After all the waiting, all the wondering, and all the curiosity surrounding the start of the 2020 Buffalo Bills season, Week 1 went almost as good as the team and their fans could have hoped. A 27-17 win over the New York Jets that wasn’t nearly as close as the scoreboard even indicated.
Let’s get to the first Arrows of the season, starting with the UPs after the win:
- Josh Allen
Allen was on fire throwing the ball from the opening drive. He started 7-for-7, which was a sign of things to come. Allen finished with his first 300-yard game, throwing for 312 yards and two touchdowns, which was also the first 300-yard passing game for a Bills quarterback since Tyrod Taylor threw for 316 yards in an overtime loss against the Miami Dolphins in December of 2016. It was the first 300-yard passing performance in a win since Kyle Orton’s 308 yards against the Detroit Lions in 2014. Allen not only threw for 312 yards, he also ran for 57 yards for a total day of 369 yards. Allen accounted for three touchdowns - all in the first half - two passing and one rushing, and didn’t throw any interceptions. To cap off a terrific statistical day, Allen attempted 46 passes, a career high, and still completed a whopping 71.7% of them, going 33-for-46.
- Stefon Diggs
Diggs was very good in his Bills debut, catching eight passes for 86 yards, including several key third down receptions and a couple tough grabs in traffic or while falling to the ground.
- John Brown
Brown continued his consistent play in a Bills uniform by catching six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
- Brian Dabol
Dabol called a terrific game, keeping the Jets off balance with different formations and personnel usage all day. Specifically, he had wide receivers lining up in all different spots throughout the game, always allowing Allen to pick and find matchups he wanted.
- Corey Bojorquez
One punt. 53 yards. Fair catch. Bojorquez gets an arrow up on a light work day.
- Andre Roberts
Roberts was excellent all day, giving the Bills either really good or at least better field position that they would have had, returning five punts for a total of 69 yards for a 13.8 average. Roberts’ punt returns went for 16, 10, 2, 23, and 19 yards, plus a fair catch. He also added a kick return for 31 yards. The Bills' drive starts after Roberts’ punt returns: their own 46, 45, 18, 32, 36, and 36.
- The defense overall
The Bills defense smothered the Jets all afternoon. Right from the start of the game, it was three-and-outs on the first three series and four of the first five. New York didn’t get a first down in the first quarter, running only nine plays for four yards! In fact, they ran only 53 total offensive plays, and the Bills gave up only 202 yards passing and 52 yards rushing.
- Mario Addison
The free agent acquisition filled up his defensive stat line with three total tackles, including two for a loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry.
- Matt Milano
Unfortunately, Milano suffered a hamstring injury and left the game right before halftime. But in one half of play, he was all over the defensive side of the field, collecting four total tackles with a pass breakup and a terrific, athletic interception.
- Harrison Phillips
Phillips doesn’t make this list because of an awesome stat line or big play. He makes it because he was good, and contributed valuable snaps, in his first game back since tearing his ACL in Week 3 last year.
Josh Allen’s fumbles
There it was again. Allen had a terrific day overall, but it was tempered with a few awful plays. Specifically in this one, Allen had two fumbles as a runner, and both in the red zone. That’s two more possible scoring drives. He also missed a wide-open Brown as he airmailed the pass well over his head in the end zone, giving fodder to a lot critics of his accuracy. Quarterbacks miss throws. That one was a bad miss, but they happen. What can’t happen is the fumbles. Allen fumbled the ball 14 times last season and has fumbled 24 times now in his short career. He’s talked over-and-over about taking better care of the ball. He knows he has to, but he didn’t on Sunday. Luckily, it didn’t cost the Bills a victory.
I’m still not sure if Bass’ first field goal attempt was actually no good, as it was called. It looked to me like it was inside the right upright. So if it’s called good, maybe he doesn’t make this list. But it wasn’t. It was no good from 38 yards out. Then he followed it up with another that was no good from 34. Two short kicks, two misses. Not at all the start to his pro career that Bass, or the Bills, or their fans expected or hoped for. Bass did connect on three extra points and his final two field goal attempts, so hopefully for him and the Bills that carries over into Week 2 at Miami.
The numbers here are a bit deceiving. Allen ran for 57 yards on 14 carries and the team overall ran for 98 yards. But the running game never really got going, especially from the two backs: Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. Singletary ran for 30 yards on nine carries, while Moss had only 11 yards on nine carries. As a team, the Bills averaged only 3.1 yards per-carry. They have to be much better going forward.
The third quarter
The Bills had a commanding 21-3 lead at halftime and a chance to, essentially, put the game away in the early third quarter since they were getting the opening second half kickoff. But that first drive went three-and-out, and they didn’t even gain a yard. Bass’ two field goal misses also came in the third quarter. The Bills were 0-for-3 on third downs, out-gained 92-79 yards, were 0-for-2 in red zone trips, and on top of all that, the defense allowed a 69-yard touchdown pass and the Jets to cut the lead to 21-10. It seemed like there wasn’t as much energy coming from the team most of that quarter, maybe because they had things so well in hand so early.
THE BIG PICTURE:
There have been high expectations placed on the 2020 Buffalo Bills for quite a while by a lot of people. From winning the division to even being Super Bowl contenders. Heck, even I picked this team to go to the AFC Championship Game this year. They have a lot going for them. A whole heck of a lot of continuity from their coaching staff to their quarterback to the offensive line and more. A head coach who knows how to handle and keep his team focused amid a lot of uncertainty. And, oh yeah, a really talented and deep roster. I’d call it the best roster they’ve had since at least 1999. But with no true offseason and no preseason games, we really didn’t know what to expect from this team until they actually played a game. There were still questions, especially about Allen and the offense. Sunday, we finally got some answers. For the most part, they were extremely positive.
The Bills played about as good of a first half as anyone could have hoped for or expected. Aside from a lackluster third quarter, they completely dominated the Jets on both sides of the football all afternoon. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold may not have been seeing ghosts, but he did see a lot of white jerseys coming at him all day. And while Allen still had some of his worst come out in a few plays, he also showed his best for most of the day.
The Bills were certainly not perfect on Sunday. They scored 27 points and probably should have cashed in over 40 if it wasn’t for mistakes. But the only way they ever really stopped was when they caused it themselves.
We’ve all said and understood that there will probably be an acclimation period for teams as they finally get back to the field and play real games for the first time since last season. We’ve known that most wouldn’t be at their best and that there are going to be mistakes - in play, in communication, in discipline. For most of Sunday afternoon, you wouldn’t know the Bills hadn’t played together in a real game in over eight months. As for Allen, he had the best day of his career, statistically.
If this is what we get Week 1, with no offseason and no preseason games, the expectations I referred to earlier can easily be justified. Of course, they did play the Jets, who didn’t have all that continuity, don’t have a coach as buttoned-up as McDermott, and don’t have near the roster the Bills do.
The Jets are a bad football team, but make no mistake about it - the Bills are good. The bar has been raised.
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