The Buffalo Bills seemed well on their way to a 2-2 record and another disappointing loss before completely reversing course after halftime and pulling off an impressive 23-20 comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
The defense pulled off another second-half shutout and has only given up seven total points in the second half so far this season, but there were still some concerns that got the Bills into trouble in the first half to begin with.
So every Tuesday we’ll go back over the game film and give each position group a game for their Sunday performance alone. While not an exact science, it does help us begin to see where the strengths and weaknesses of the team lay.
So what were the grades for Week 4?
Some may consider this harsh, and I might be judging Josh Allen too harshly based on the elite level that we know he can play at, but the first half was simply not good from the Bills’ star quarterback. Allen was just 4-for-13 for 24 yards on the team’s first five drives, which led to two turnovers, two punts, and three points. That’s simply not good enough against a secondary that had given up the most passing yards per play in the NFL entering the game.
Now, part of that was on Ken Dorsey’s playcalling, but Allen also looked out of sorts until the final drive of the first half when he was forced to play at a faster pace. It seemed to unlock his natural instincts and his aggressiveness with his legs. From that drive on, Allen was 15-for-23 for 189 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 62 of his 70 total yards.
It was a complete reversal in the quality of play and demonstrates just how talented Allen is. But we also can’t forget those first five drives in this grade.
Running backs: C+
This is a real problem area for the Bills right now. Devin Singletary continues to look good at times, in particular in the receiving game, as he caught four passes for 47 yards while rushing for 49 yards on 11 carries. However, he also fumbled in the first half and almost lost another fumble as the Bills were running out the clock to kick the field goal. Zack Moss also added nothing on the ground and James Cook dropped his only target on what would have been a wide-open gain of double-digit yards. It’s not all on the backs, but this unit needs to be better.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends: B-
I feel bad giving this receiving corps a poor grade since they lost Jamison Crowder for, potentially, the season and Isaiah McKenzie for likely next week at least. Gabe Davis is also clearly playing at less than 100% with his ankle injury, but the Bills #2 wide receiver dropped two easy passes this week after dropping a potential touchdown last week. Dawson Knox also left this game with an injury for a short time before coming back and grabbing a key catch on the game-winning drive.
The saving grace is that Stefon Diggs made some strong catches en route to four catches for 62 yards, and Khalil Shakir stepped up big time when thrust into a role, catching his two passes for 23 yards, including a nice toe-tapper on the sideline on the final drive.
Offensive Line: C
We’ve covered this before, but the offensive line is a real issue right now. They only allowed seven pressures and a pressure percentage of 17.1%, so they had a strong day in the passing game, but they came into this game as the worst run-blocking team in the NFL and that didn’t change. They continue to be unable to get a push off the line and any interior run is stuffed basically right at the line. Their inability to run block has really hurt this team in 3rd-and-short situations and needs to be addressed if this offense wants to reach its full potential.
Defensive Line: A-
This defensive line has been a strength for the Bills all season and it continued on Sunday. They get docked a bit because they had a problem throughout the game setting the edge on stretch runs where Justice Hill in particular was able to beat the Bills to the outside. However, they did a strong job containing Lamar Jackson for much of the game and notched two sacks, which really should have been three if it wasn’t for some Lamar Jackson magic.
There’s also been good analysis online of the way the Bills interior defenders soaked up blocks to allow the linebackers free reign at the ballcarriers. That’s important and impressive with Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips both out and is a statement about the quality of the depth with guys like Brandin Bryant and Prince Emili, who were both on the practice squad, stepping up.
Bills Linebackers: A
That play by the defensive line potentially made it possible for the linebackers to shine, but the linebackers absolutely shined. Matt Milano was the best player on the field for Buffalo on Sunday, and that includes Jordan Poyer. He consistently knifed through the Ravens’ blockers and even fought off multiple defenders to track down the ball carrier. It was a truly impressive performance. Add to that helping Taron Johnson in coverage on Mark Andrews and Tremaine Edmunds having a sack, two tackles for a loss, and nine total tackles, and you have nothing to complain about here.
Lamar Jackson entered the game averaging almost 250 passing yards per game but was limited to only 144 passing yards and one touchdown. Dane Jackson’s return was helpful but rookie Kaiir Elam also really stepped up, playing 43 coverage snaps in the game but allowing no receptions on just one target.
The return of Jordan Poyer was also a huge boost for this defense. He had six tackles, three passes defended, and two interceptions and was arguably the reason the Bills won. Damar Hamlin, who was also a surprise start over Jaquan Johnson played well alongside Poyer and had eight total tackles.
There were a couple of mistakes, like the defensive pass interference by Taron Johnson that extended a Ravens’ drive, and some first-half 3rd-and-long conversions, but nothing to change this grade.
Special Teams: A+
Tyler Bass hit the game-winning field goal and went 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts. Punter Sam Martin also averaged 45.3 yards per punt and pinned the Ravens inside the five on their final drive of the game. The Bills also continue to be one of the best coverage teams in the NFL, which makes sense considering they carry end-of-bench players specifically for their special teams prowess.
Week 4 Team Grade: B+
The second-half effort by this team was tremendous, clearly outclassing a strong Ravens team. That’s a great sign for the resiliency of this team for the rest of the season. However, they also looked to be sleepwalking in the first half, so we have to factor that into the grade.