This was not an ideal week for the Bills to make an offensive coaching change. Not on short rest coming off a Monday night game. Not with the big, bad Jets next on the schedule.
There was no doubt Buffalo needed to do something. And maybe something a whole lot sooner. Regardless, Sean McDermott finally pulled the plug on the Ken Dorsey experience on a Tuesday morning after week ten.
It could not have worked out better.
The Bills got everything they could have hoped for out of the fresh slate under Joe Brady. There were big plays. There were easy completions. There were turnovers cashed in for touchdowns. There was a threatening run game.
There will be optimism in Buffalo this week, even with the Philly/KC/Dallas gauntlet on deck.
Joe Brady didn’t do anything revolutionary. I liked how much he kept the ball on the ground when it was working in the first half. The play call on 4th and 1 in the third quarter was excellent. As was the scheme that leaked Jamed Cook out of the backfield for the game’s first TD. However, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will not be calling to have this game plan bronzed for posterity.
This was not an offense bereft of ability under Ken Dorsey. Apparently, it was a unit simply in need of a reset.
For all the improvement in areas of success, I’m more interested in the reduction of failure. Only two offensive penalties before the game got out of hand–both the same drive that still ended in points. One sack. Only one irrelevant turnover.
The Bills offense didn’t kill themselves with mistakes. There weren’t the consistent stoppers that have ruined drives the last month or so. Even more encouraging, all this happened with Stefon Diggs putting up a performance that was the definition of pedestrian and Gabe Davis going full David Blaine, making himself disappear for the second time in three weeks. Brady’s Bunch didn’t even need them.
The offensive drivers were Cook’s total yards hundy and a touchdown, another workmanlike exploitation of zone coverage from Dalton Kincaid, a couple Khalil Shakir big plays and a welcome to the party moment for Ty Johnson. I’m not going to say this is the new go-to core for the Bills offense–some of it sure could be–but at least the Bills proved these supporting pieces are plenty capable.
It sure helps when the D is forcing some turnovers. Granted, the Jets offense is the embodiment of a shot fighter waiting for a stiff breeze to bowl it over. The Bills still did exactly what they should do with an opponent like that. They buried it.
While injuries have ravaged the back seven lately, the front four remains more intact. Ed Oliver and Leonard Floyd are plenty good enough to dominate lesser offensive lines and the Jets have one that’s quite injury ravaged itself. Dominate is excatly what they did with 3.5 of the Bills six sacks on the day.
The company line for lack of turnovers from the Bills was lack of affecting the quarterback. This talking point proved very correct. Once Sean McDermott’s crew had Zach Wilson (and Tim Boyle) uncertain, the takeaways started to flow. Buffalo forced four turnovers for the first time since the Washington win in week three.
Those turnovers (courtesy defense AND special teams) created short fields that led to ten first half points. Sean McDermott was likely very complimentary of the Bills complementary football.
I thought the best sign of the night was a 15-yard penalty against the Bills. Dion Dawkins unnecessarily piled on Jets defensive end Michael Clemons after a block. When Clemons retaliated, Dawkins flailed and rolled over on the ground trying to earn a matching flag on Clemons. He ended up spread eagle on the turf for a moment or two before getting up and running to midfield for a wave to the crowd. It was a practical strategy, but the method was elaborate, whimsical and over the top.
That’s Dion being Dion. And he wasn’t the only one.
McDermott said afterward he thought he saw more of Allen’s personality in this game along with the personality of the offense. A good chunk of that assessment is likely the head coach hoping his team’s personality is the one the scores 30 points and not 13.
He is right, however. The Bills looked a whole lot more like the Bills this week. The swagger was back. The confidence was back. The Bills were having fun again.
After six weeks of losing and drudgery, that offense probably needed a week of fun. Not because they were looking for relief or an opportunity for a collective exhale. Unsurprisingly, it was Dawkins who crystalized the real reason fun is a football nutritional value for Buffalo.
“We needed to get back on the train to start the train up,” he explained. “We were off the train. Now, we’re (back) on the train and the train is moving.”
The Bills didn’t need a new batch of X’s and O’s from Brady. Spencer Brown called this week a “rebirth”. It was more than that. They needed a revival. A jump start.
You can divvy up the credit however you like–McDermott for finally making the change, Brady for managing it or Allen for executing it on the field. It seems the best thing the Bills have done in weeks.
This train engines are revved again. As likely is optimism among BillsMafia. Both are now full steam ahead for the deciding third of the Bills season.