is not a thing we learned today; we’ve known it for years, and we endured talk of it all week after Allen’s four-giveaway stinker in New Jersey.

In this game, Allen took just two negative plays — both sacks — and kept the turnover column at a goose egg, and the rest was history. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s defense forced three turnovers, the first two of which the Bills turned into touchdowns, and the last of which snuffed out a late Raiders scoring opportunity after the game was out of hand. That’s a three-score swing in a four-score victory. More of this, please.

Pass rush concerns?

One of the more encouraging footnotes of the Bills’ Week 1 loss to the Jets was their performance rushing the passer. In that contest, Buffalo’s defense accumulated eight quarterback hits and three sacks, and had Jets quarterbacks off schedule routinely.

Things were less impressive on that front against Vegas. Jimmy Garappolo did throw two interceptions and was not comfortable slinging it for much time after their opening drive, but the Bills still only managed two quarterback hits in this contest, and Garappolo had ample time to sit in the pocket and fire on multiple occasions. Buffalo undoubtedly dialed back their aggressiveness as the game got out of hand, but this is still a big step back in production worth monitoring.

What’s more, late in the contest, veteran edge rusher Leonard Floyd left with an ankle injury, and was shown on the TV broadcast with a noticeable limp. The team is already missing Von Miller for a minimum of two more games; they need all the help they can get.

The Bills are still the Bills

Any thoughts of the Bills meekly fading into AFC mediocrity can be safely and summarily scrapped after this game. The Bills are still very clearly an upper-tier team in a tough conference, and they’re going to compete to win every week. Now that they’re back in the win column, we can start to enjoy that ride again.