Image Credit: © Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
When I watch other games, I don't know who I'm rooting for until I start watching for a little bit. I don't know what makes me gravitate towards one team or the other, it just sort of happens. For those of you who watched the Lions game on Thanksgiving, I found myself as angry as if the Bills lost to the Jaguars again. The Bears only need one more first down to kill the clock and kick the game-winning field goal. The Bears line up with two receivers on the weak side. The Lions defenders are 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage, lined up as if it's 1st and goal from the 20, and it's the last play of the game. Naturally, the Bears receivers run 5 yards, turn around, and Dalton throws an easy pass for the first down, game over. Watching that play unfold was like watching a tidal wave coming, and no one can hear you yelling to take cover. Between the back-to-back timeout fiasco and that play, the Lions deserve every bit of their win-less record, and I'm so thankful for not being their fan.
1 - Tre - It's impossible to talk about this game and not address the big elephant in the room in Tre being done for the year. It's crazy to me how the most serious injuries are typically those where no contact is made. You could tell by the tests they ran on him and how he went down that it was bad. Tre's had such a tremendous impact on this team ever since he was drafted, and I hate losing his play and leadership. With that being said, this position and scheme make me not as afraid to play on without him. Wallace and Johnson have played great this year, while Dane and Cam have shown flashes. Tre doesn't typically follow a receiver around the field, and our scheme is very defensive back friendly. The big bonus is that we don't play a team besides the Bucs with a true number one receiver for the rest of the year. So, if other teams want to try and start throwing all over us, I think that would be welcome as it gives our pass rush more of an opportunity.
2 - Pass rush - It's crazy to believe that Ed got his first sack of the season in this game. He's had multiple games where he was disruptive, but I would argue none morose than this game. Ed was living in the backfield and had another sack negated due to a downfield holding penalty (I'm not going on a penalty rant again, but the missed face mask against Motor was a joke. I'm also not going to talk about the offside against Hughes when the replay clearly showed the Tackle leave early...). Addison also played a solid game as makeup for his putrid performance against the Colts. Both of these guys made me start to wonder about Groot, Hughes, and AJ. I feel like Groot has been fairly neutralized the past few weeks, and he's had plenty of 1 on 1 matchups. Our ROI on this rotation isn't delivering the results we'd hoped for, and I'm curious to know what this looks like in the off-season. When I watch the big paid DE's like Bosa and Chandler take over games in recent weeks, it makes me wonder if that's the route we should be taking. We spend almost the same amount of money in total, but when we rotate guys in that aren't performing, it gives the opposing offensive line a break. Plus, I'm really tired of spending so much draft capital on the same positions. Granted, those types of players don't come along very often, but just thoughts.
© Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
3 - Running backs - I made a point last week to discuss how I believed Moss should be demoted to 3rd string, and I'm standing by that even more emphatically this week. Breida and Motor were a great combination, and Motor really seemed to embrace being the power, change of pace back. Breida's speed is night and day to the other backs, which opened up runs that the other two simply couldn't accomplish. It also allowed the offensive line to hold their blocks less, which is a huge advantage. Additionally, the threat of him busting to the outside keeps the defense honest for their zones, something we could only do before with the threat of a jet sweep. In saying all of this, I can only imagine this team with a Taylor or Kamara on the roster... As for Motor, he had a couple of beautiful runs where he got to the second level between the tackles and absolutely powered through tackles. For a passing team that needs the opposing team to respect the run, this was a great run/pass ratio and about what I would expect going forward.
4 - Is this just another phase?
Of earthquakes making waves
Trying to shake the cancer off?
Oh, stupid human beings
Once you hold the hand of love
It's all surmountable
5 - Knox - How does a Tight End with drop issues start playing better with a monstrously swollen, recently broken hand. Knox is pulling down jump balls and broke the single-season touchdown record by a Bills Tight End. It's crazy his development and what he means to this offense. I was on the Hollister train earlier this season, not because of not liking Knox, but due to performance, and now he's a top Tight End in the league statistically. His relationship with Josh is possibly tied with Josh's with Diggs, and you can see it. If teams want to cover everyone else, Knox will make them pay, and he is genuinely a threat on the field again.
© Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
6 - Milano - Beyond Oliver and Addison, Milano was the defensive MVP of the linebackers looking extra fast on the turf in a dome (hint hint). Milano made some great sideline to sideline tackles and blew up a few plays in the backfield. He wasn't flashy with a turnover like Poyer, but his coverage skills really took away the edges of the field, which is where the Saints like to live. He also did a great job blowing up a screen pass, which left the Saints playbook after that. Great game overall by him.
7 - Saints Defense - I know many are concerned about the Pats game on MNF, but I noticed that the Saints played a very similar defense to what the Pats did against us last year. The Saints defense pressed out receivers and had two safeties deep (one if they guess run). This allowed our guys to win their battles at the line and break free. Allen had more time to pass than he may see against Judon next week, but this press cover 2 is a defense that Allen is very comfortable against. Yes, he did throw two interceptions, but one was a miscommunication with Diggs, and his arm was hit on the other (crazy how that's his first red-zone interception. I bet Lamar wishes he had his first one back).
8 - McKenzie - Anyone else hold their breath on every kickoff and punt return? I'm not sure if it's been discovered as to why, but McKenzie was benched for this game and made some tweets about being done for the season. In his place, rookie Stevenson returned kicks and saw some action at the end at receiver. He had an overall good game but honored McKenzie with a muffed punt that was recovered by the Bills. Stevenson wasn't used in any jet sweep packages but overall did well for his first game. If anyone knows more about McKenzie, please post in the comments.
© Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
9 - McD - Okay, I lied. It's time to talk about penalties. The Bills were much more disciplined this week with false starts and holds. However, during and after the game, McD was livid about some late hit and low tackles not being called in favor of Allen. I'm all about protecting our quarterback, but I also don't believe this is going to do our team any favors with the refs, especially with the Pats coming up. I don't want to believe retaliation like this occurs, but it does get hard to ignore the unbalanced ratio of penalties called against us. Lamar in Baltimore gets the same treatment, and it's only a matter of time until it leads to an injury.
10 - The Stretch - There are a lot of different narratives about the Bills this season: We can't beat power-run teams. We can't come from behind and win. We can't play in the elements. We are soft and get dominated by physical teams. All that being said, we are still in control of our destiny for the AFC East and within a game of the 1 seed behind the Ravens, who have a tough remaining schedule. We've seen a lot of ups and downs by all teams this season, and I refuse to believe this Pats team magically figured it out in one season. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe in our defense and a fired-up Josh on Monday night at home. If we win this game, barring we don't lose to the Jets, we would own the tiebreaker against the Pats should we finish with the same record. I wish we had the Jags game back, but it's behind us, and this team bounces back. We beat the Pats, and most of the critics shut up. Stay the course, have faith in the better QB on the field, and all will be well.
Side Note - I'm debating going to the game on Monday night. It's going to be freezing, and it's a 6-hour drive for me. However, I still have PTSD from making the Jax trip. The Bills are 1-2 at games I've attended this year, but I haven't been to a MNF game in forever (actually forever, I think). If they lose and I'm there, I'll own it. But I'm choosing to have faith.
BillsFans - Virgil