Sal's Sticks: Jaguars at Bills

The Bills win their second game in a row

Sal Capaccio
November 25, 2018 - 10:48 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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It was a wild game in Orchard Park on Sunday, and now the Buffalo Bills have back-to-back wins, this time over former head coach Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

There are lots of Sticks to be handed out, starting, of course, with the positives after a victory:

 

AHEAD OF THE STICKS

  • QB Josh Allen

Don’t even look at the passing numbers, they weren’t bad by any means. In fact, they were pretty good. However, this was certainly one of those cases where the stats do not tell the story of what really happened. Allen was very good throwing the ball.....and running it. He finished the game only 8-of-19 for 160 yards and a touchdown, but he was the most consistent and accurate as he’s been all season. He also had two beautifully placed completions that were negated be penalties and another Deonte Thompson had in his hands but got knocked out of before he could secure it. Allen also broke a Bills franchise record for rushing yards in a game with 99 (he had 100 before a kneel-down at the end cost him one yard). The previous record was 79 by Tyrod Taylor. Especially considering it was his first game back after missing more than a month, Bills fans should be very encouraged by what they saw from Allen.
 

  • WRs Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie

Both are on the list because they each scored their first NFL touchdowns. For Foster, it came on a 75-yard catch and run. The rookie came within six yards of his second straight 100-yard receiving game, leading all pass catchers with 94 yards. For McKenzie, it was a run. He took a jet sweep handoff that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll set up perfectly by having him run that same motion twice earlier in the drive, but without handing it to him. McKenzie finished with 75 all-purpose yards, contributing as a runner, receiver, and kick and punt returner.
 

  • Pass defense

The Bills held the Jaguars to 107 net passing yards, and more than half of that came on two plays. Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles was 12-of-23 for 127 yards and a touchdown, but the Bills’ defense picked him off twice and sacked him three times.
 

  • DE Kyle Williams

Williams was all over the field and finished with his highest tackle total of the season with seven, two of those were for a loss. He also had 1.5 sacks and added two quarterback hurries. The 13-year veteran was terrific.
 

  • S Jordan Poyer

Poyer led all players with 10 total tackles and also had a huge interception that set the Bills up for the field goal that essentially sealed the game. 
 

  • LB Lorenzo Alexander

Talk about filling up the stat sheet. The 13-year veteran finished with seven total tackles, two of which were for a loss, plus a sack, two quarterback hurries, and got his hands on two passes, causing incompletions.

 

BEHIND THE STICKS

  • Run defense

The Bills were absolutely gashed by the Jaguars running game, especially by Leonard Fournette, who finished with 95 yards, two touchdowns, and averaged 5.3 yards per-carry. Big runs seemed to come far too easy and often for Jacksonville. Five different Jaguars players had a run of 11 yards or longer. Fournette alone had runs of 15, 14, and 13 yards just in the second quarter.
 

  • Running game outside of Josh Allen

Allen had 99 rushing yards, many of which came on scrambles. That means on actual running plays that were called (except for a few for Allen), the Bills had only 68 yards for the game. However, this isn’t really even about stats. It was clear to see that the offensive line wasn’t opening many holes and also that LeSean McCoy went back to trying to dance and find a hole instead of just hitting it straight ahead.
 

  • Third down offense

Only 2-for-10 on third downs is a horrible 20-percent, and that created far too many quick series. The Bills ran six or fewer plays on six of the seven drives they didn’t score.  
 

  • Penalties

It was a flag-fest from Walt Coleman’s crew, and the Bills were on the wrong on end of far too many of them, committing thirteen penalties for 80 yards.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

The Bills are trying to accomplish two things now: win games and develop Josh Allen. They did both Sunday. At the very least, it was a really positive step for Allen in the victory. The rookie quarterback looked sharp and much more accurate than he has been all season, all the while facing one of the top defenses in the NFL and after having missed over a month of action with an elbow injury.

Some Bills fans would argue before this game that the win was secondary to how Allen performed, and that’s understandable. Even I wrote here at our website that the rest of this season is “AAA: All About Allen.” The Bills need to find out what they have in their young quarterback, so they gave him more speed and opened up the playbook. He rewarded them and gave fans’ some optimism on what may lie ahead.

But even being All About Allen never meant sacrificing the rest of the season. At 3-7, no one was picking the Bills to make the playoffs, but with a schedule that looks a lot more favorable than what it was to start the season, there was a belief that this team could still make this into something more than a lot of people ever expected. Now, after back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018, coupled with Allen’s performance, it might be time to at least sit up and pay a little more attention to what’s happening.  

I don’t want to get too carried away with a win over a, likewise, 3-7 Jaguars team (now 3-8), but it’s hard not to at least see the signs of progress starting to show up in different areas. It may be too late for that to matter for this postseason, but it’s coming at the right time to at least start getting a better evaluation of what they have, what they don’t, and the plan of attack they should have this coming offseason.

The offense is obviously the area that has struggled the most this season. Now, suddenly, they’re looking like a competent 2018 NFL unit. Consider this - after scoring 46 points the previous six games combined, the Bills have scored 65 points over the last two weeks.   

Now they get a Miami Dolphins team next week that ranks near the bottom of the NFL in most major statistical categories on defense. Logic would say that the Bills should be able to keep building on what they’ve been doing on offense, but that’s the challenge of having a team still trying to find its way and be consistent. No one would be surprised if they do that or fall back to their league-low numbers we've seen too many times already and struggle mightily.

But right now, I’m optimistic. It feels like it’s starting to come along. I’ve noticed. Many of you have noticed. I’m pretty sure Jalen Ramsey noticed, too.


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