Buffalo Blues: Week 11 (’22)

The Bills ended their two-game skid with a home win on the road, beating the Cleveland Browns 31-23 in Detroit.

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Two different team identities went head-to-head, but you’d probably be surprised by the box score (Photo Credit: Sporting News)

If I told you that one team was going to rush for 171 yards in this game and the other was going to throw for 316 yards, conventional wisdom says you’d have a pretty good idea of which team did which. However, myself included, you would be wrong.

The Bills seemed to have learned from the past three games as they came out determined to stop the run and held the Browns to just 80 rushing yards. Keep in mind, the Browns are one of the best rushing teams in the league and were averaging more than 150 yards per game coming into the game, taking on a defense that had been hemorrhaging run yards. Over their three previous contests, the Bills had given up 176 YPG on the ground. So, holding Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to just 2.7 YPC isn’t just impressive. It’s a clear sign of adjustment that I was waiting to see from Leslie Frazier’s defense.

Chubb got his on some passes, but the Bills bottled up his rushing (Photo Credit: Dayton Daily News)

On the flip side of that, the Bills set a season-high in rushing attempts with 33 and it was their second-highest rushing yards total of the season as well. More importantly, this was only the second time that Josh Allen wasn’t at least one of the team’s top-two ball carriers. Devin Singletary and James Cook combined for 29 carries and 172 yards with a TD for Motor. After all, the game was in Motor City so it was fitting. This has been the formula all along, in my opinion, but I can’t tell you how happy I was to see the Bills running on 1st & 10 with a lead in the second half.

Devin Singletary now has 3 rushing TDs over his last two games (Photo Credit: Bills Wire)

You may be surprised to learn, but the Bills have run the ball for more than 100 yards in every game this season. In talking to some fans online, you would think they are the worst running team in the league but they are actually ranked 9th with 134 YPG. It was never that the Bills couldn’t run the ball (they were 6th in rushing last season), it was more about how they have chosen to use the run game that has been problematic this year. It’s probably not a coincidence that Buffalo really started to get their ground game together around Thanksgiving last season, and I am hopeful that Ken Dorsey and his staff can be mindful of that moving forward with the offense.

James Cook looked excellent as well, averaging 7.8 YPC (Photo Credit: Gannett-CDN)

A win is a win, and I would even say that this game wasn’t as close as the scoreboard would suggest, but it wasn’t the smoothest game through the 1st quarter. Cleveland got the ball first and made Chubb a dual threat as he got a big chunk on a pass to start the game. Amari Cooper showed how good he is and came out on the first drive with a couple of big chunks, including the 25-yard TD to start the scoring.

Amari Cooper is very good at football (Photo Credit: ACR Publishing)

Jacoby Brissett played one of his best games of the season too. Part of that is because the Bills were committed to stopping the run game by any means necessary. That opened the door for Brissett to go downfield and find more opportunities and he did. On their first two scoring drives, the well-traveled QB went 7/9 for 94 yards and a TD as the Bills were content on making him win the game. He made some very good throws en route to 324 yards passing and 3 TDs through the air but, after getting out to a 10-3 lead, they had 6-straight empty possessions and wouldn’t score again until the final 7 minutes of the game.

Even with the fumble, this was likely Brissett’s best game of the season. (Photo Credit: NFL)

It wasn’t the prettiest day for the Bills’ offense as they struggled to get warmed up after being mostly unable to practice thanks to the 6+ feet of snow that fell on Buffalo, but they played smart football, took advantage of field position, and cashed in all the easy points they could. That meant playing defense and kicking FGs for much of the early portion, but they did eventually find the end zone before the end of the half which would give them the lead and the ball to start the second half.

Diggs was clearly frustrated early on but got the TD to put the Bills up, and they never looked back.
(Photo Credit: PFF)

From that point on it was basically the Tyler Bass show. He already had the two FGs and two PATs in the first half, but he hit four more FGs in the second half and bookended the team’s scoring with the first and the final score of the game for the Bills. In total, he hit all 6 FGs he attempted and made both his PATs. When you have a kicker with a leg like Bass, it makes sense to utilize him and the domed stadium was a great environment to showcase his talents.

T-Bass went to work and he’ll be back in those conditions on Thanksgiving. (Photo Credit: The Athletic)

The Bills would go on to score 25 unanswered points from the 8:17 mark of the 2nd quarter to the 6:45 mark of the 4th quarter, making it an 18-point game inside the final 7 minutes of the game. Cleveland probably should have scored at least once in there but they fumbled, turned the ball over on downs, and had a field goal blocked thanks to the Buffalo defense.

Matt Milano was on fire (Photo Credit: WKBN)

Matt Milano knew he wasn’t going to have his linebacking partner Tremaine Edmunds for this game, which makes the defensive performance even better, and he played like a man possessed. Milano finished with 12 tackles (8 solo), 3 tackles for loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery. Tyrel Dodson also stepped up after a bit of a rough one last week and added 13 tackles (9 solo). The entire team defense was better and had 8 TFLs as a unit, 5 QB hits, and 5 passes defended. I think a large portion of that can be attributed to Jordan Poyer’s return.

Pro Bowl Po has a tremendous impact on this defense. (Photo Credit: Phantom-Marca)

If I read the number correctly, the Bills are 0-3 when Poyer hasn’t played this season and 7-0 when he has. If that doesn’t tell you his value then I don’t know what would. His stat line was humble with 5 tackles (2 solo), 1 TFL, and 1 PD but it’s his game IQ and the threat he poses to offenses that elevate the defense. Just look at the win over KC where Patrick Mahomes wouldn’t throw at him. Po is as big of an impact player as there is at the safety position.

Dawson Knox looked like a real multi-level threat for the first time this season (Photo Credit: Bills Wire)

Before I get out of here, I have to mention Dawson Knox. While he didn’t score a TD his 7 catches (on 7 targets) and 70 yards both led the team and were all season-highs for him. Knox looked like the dynamic playmaker the Bills envisioned for this offense. He has had to deal with a lot of stuff off the field, so it was nice to see him have a game like this where he was trusted to catch the ball and make a play in space. One short yardage catch turned into a first down as Knox made a quick move and then ran over the defender to the sticks. That’s what we want to see.

There are still some things to work on for the Bills, but this was a big step in the right direction. In a game where they only scored two TDs on offense, they still scored 31 points and completely dominated the middle quarters of the game. They also scored a second-half TD for the first time in three games. While they are still a bit off from playing their best, it’s a good sign that they can win this type of game.

The Bills will head back to Detroit on the short week to play the morning/early-afternoon game on Thanksgiving Day against the Lions. It’s a game they should win and already have the travel routine handled, but they can’t take the Lions lightly.

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