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5 takeaways from the Bills dominant 24-10 win over the Patriots

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Josh Allen Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws under pressure from New England Patriots defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (92) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The Buffalo Bills earned their first divisional win on Thursday, beating the New England Patriots 24-10. The loss also knocked the Patriots down to 6-6 and further dampened their chances of making the playoffs. 

However, even in victory, the performance on the field brought up the question: can a team be simultaneously dominant and uneven? If so, that was the story of the Bills, who absolutely controlled the game while also having stretches where they looked out of sorts. 

The uneven performance has been something of a concerning trend for the Buffalo Bills. Despite some tremendous throws by Josh Allen, a solid running game, Stefon Diggs repeatedly burning Patriots cornerbacks, and the defensive line stepping up without Von Miller, Buffalo let New England hang around in a game they controlled for much of the evening.

After three quarters, Buffalo had 324 yards to New England’s 164 and had the ball for 31 minutes and 14 seconds to just 13 minutes and 46 seconds for New England. Still, the Bills only lead 17-7 at the time after two punts and a fumble on the three possessions between taking a 17-7 lead and the possession that began near the end of the third quarter. 

However, that final possession of the third quarter was a crucial one for the Bills as they marched 94 yards on 15 plays to score a touchdown and take a 24-7 lead. What’s more, they continued to utilize a more balanced offensive approach, running the ball nine times on that 15-play drive. 

On the game, Buffalo found consistent success running up the gut behind healthy center Mitch Morse. Devin Singletary and James Cook combined for 105 yards on 27 carries (3.9 yards per carry) which isn’t eye-popping but it allowed Buffalo to bleed time off of the clock and keep Allen out of harm’s way behind a beat-up offensive line. 

When Allen did throw, he looked sharper than he has in weeks, completing 22-of-33 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Diggs paced all the receivers with seven catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Gabriel Davis and Singletary both also found the end zone. 

Now let’s get into my five key takeaways from the game

1. Josh Allen Was a Little Bit More Like Himself

The box score may not match the dominance we’ve come to expect from Allen, but the performance on the field was far more like that version of the quarterback than we’ve seen since the first quarter of the Green Bay Packers game. 

Even with pressure in his face regularly, Allen looked confident and aggressive. He was decisive with his throws and frequently took what the defense gave him, moving the offense down the field deliberately before taking calculated chances, mostly to Stefon Diggs. 

He also avoided the crucial mistakes that have cost him in recent weeks. He had one clear turnover-worthy play, but it was at midfield just before the end of the first half. In the red zone, Allen made the correct reads and used his legs when he needed to extend plays. 

He also made a spectacular touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis where Allen evaded pressure and then stopped just short of the sideline and threw a jumping eight-yard pass for a touchdown. 

With Dion Dawkins out and backup left tackle David Quessenberry hobbled early in the game, the Bills tried to help Josh Allen by relying heavily on the run game and short/intermediate passes. They did take some shots down the field, often with Allen rolling out of the pocket, but they picked their spots to not allow New England to pin their ears back and get after Allen. 

As Diggs said after the game, “Josh is getting back to being himself; having fun.” 

 

2. The Bills Deployed a New Cornerback Duo

With Christian Benford on the injured reserve and fellow rookie Kaiir Elam a healthy scratch, Buffalo turned to Tre’Davious White and Xavier Rhodes as their starting cornerbacks. 

Obviously, starting White has always been the plan, and it’s nice for Buffalo that he was able to play the vast majority of the snaps. However, being able to bring in a former Pro Bowl cornerback like Rhodes could prove to be a major addition to this defense. Dane Jackson has been a liability in coverage over the last few weeks, so the Bills can move him to more of a support role and allow to experienced veterans to set the tone on the outside. 

For one week, it seemed to be a real boon. However, this Patriots’ offense is not a dynamic one, and they have few game-changing receivers, so we’ll need to see what this new cornerback duo can do in upcoming games against offenses like the Dolphins and Bengals. 

 

3. James Cook is Starting to Emerge

We started to see James Cook become more of a consistent component in the offense over the course of the last few weeks, it was a surprise to see him be the main ballcarrier for Buffalo on Thursday. Cook rushed 14 times for 64 yards, while also catching six passes for 41 yards. 

The rookie showed explosion through the hole but also patience to take what was blocked for him and avoid negative plays. He also showcased strong hands in the receiving game, hauling in each of his targets. 

However, Buffalo also still turned to Devin Singletary throughout the game. Singletary was also the main running back in the red zone, and the team used him to run out the clock in the fourth quarter. The veteran finished with 51 yards on 13 carries.

He also punched in a touchdown as the Bills went three-for-three on touchdowns in the red zone, which is a huge improvement from their early struggles converting. 

If the Bills can continue to have this kind of success running the ball, they will be a more versatile offense and be harder to beat, especially in the colder months. 

 

4. Buffalo’s Lack of Offensive Line Depth Remains a Concern

When Dion Dawkins got hurt last week against the Lions, Josh Allen spent most of the second half running for his life. Without Dawkins this week, the Bills were forced to start David Quessenberry at left tackle, and then Quessenberry hurt his ankle on the second drive. The issues he had blocking Josh Uche were on display all game. 

While Allen was only sacked twice, he was flushed from the pocket often. If Dion Dawkins were to miss more time, teams will be licking their chops to go against Quessenberry on the outside. It’s just another example of the head-scratching reality that the Bills didn’t bring in any offensive line help at the trade deadline. 

 

5. Bills Hurt Themselves and Leave Points on the Field

Even though the Bills won this game without too much of a sweat, they made it harder on themselves on both the offensive and defensive ends. 

On defense, they continued to miss far too many tackles, particularly showing an inability to wrap up Rhamondre Stevenson and sometimes even Mac Jones. They had Mac Jones sacked on a 3rd and 7 on the Patriots’ final possession. Instead, they allowed a relatively immobile quarterback to escape the pocket and rush for six yards to set up an easy fourth-down conversion and keep the drive alive. 

They also took a few bad angles on tackles, which is beginning to become a concern. On one play in particular, Damar Hamlin, who is filling in for the injured Micah Hyde, took a terrible angle when coming up on a short screen pass to kick returner Marcus Jones, who raced 48 yards for a touchdown. 

The offense also continued to leave points on the field due to silly mistakes.

A holding penalty on the first drive pushed them to a 1st and 20 and then to a field goal. An offensive pass interefernce by Diggs and a false start by Spencer Brown gave the Bills long down-and-distance on their first drive, forcing them to kick a field goal.

Then, a holding penalty by Tommy Sweeney on the last drive before halftime erased a 41-yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs. Allen would then be sacked and fumble on the next play to keep the score 17-7 at the half.

On the first drive of the second half, a block in the back by Gabriel Davis turned a 2nd and 3 on the New England 34-yard line into a 2nd and 18 from the New England 49. The Bills would then have to punt.

If the team wants to match their Super Bowl aspirations, they are going to have to clean up these little issues that have continued to be a thorn in their side over the last month. They may have won their last three games, but playoff teams are not going to let them get away with these mistakes. 

For more Buffalo Bills coverage, visit amNY Sports

Marcus Jones scored against the Bills
New England Patriots’ Marcus Jones (25) breaks free from Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer (21) on his touchdown run during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

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