OPINION: Arrow Up/Arrow Down: Bills at Cardinals

A miraculous Hail Mary touchdown for the Cardinals stuns the Bills in Arizona
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By WGR 550 SportsRadio

Until there were just two seconds left in the game, I was all set to start this week with the Arrows pointing Up and writing about the Buffalo Bills being 8-2 for the first time since 1993.

However, DeAndre Hopkins happened, and I suddenly had to shift to starting with the Arrows Down, starting with that play:

ARROW DOWN:

The final play

There is - and will be for quite a while - a lot of debate on how the Bills defended the final Hail Mary pass caught by Hopkins. From how many players rushed quarterback Kyler Murray, to how many defenders were deep in the end zone, to who was or wasn’t on the field, and more.

I definitely understand anyone believing they should have rushed more than four players. However, with a quarterback as mobile as Kyler Murray, if you do that and don’t get home on him, that leaves you with fewer players to defend the pass at the other end.

It was one against three. Hopkins made a sensational catch between three of the best players on the Bills entire roster - Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde. He timed his jump better than they timed theirs. Poyer actually hit White, knocking him away from Hopkins and the ball.

There are a lot of things that went wrong on the play. Not one specific thing or reason it was caught, but everyone involved has to be held accountable for allowing it to happen.

Josh Allen’s inconsistencies

As good as Allen was at the start and end, there was a lot to inconsistency and bad passes in the middle. Twice he threw the ball into the arms of Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, but Peterson didn’t hold on for the interception. But then Peterson did grab one, and so did Dre Kirkpatrick, both on badly thrown Allen passes. In the second and third quarters, Allen combined to go 13-for-23 for 108 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Third quarter woes

Once again, the Bills were outplayed and outscored in the third quarter. In this one, it really hurt them.

The Bills led 16-9 at halftime, and even scored a touchdown with less than 10 minutes left in third quarter to take a 23-9 lead. But after that, it was all Cardinals, scoring 17 unanswered points, all in the final six minutes. The Bills have been outscored 76-30 in the third quarter this season.

Corey Bojorquez

Bojorquez had an absolutely brutal punt late in the third quarter that only traveled 12 yards, setting the Cardinals up with a drive start at the Bills’ 30-yard line and, ultimately, a field goal to pull them within four points.

End of first half play-calling

Bass connected on his 58-yard field goal, so it will go unnoticed, but the Bills had the ball at the Cardinals' 41-yard line, facing 3rd-and-1, still with 20 seconds and one timeout left. They had plenty of time, and opportunity, to either hand the ball off straight ahead or attempt a pass to get closer for Bass’ attempt, or maybe even one shot at the end zone.

Instead, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called an option play, and Allen decided to keep it into the teeth of the defense, forcing the long attempt instead.

Getting sucked up on Kyler Murray runs

It just kept happening too much.

Murray would put the ball into his running back’s belly, read the Bills defensive line, then pull it out and take off for long gains. Too often, the defensive player he was reading attacked the running back instead of staying home and watching Murray. Murray ran for 61 yards, and the Bills held him overall to 5.5 yards per-carry (he was averaging 7.1), but he had runs of 28, 15, and 13 yards, and scored two rushing touchdowns.

Run defense

What’s been a problem, at times, showed up huge in this one, especially in the second half.

The Cardinals ran for 217 yards on the ground. Too many times, the Bills were overpowered and had no answer for the Arizona three-headed run game. Kenyan Drake ran for 100 yards, Murray 61 yards, and Chase Edmonds 56 yards. As a team they averaged a whopping 6.2 yards per-carry.

Run blocking

The Bills, once again, had trouble running the football, totaling only 73 yards on 18 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per-run. Far too often there were Cardinals defenders, and sometimes multiple players, getting to Zack Moss or Devin Singletary before he even got back to the line of scrimmage.

Penalties

The Bills committed nine penalties for 69 yards. That’s too many, and what made it worse were when some occurred, negating important plays or really hurting drives.

Dawson Knox’s block in the back penalty

Bills tight end Dawson Knox committed an incredibly costly penalty when there was no need whatsoever to do what he did.

With the Bills facing a 2nd-and-10 from their own 39, Allen saw he had a free play after the Cardinals were offsides at the snap. He threw the ball to Singletary, who gained 21 yards down to the Cardinals’ 40-yard line. They were set up there with a 1st-and-10, but Knox blocked a defender in the back after it was already clear Singletary had the big gain, negating the play.

On the next play, another 2nd-and-10 from their own 39, Allen threw an interception.

ARROW UP:

Tyler Bass

The Bills rookie kicker showed off his big leg and his accuracy on Sunday.

Bass connected on field goals of 54, 55, and 58 yards, becoming the first kicker in franchise history to nail three kicks of 50-plus yards in one game, and also only the second kicker in NFL history to make three field goals of 54-plus yards in one game. He did it all in one quarter!

 He also converted all three of his extra point attempts, going a total of 6-for-6 on the day.

Josh Allen’s start and end

Allen started the game the way he left off last week’s contest against the Seahawks - red hot.

He started the game with seven completions on his first eight attempts for 79 yards. Mixed in, he also caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie on the team’s first drive of the game.

Then, when his team needed him to come up big late, Allen did, as he often has throughout his short career. Allen was 13-for-19 for 106 yards in the fourth quarter, including 8-for-11 on the final offensive drive, bringing the Bills back from a deficit to take the lead on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs.

On the day, Allen was 32-for-49 for 284 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also added 38 yards rushing and 12 yards receiving for a total of 334 yards of offense and three total touchdowns.

Job on DeAndre Hopkins... until the final play

Before the final play of the game, Hopkins had caught just six passes for 84 yards and no touchdowns. Not a bad day for any receiver, but certainly one the Bills felt good about for one of the best in the game.

He hadn’t made an impact at all.

Although White seemed to be covering him more often than anyone else, he wasn’t on him every single play. Others covered Hopkins, and no matter who it was, the team did a good job of not allowing him to get loose.

Cole Beasley

Beasley was incredible most of the game, but especially when Allen needed him most. He found open zones on critical third down plays, made a spectacular one-handed catch on one of them on the go-ahead drive, and finished the game with 11 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Stefon Diggs

Diggs just continues his assault on Bills franchise receiving marks, while staying atop the NFL in total catches and yards on the season. He was big, once again, for the Bills and Allen in this one, catching 10 passes for 93 yards, and coming up with a fantastic grab for, what appeared to be, the game-winning touchdown with only 34 seconds remaining. Diggs now has 73 catches for 906 yards on the season.

Third down defense

The Bills held the Cardinals to just 5-of-13 third down conversions, which is a low 38%.

Red zone defense

The Cardinals entered the Bills' 20-yard line four different times, but only came away with two touchdowns. The Cardinals came into the game converting 72% of their trips into the red zone.

A.J. Klein and Tremaine Edmunds

Klein finished with 11 total tackles and Edmunds had 10. Those totals were the two most for any player in the game. Klein also had a sack, a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hurry.

Taron Johnson

The much-maligned Bills slot cornerback filled the stat sheet with nine total tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry, and a forced fumble.

Dane Jackson

The rookie had another noticeably good performance, with eight tackles, a fumble recovery, and a pass beautifully defended against Hopkins in the end zone. Jackson appeared to seriously hurt his knee, but came back on the field later in the game and played the rest of the way.

Follow me on Twitter: @SalSports

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