I’d love a better draft pick, but I like wins more, especially wins over division rivals.
The Bills’ 42-17 walk over the Dolphins was well worth the pick. There was a lot to like in this game. Of course, it was a meaningless game. The Dolphins may have mailed it in, in which case we saw nothing much more than a pre-season game.
Whether it previewed the 2019 Bills is a question that won’t be answered for nine months. Still, it’s a win over the Dolphins, and that’s enough for me. Easily as satisfying as a great meal.
This was the kind of game that fans want out of their team every week. It wasn’t flawless; it’s hard to play 60 dominant minutes in the NFL, and the Bills sure weren’t dominant for stretches of the game. But it was a kneel-down win, with a lot of big plays, takeaways rather than giveaways, effective (although still imbalanced) running, efficient passing. Few penalties. Great win.
And, to make it sweeter, or maybe bitter sweet, it was Kyle Williams day. With the Bills out of the playoffs, McDermott was free to script the show to highlight his retiring leader. Kyle in the backfield at the goal line – a shot at a TD in his last game?
No, just Kyle being a good football player, getting the assist on Josh Allen’s quarterback sneak. Kyle in the slot, shedding a defender making a solid catch and run in the right flat, his exceptional athleticism on display. Kyle sent onto the field for the final time late in the game. The Bills immediately call time out and summon him to the sideline for the fans’ final ovation. It was great stuff.
Maybe I’ll write something about Kyle during the off-season. For now I’ll say just this: we saw what makes Kyle special when Kyle realized that McDermott was taking him out of the game and that this was the end. He wanted one more play or maybe one more series. He wanted his career to end the way he always played: playing every down he could, making every play he could. He’s a football player, and football players don’t come out early.
At that moment, we saw what’s special about Kyle. Kyle said no and tried to wave off the substitute. He could have insisted; he could have just stayed there and forced McDermott to let him stay. Few players could get away with that; Kyle could have because the crowd would have been with him, and he knew it. But that isn’t Kyle.
Kyle isn’t about individual power; he is the ultimate team player. He understands better than anyone that each player and each coach has a role, and he understood in that moment, just as he had in every other moment since he first put on a Bills’ helmet, that he had to do his job. He wasn’t going to challenge his coach publicly on his last football play. Kyle accepted some congratulations and left the field for the final time.
I just love the guy.
A short request for your help. The Bills Backers in Boston gather every Sunday at the Harp. A long-time Harp employee, big Charles, died unexpectedly last week. Apparently, over the years Charles became a Bills fan himself. My wife and I met him when we went to the Harp for the first time just this year, and he couldn’t have been friendlier.
There’s a GoFundMe page with more about Charles and to help support Charles’s family. The wait staff at the Harp today donated all of their tips, over $1000. If you’d like to help, the link is https://www.gofundme.com/honoringbigcharles. Thanks.
Kyle wasn’t the whole show, not at all. He was the dessert after a great meal. Also on the menu were:
LeSean McCoy. He still has it. It was there again on Sunday. Give him the ball in space, and he’s going to get you everything that’s there, and usually more. The Bills were horrible at getting him the ball in space this season, for a lot of reasons, and he didn’t get a lot of those chances against the Dolphins. When he did, he was outstanding.
The question for 2019 is why didn’t McCoy get the ball in space more in 2018? If the answer is the offensive line, then if the Bills can fix the line, McCoy should be back. But if the answer is the Bills’ offense doesn’t and isn’t going to feature a running game designed to get guys in space, then why would they need Shady? Maybe the Bills would rather have a running game that is more suited to Ivory’s style (whether or not Ivory is the guy), a running game that features straight ahead power and shiftiness in tight spaces.
McDermott sort of signaled last week that McCoy will be back, and I hope so. In the right offense he is explosive. He’s fun to watch, and he’s a great teammate.
Tremaine Edmunds. I’ve beaten up Edmunds often this season, and I still saw some of the things that must be better if he’s going to be a dominant middle linebacker, but against the Dolphins some of his special skills were on display. His interception was exceptional, and not just because he made a pretty spectacular one-handed play. What made the play was his speed – if Tannehill saw Edmunds, he decided Edmunds couldn’t get there to make a play. If he didn’t see Edmunds, it was because he was too far out of Tannehill’s field of vision. Either way, a guy who essentially wasn’t in the play reacted and took the ball.
His sack also was exceptional. He took on the block (something he must improve) and essentially jumped over the blocker and grabbed Tannehill. It wasn’t a power move, but it was an amazing athletic move. Not many guys make that tackle, at least not that way.
My favorite Edmunds play was his one-on one tackle in the hole in the first half. He read run and reacted to fill the hole, planted his shoulder, wrapped up and took the guy down. Those run stops are what’s been missing from his game, and if he’s learning that, he can be the star that Sean McDermott wants in the middle.
Zay Jones. Nice patterns, nice catches. He’s good evidence of the size of the jump from college to the pros. It took more than a full season for Jones to raise his game to the level of an effective NFL receiver. McDermott’s patience with him seems to be paying off. He needs some help next season.
Levi Wallace. I’ve been sleeping on Wallace. Last week I saw someone touting the quality of his play, and Sunday I saw it. Really nice deep coverage on that throw to the goal line up the left sideline. A couple of excellent open-field tackles. Teams need a lot of corners, and Wallace is a nice addition.
Josh Allen. There it was; the win over the Dolphins showed what Josh Allen can look like when he puts it all together. He HASN’T put it all together yet, and we saw some of that on Sunday, too. The runs, of course, were spectacular once again – the Dolphins clearly misjudged his speed.
It was Allen’s play in the passing game against the Dolphins that we’ve been looking for. He took more checkdowns, which increased his completion percentage and helped sustain long drives. He hit his receivers regularly, and they made the catches. He avoided sacks. In other words, he did the things winning QBs do, and he didn’t do the things losing QBs do.
He also continued his education. He threw more inaccurate passes than usual, and I’d guess that was the evidence of his introduction to the cold and wind at New Era in December. He threw a rookie interception, but he can learn when to make that throw and when not only if he makes some of those mistakes. He recovered nicely from the INT. He still has a lot to learn.
How good was Allen on Sunday? Well, his passer rating for the game was 115. Brees and Mahomes, probably the best this season, are in that range for the entire season and have a lot of games in the 120s and 130s. But when you roll in the running and other factors, as the QBR does, Allen’s game was essentially as big as the best the other two have played this season. Brees had a higher QBR in only three games this season, Mahomes only twice. That’s a good game.
It’s one game, and a meaningless game at that, but it’s what we’ve been looking for.
See you next year.
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: Thanks to Mark Korber and all our authors for their terrific contributions to our blog this year. We appreciate their time and effort helping us navigate another season of Bills football. You can’t find Mark on social media but he does post at twobillsdrive.com. Happy New Year!