Image Credit: © BILL INGRAM-USA TODAY Sports
Everyone has the club in their golf bag. You know the one I'm talking about (for me, it's the 7 wood). You are hooking and slicing shots all day and can't quite figure out what's wrong. Then you pull out that one club, crush it down the middle, and all of your clubs magically start to work again. For the Bills and McD, that club is the Miami Dolphins. After a 35-0 beating, one would think that all is right with the world, but confidence still isn't where it was before the season, and the offense is the reason why.
1 - AJ Epenesa - The more I write these, the more you'll hear me say, "I'm wrong a lot." I'm not willing to declare him a stud just yet, but AJ played one hell of a game. I'm going to talk about the rest of the defense in a moment, but AJ deserved his own thought. I personally believe it's only a matter of time before the NFL makes a rule change because of how he is hitting the quarterback. We saw it in the preseason, and we saw it again today. After completely bull-rushing the left tackle, AJ launches his whole body off the ground and destroys the upper half of the quarterback. It's like watching a Madden animation. In a game where everyone on defense seemed to get theirs, that only shows just how good AJ had to play to stand out. With Groot also having a good game on the other side, it's hard not to be optimistic about the future of this defensive pass rush unit.
2 - Pass Rush - Seeing a coaching staff recognize flaws in their strategy, make adjustments the next game, and see success, is pretty much every fan's dream. The pass rush and pass protection (later) were prime examples of that this week. Not only did AJ and Groot get good pressure on their own, but Frazier also sent a 5th blitzer on quite a few plays and found success almost every time. And by success, I mean defenders running unabated to the quarterback. This led to the quick exit of Tua and a season-high in sacks and pressures. Groot got his first NFL sack and showed great containment speed. Brissett seemed to get hit on every drop back, forcing errant throws. If this is a sign of things to come for our pass rush, opposing teams are going to have to make changes quickly. Also, while I like Hughes and Addison, they are becoming more expendable as each game passes.
3 - Pass Protection - After a terrible week one, the Bills increased their blocker projection by having seven pass protectors on the field, including Gilly. From this, Allen had more time, and we saw a much more effective rushing attack. We still ran our share of the spread offense and had some rushes stopped behind the line of scrimmage, but it was a noticeable improvement from the prior week. Allen wasn't running for his life, which creates other questions...
4 - Oh, dear Dad, can you see me now?
I am myself, like you somehow
I'll ride the wave where it takes me
I'll hold the pain, release me
© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
5 - Thunder and Lightning - When we drafted Moss and Motor showed up to camp leaner than ever. This was the game many fans were hoping to see. Motor took one to the house from over 40 yards out. That play was beautiful for many reasons. Motor showed top-end speed that he's been lacking since being drafted, and the line made some amazing second-level blocks to free him. While it didn't happen again in this game, it was production we haven't seen in recent years and showed the lightning capacity. As for Moss, who did get benched for an early fumble, he came on strong towards the end of the game. Moss had two really strong power runs where he turned negative plays into positive gains. His touchdown was a perfect example of his power, as well as a later short-yardage gain for a first. Like what we saw from Groot and AJ, hopefully, this was a sign of great things to come, and our play-action was much more effective because of it.
6 - Allen/Daboll - Not everything was roses and sunshine in the game, as Josh and the pass game wasn't the main reason behind our 35 points. At halftime, Allen only had 62 passing yards. Last season, I remember being able to count on one hand the number of uncatchable balls Josh threw. Like the Steelers game, Josh was still missing guys all over the field, even shockingly under-throwing them. He did have a great deep pass early to Sanders, but some would argue it was more of a rope than a soft pass needed for most deep throws. He missed Motor on a swing pass that could have been a solid gain, and his interception was behind Diggs. He also should have been picked off for a second time on a poor pass into coverage deep to McKenzie. Pass rush was not a concern, nor was players getting open. Josh simply was missing them. It's concerning two games in a row, but not enough to think he's regressing. We are also still seeing a game plan that utilizes throws to Sanders. For two games in, here is my concern: Are we changing up our scheme and receiver focus just enough to kill the rhythm we had last year. I feel like Sanders is being targeted more than Diggs and Beasley when that rapport is already established. I would love to see some All-22 reviews, but something is still clearly off.
7 - Special Teams - The jinx was real in this game. Not only did the announcers comment on Bass' accuracy, but others (who will not be named) made a prediction about Bass breaking the consecutive FG record. Between the two, it was almost no question that he missed his long field goal attempt. Haack had another punt that almost got blocked, but McKenzie had a few solid returns. Taiwan showed why he earns his spot as a gunner, quickly getting to muffed punt right before halftime.
8 - 4th down - If one thing led to this game being a shutout blowout, it would be the execution on 4th down. The Bills were great, and the Dolphins were far from it. The Dolphins easily could have put up 6 points with field goals as they made it deep into Bills territory a few times. Taron Johnson and Dane Jackson each made huge tackles in the open field to create a turnover on downs, and the Bills defense simply found ways to come up big in seemingly every situation. Beyond that, the Dolphins were sloppy with the ball and seemed rattled from the beginning. From the memes and media reaction, it appears we are starting to become their white whale.
© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
9 - Defensive Backs - Like a flashback to 2020, Poyer was all over the field with decisive tackles to players trying to hide and swing out of the backfield. Tre was decent, but still not great. Levi Wallace made a great interception, and Taron Johnson seemed to be everywhere. I don't know why the Dolphins kept trying to pick on him, but he made them pay with batted balls and hard hits. While Miami isn't world beaters with their passing attack, our DB's did their jobs well and were a major reason in keeping the Dolphins off the scoreboard.
10 - Milano - Unlike someone else who hasn't shown up after his big payday, Milano was an absolute monster on the field today. While Taron Johnson and AJ were contenders for the defensive MVP of the game, Milano gets it from me. While a beneficiary of the new Frazier "everyone gets a sack" program, Milano showed great speed, wrap-up ability and was all over the field. Milano makes the plays you keep hoping to see from Edmunds. He was in the backfield and covering the outside with speed and conviction. While AJ was great with pressure, Milano was great with everything he did, which is why he gets the nod.
1-1 with two very winnable games coming up. It's a great position to be in, and hopefully, the offense can find their rhythm during those games. If they do, and the defense continues to perform like this, the NFL will officially be on notice.
BillsFans - Virgil