“Are you not entertained?” asked Jon Feliciano. Jon, we are. We definitely are. More please.
Oh boy. Where to start. A beatdown of the Cowboys, in their palace, leading their unbearably annoying owner to cry in his postgame presser, while his prior quarterback turned game analyst sat stunned and unbelieving in the press box throughout. Well, sweet dreams are made of this.The 2nd helpings of turkey and pie all tasted much better after that one.
In our prior Geezer column we opined that if the Bills were looking for national respect and attention the one surefire way to obtain it was to win their next two games over the Cowboys and the Ravens. One down, one (the harder one I think) to go.
Here’s what we didn’t like about the game:
- The Bills gave up 32 first downs, 426 total yards including 323 through the air. They bent a lot but didn’t break and none of those numbers really matter. They won, handily. They took the ball away. They didn’t give up many big plays after the first drive and played, again, as a cohesive unit. One team may have big marquee stars but the other team, the winning team, plays like a team, cohesively and for each other.
- The kicking of Stephen Hauschka is becoming a problem. It was a very shaky day. The missed 50 yarder in an indoor facility is one thing but to back it up with a badly missed extra point and a field goal that literally seemed to change direction three times before ‘doinking’ in off the crossbar… well it doesn’t inspire confidence. He’s been great and steady in the past and we can only hope he regains his footing as there are not a lot of alternatives out there.
- This was one of the worst officiated games I’ve seen this year (which is saying something). At one point in the 1st quarter I thought the fix had to be in. That said, the Bills still commit too many penalties.
- The tackling on that first drive and throughout a good chunk of the 1st half was horrific. Zeke Elliott made a ton of yards after contact. It got better as the game went on and the secondary didn’t have the same problem on completions thus keeping gains to reasonable levels. It helped too that the Cowboys abandoned the running game early.
- Listening to Jim Nantz and Tony Romo swoon over the Cowboys. It was like listening to a Cowboy pregame show during preseason. Interviewing Emmitt Smith in the middle of the damn game for what seemed like an hour as play after play went on was beyond galling. I know Dallas is a big national draw. I get it. But THE GAME is the thing! Why take away from the game by talking through it?
Things I liked (this could take up pages and pages and involve almost everybody on the game day roster and coaching staff):
- Josh Allen was Bradyesque. (no I’m not saying Josh Allen is Tom Brady…please, just no). Poised, accurate, no mistakes, made a ton of 3rd down conversions with accurate throws at key times. Nothing particularly deep down the field but just picked them to death in a very calm, veteran like professional manner. There were a couple of touch throws and some power throws that were extremely accurate and aren’t made by every QB. This was a high water mark. The 4th down fumble play will be a Bills highlight forever and will be used to define Allen’s tenacity and competitiveness whenever a visual is needed. It also, I think, turned the game.
- Ed Oliver, Star Lotulelei and Shaq Lawson. From Oliver and Lotulelei, big plays, sacks, interceptions, field goal block and from Lawson a little bit of everything and very solid run defense. The D line has quietly been building cohesion and has raised their level of play. A HUGE test next game.
- Cole Beasley. What a great way to stick it to one’s old team. Over 100 yards receiving and a TD. Clutch 3rd down catch after 3rd down catch without a failure. He clearly is one of Josh’s favorite new toys.
- Brian Daboll. I thought it was another wonderful game plan executed at a high level. The reverse pass by John Brown to Devin Singletary is another one destined for Bills all time highlight reels. What an absolutely perfect time for that play, right after Allen’s highlight reel first down effort! The Cowboys were clearly not ready for THAT. The Bills offense has hit new highs after ditching the mass substitution approach from earlier in the year, running no huddle or at least fast pace with the same people on the field. Daboll deserves credit for changing his approach after the Browns game.
- The beautiful seven minute plus drive the Bills cobbled together for the last field goal to go up 26-7. They took big time off the clock and got much needed points to drive it over a 3 score game (and Hauschka made it). That drive can get overlooked with all the other highlights but it is the mark of a good team to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done to finish an opponent off.
- The Bills had given up an early touchdown and were pinned back near their goal line in the 1st quarter. It’s 3rd down and Allen throws a strike to Beasley on the move near the sideline for a 1st down. Given the stage of the game and the fact that a punt from their own end zone would have been upcoming, that struck me as a HUGE play. It was just perfectly executed and really was a dagger to any momentum the Cowboys had.
- Corey Bojorquez’s punting. Early in the game his beautiful directional kicks pinned the Cowboys back and forced them to go long fields. Given how hot Dallas was early in the game it gave the Bills D a margin of error to work with. His last punt wasn’t his best but given that Dallas was all in for a punt block, speed and just getting it off were the objectives.
- From a Bills perspective, Cowboys kicking and coaching. The Bills are up 23-7 late in the 3rd quarter. The 2 missed Maher field goals would have given them 6 more points and then Jason Garrett decides to go for the TD inside the Bills 10 when the Cowboys need 2 touchdowns and a field goal to win. Take the points. You need them. The odds on 4th and 8 are not very good. Add those 9 points in and it is 23-16 with a quarter to go.
- The Bills coaching staff. They concocted a good game plan on a short week, had their team ready to go, focused on the right things and not being distracted by the national spotlight. This is a well coached and coordinated team. They play together and not as a group of individuals. If you want to see a team that doesn’t do that, look at their opponent. Having lots of stars is not necessarily a ticket to success if the cohesion and team attitude doesn’t accompany it.
I think the Bills need one win in the last four games to get into the playoffs. That said, I think they could win them all or lose them all. The Ravens present an immense challenge in the first game up after Thanksgiving. Stopping the run has not been the Bills best trait this year and they will face the sternest of tests.
The Ravens are like the Bills; well coached in all phases, everybody pulling the oars at the same time, not ultra flashy, with developing stars at quarterback and good defenses. The Bills will need to be on the top of their game to hang in that one. That, however, is still a ways off. We are entitled to savor the last game, like the last piece of pumpkin pie, for at least the weekend.
Editor’s babble: Well stated as usual. The Ravens game suddenly becomes intriguing instead of frightening to think about. Thanks to Joe Tauriello for his thoughtful contributions to our blog. You can find Joe on Twitter @Joe_Tauriello.