It would be tough to ask for a better start to the first game of 2020. At least as far as the scoreboard and stat sheet go, anyways.
The Buffalo Bills dominated the New York Jets on both sides of the ball, out-gaining and out-scoring the Jets by a wide margin that could’ve been even larger.
A pair of Josh Allen fumbles while running meant the Bills left a couple of opportunities to add more points to what ended up being a 21-3 halftime lead.
There was plenty to like from the Bills in this game.
Allen looked in command of a passing offense that often used multiple receivers. Yes, their most frequent personnel grouping remained three wide receivers, one running back and one tight end. But we saw some empty sets with four and five guys split out wide. That meant some early playing time for promising rookie Gabriel Davis.
I believe it’s a good sign that the Bills wanted to not only make Davis active, but got him involved early, if not exactly often. Adding another receiving option to the top-three of Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley might be an indicator that the Bills recognize the need to push Allen and their passing game from the bottom of the NFL to, at least, somewhere in the middle or maybe even better.
The defense was very strong until some sloppy tackling by Tremaine Edmunds allowed Jamison Crowder to turn a short pass in traffic into a 69-yard touchdown and just like that, the extreme level of comfort Bills fans were enjoying dissipated. Edmunds left the game injured and maybe hurt himself on the tackle attempt, which may explain the miss.
Another missed field goal attempt by Bills rookie kicker Tyler Bass may have started to remind fans of last season’s opener at the Jets when missed kicks helped the Bills stay in the game and ultimately win. As the fourth quarter started, we learned that Edmunds was hurt, joining fellow linebacker Matt Milano on the sidelines. Was anyone else remembering how that opener last year swung when the Jets lost their great linebacker C.J. Mosley?
I was just starting to get a little uneasy, at least as uneasy as you can be with an 11-point lead, when the Bills defense forced a fumble and recovered, giving the offense the ball back and a short field to boot. Settling for a field goal wasn’t ideal, but at least Bass made this one after missing on his first two attempts.
That’s where the what’s not to like part of the story comes in.
Sloppy ball handling from Allen and missed field goals were the only reason this game was even reasonably competitive at all. Two fumbles by Allen in Jets territory and those two missed field goals by Bass maybe cost the Bills at least 12 points. In a game against almost anyone but the pretty awful Jets, maybe that’s a problem.
It might be a concern that the Bills never really got their running game going. Allen was their leading rusher. For me, that concern is eased by Allen’s passing stats on the day. It had been since Christmas Eve of 2016 since the Bills had a 300-yard passer and Tyrod Taylor needed overtime to do it. Allen on the day went 33-of-46 for 312 yards, and a pair of scores through the air. He also added another touchdown on the ground.
Yes, Allen needs to secure the football better while continuing to be a highly dangerous runner, but his command of a passing game that suddenly boasts a deep and varied group of pass catchers is far and away the No. 1 thing to takeaway from the win.
If it’s a sign of the step Allen intends to take this season, lookout.
If it’s a one-off, well, good job, good game.
Watching this unfold is going to be a blast.