The Bills were outstanding Sunday afternoon, beating the Tennessee Titans 13-12 on Stephen Hauschka’s 46-yard field goal on the last play of the game.
“Outstanding?” Yes, outstanding. There is a lot to talk about in the NFL, but there is only one measure of success, and that’s winning. When you make the plays to win, you’re outstanding.
“Really, outstanding?” Yes. When you put together a fourth-quarter drive to win the game, you’re outstanding.
“But it was only the Titans.” Yes, the Titans were 3-1 but had played like they were 1-3. Statistically, they were indistinguishable from the Bills. Doesn’t matter. It’s the NFL, and nobody gives you anything in the NFL. You have to earn it against your opponent, whoever the opponent is. There were plenty of ways to lose to the Titans, and plenty of Bills teams over the past 15 years would have found them. Not this Bills team, not this Sunday.
“But Josh Allen, the Bills’ ‘star’ rookie quarterback, was 10-19 for less than 100 yards and an interception.”
Perfect, actually. What more could you ask than to give your rookie more game experience without asking him to win the game? Allen had an excellent game. He made a couple of bad throws (one too low to Benjamin that Kelvin should have gone down for and might have caught, a couple of others not as accurate as you’d like, and one perhaps a split second too early to Holmes that resulted in the interception), but in general Allen’s throws were on target and out of harm’s way. The flea flicker was probably a throwaway.
Most importantly, Allen was in control on the winning drive. No panic, no mistakes. He needed to make only two routine throws to win the game, and he made them, on target so that McCoy and McCloud could make the critical runs after the catches.
Allen didn’t take sacks, he didn’t turn it over and he had another highlight-reel touchdown run.
Allen’s a keeper.
“But the Bills passing game is so horrible that they had to play one-dimensional running football.”
Actually, there were signs of life in the Bills’ passing game. Zay Jones looked like a quality receiver; running crisp routes and catching the ball. McCloud contributed.
And the Bills did some of the overdue innovation their passing game needed. They actually ran a couple quick crossing routes that almost guarantee a receiver will be open for gains worth taking. They ran a couple of rub routes, and Allen had a nice completion to Clay over the middle that should be there all day.
The Bills also had Allen on the move more, giving him time to look downfield instead of scrambling to avoid the pass rush. Roll-outs do have the disadvantage of shrinking the available passing lanes, but Allen’s running threat tends to neutralize that problem by opening holes as the defenders cheat toward the line of scrimmage. Look for more roll-outs next week, as Allen tries to outrun Watt and Clowney.
A lot of fans complained when the Bills signed Chris Ivory as LeSean McCoy’s backup. They aren’t complaining today. On Sunday, Ivory was the guy who bedeviled the Bills for years with the Jets. He’s one tough dude. And Shady was Shady, almost good enough to carry the team completely on his own. The defense must key on him every down he’s on the field, and when he’s out, Ivory is pounding away.
The Bills defense put in another excellent day of work. Hyde’s absence didn’t hurt them, Milano stood out, again, with visible plays all over the field, and the pass rush hurried Mariota, even if the Bills couldn’t catch him.
It’s time to get used to it – the Bills play bend-don’t-break defense. More or less every team can move the ball against the Bills between the 20s, because they will give up the short stuff in order to stop anything deep. It was no surprise that the Titans kicked four field goals; the Bills’ TD defense has been stingy for the past three weeks.
The Taron Johnson INT was sweet. Perfect position and a great break on the ball to make the play. Preparation plus talent equals success.
“But outstanding, really?” Yes, outstanding, because with the game on the line the Bills’ coaches asked the players to execute the plan the coaches had installed during the week – pound the ball, get first downs, run the clock – and the players executed, perfectly. It was McDermott’s process on display. Prepare, practice, execute. Prepare, practice, execute. The process produces wins.
We’re all so conditioned to the pass-happy NFL that with four minutes left, Bills fans everywhere were wondering how this rookie QB and those receivers were going to make the plays the Bills needed to win the game. The answer was the Bills didn’t need them.
The Bills engineered a masterful four-and-a-half-minute, 11-play drive to win the game. It was more or less perfect – no penalties, no plays for negative yards, no incompletions, one third down conversion, excellent clock management, routine execution on the field goal.
In the NFL, the name of the game is winning. In the first six weeks of the season, the name of the game is winning with a team that isn’t yet fully formed, against teams that you don’t know a lot about. With a rookie quarterback, the name of the game is winning while your kid is trying to figure out how to win.
Winning with a rookie QB in the first six weeks of the NFL season is OUTSTANDING.
On to Houston!
The Rockpile Review is written to share the passion we have for the Buffalo Bills. That passion was born in the Rockpile; its parents were everyday people of western New York who translated their dedication to a full day’s hard work and simple pleasures into love for a pro football team.
Editor’s babble: Bless this post. The garbage I’m reading on Twitter after the Bills pulled off an impressive win is more than disappointing. Thanks to Mark Korber for his contributions to our blog. You can’t find Mark on social media because he’s a smart man. On to the Texans.