It’s a good thing they don’t award style points in the NFL each game for the Bills surely wouldn’t have garnered any for their win over the 1-7 Redskins. Nonetheless, they are 6-2 at the halfway point of the season, even though the six wins have come against teams with a combined record of 9-41. It still beats losing to those teams.
It is clear to this observer the Bills are better than they were last year. It is also clear the rebuild here is still a work in progress. While I don’t begrudge anyone their view on the Bills, the impatience of the fans for consistency and “signature wins” might be keeping them from enjoying the team for what it is… a building team in the early to mid stages of development with a winning record and a very young quarterback.
I see progress from 2018 to 2019 and wanting them to be elite just is not going to make it so. The process will continue and it will not be a case of linear growth or instant rewards.
What does frustrate me is their inability to play consistently for 4 quarters on either side of the ball, but mostly on offense. After a first half where they moved the ball very well and Devin Singletary and Josh Allen both looked sharp (except for an ungodly ugly sequence from the Redskins two yard line in the 1st quarter), the 3rd quarter was again a black hole for productivity.
The miss on 4th and one deep in Redskins territory after a promising drive was the end of the offense for a long period of time. The inability to sustain offense whether due to penalty, inability to block effectively, Josh Allen struggles reading things, unimaginative and repetitive play calling or other issues kept them from making this game much less pressurized than it turned out to be.
The Bills do not seem to be able to hang their collective hats on much of anything from week-to-week, other than John Brown for a play or two per quarter. It would be nice if they can find what they do well and keep doing it. The Bills offense did put up 24 points and did not turn the ball over. Those are positives. They left points out on the field though with that awful sequence near the goal line and the inability to convert 4th and one.
It was a tale of 2 halves for the defense as well. Adrian Peterson ran for 101 yards in the first half. He had seven in the second. Dwayne Haskins, while looking pretty poised for a first start in a hostile environment with the wind whipping, was not up to beating the Bills with his arm. This marked the 3rd straight game the Redskins were held without a touchdown, though Case Keenum was the quarterback for most of the past 2 games.
I’m not a technical football analyst but it looked like the Bills started using Vincent Taylor and Star Lotulelei or Jordan Phillips on run downs and Ed Oliver pretty much exclusively on pass downs. The extra size and bulk and perhaps better linebacking play certainly made a difference. The All-22 analyst reviews will be welcome again this week. Here are the things I liked and didn’t like.
The things I liked:
- They ran a great screen pass! It was two years in the making but the 1st quarter screen to Singletary was a thing of beauty!
- Singletary making people miss and running effectively all day. He really works well out in space on the edges but did a nice job on the inside at times too.
- Only two penalties all day. The one holding call which pushed the Bills back likely out of field goal range in the 4th quarter could have really been costly, but the next play Brown made an excellent catch and Allen a good throw for a first down. That set up the running sequence to Singletary in the red zone that led to the final touchdown icing the game.
- Andre Roberts with an outstanding kickoff return and then making a savvy sure handed veteran play by running up to fair catch a punt that hung up in the wind. The game was still not decided at that point and if it had rolled it likely would have pinned the Bills deep in their own territory. It won’t show up in the boxscore but it was a winning play.
- John Brown. Every week. Not many lows in performance but just consistently playing at a high level.
- Holding Adrian Peterson to 7 yards in the 2nd half. It basically neutered the Redskin’s offense.
- Jordan Phillips with another sack. He is going to make a lot of money next year somewhere. Hope it is here. They could use him.
- Tre White’s sack and the job he did on Terry McLaurin, the excellent rookie wideout, holding him to 39 yards on four catches.
Things I didn’t like:
- Adrian Peterson exploding on the Bills D in the first half for 101 yards. After giving up over 200 to the Eagles and talking about how they had fixed it, it was not encouraging. The 2nd half was much better.
- The short yardage attempts both on the goal line and deep in Redskins territory. I have no problem using Frank Gore to get a yard but it seemed clear the Skins were waiting for it and the Bills offensive line was not up to the task of moving them out. Try something different instead of trying to prove your point, especially on the one in Redskins territory in the 2nd half after the prior experience down on the goal line.
- Josh Allen’s weekly fumble. The INT’s are down but the fumbles are up lately. Fortunately it didn’t kill them in a tight game but it is a dangerous way to go having Allen be such a prominent factor in the run game, especially in Bills territory.
- What on earth has happened to Robert Foster? (or their use of Robert Foster). I thought he had a chance on the one deep ball they threw his way but he didn’t adjust to it. Can they put him out with Brown and attack more with speed? Can he run any routes besides “go” routes down the sideline? His usage is not creative and I think there is talent being squandered.
- The lack of throws to the tight ends in the middle of the field. Knox did have a couple of catches for a paltry 14 yards, but Tyler Kroft was held off the scorebook. Most good teams seem to use their tight ends consistently throughout the game but the Bills seems very hesitant to do so. It is baffling to me. The Bills need a 3rd receiving option besides dump offs to the backs.
- The entire sequence of plays from the two yard line with the Bills up 7-0. Too cute by half. My goodness that was ugly. On first down Allen should have thrown the pass away rather than take a sack and the jet sweep on 2nd down was just not a great call that close to the goal line with all the defenders in the area. Ugh.
- No turnovers forced on defense, no really explosive plays down the field on offense (though Brown caught good balls in the intermediate range and the one screen to Singletary broke into a big play). At some point you would think just random luck would lead to an explosive play for a touchdown or a defensive touchdown on a turnover.
The Bills were 2-6 after 8 games last year, 6-2 this year. I see progress regardless of the caliber of the opponents they are winning against. The 50/50 games are more pronounced in the 2nd half of the season and they need to find ways to win some of those. The game in Cleveland, to me, is one of those. The Browns are having their issues but it is hard to say they don’t have talent and the capability of exploding at some point. Onward to Cleveland.
Editor’s babble: Couldn’t agree more with the “Geezer” here. There’s a lot of progress being made, but because it is incremental some Bills fans tend to overreact. Thanks, as always to Joe Tauriello for his contributions to our blog. You can find Joe on Twitter @Joe_Tauriello.