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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Plenty for Bills to be proud of in big win

Grading the Buffalo Bills in their 38-10 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at Highmark Stadium …

Running game

A whole lot to love. The Bills piled up 183 yards on the ground, led by a career-best 123-yard day from James Cook. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry on his 17 attempts. Both Latavius Murray and Damien Harris got into the end zone. Perhaps most impressive: The Bills got just 7 yards rushing from Josh Allen on three attempts, and still had that kind of production. At one point in the first half, the Bills had converted a fourth and 1 (by Allen), a first and goal from the 4-yard line (by Murray) and a third and 3 (by Harris) all on the ground. That’s a great way to keep the offense in rhythm.

“If Bad Josh (turnovers), Disappointing Josh (missed throws) and Frustrating Josh (not sliding) was present last Monday, the home fans got to see Great Josh (no turnovers), Efficient Josh (31-of-37 passing) and Smart Josh (only one risky run) against the Raiders,” Ryan O’Halloran writes.

Passing game

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A week after one of the worst games of his career, Allen was magnificent in throwing for 274 yards. He completed 83.8% of his passes (31 of 37) and was content to take what the defense gave him. On the times the Raiders got pressure, Allen extended the play. A perfect example came on the 11-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Shakir at the end of the second quarter. That throw was made from a very muddy pocket, but Allen bought just enough time to find Shakir. The quarterback spread the wealth, completing passes to nine different receivers. Stefon Diggs led the team with seven catches for 66 yards, catching all seven of this targets. Gabe Davis turned seven targets into six catches for a team-leading 92 yards and a touchdown – which was an incredible catch on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line.

Run defense

If you could have bet on this before the game, you would have been able to retire: The Bills held Josh Jacobs, the NFL’s reigning rushing champion, to the a career-worst minus-2 yards on 9 carries. The Raiders burned the Bills on the first drive with a perfectly called jet sweep by receiver Tre Tucker. That was basically it for their running game until Zamir White gained 22 yards in garbage time. As a team, the Raiders finished with 55 yards on 15 carries. The Bills’ defense even earned a late takeaway when Dane Jackson forced a fumble by White that was recovered by safety Taylor Rapp.

Pass defense

Raiders superstar Davante Adams made some plays, finishing with six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, but he does that against everyone. The key here was takeaways: The Bills intercepted Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo twice – with Terrel Bernard getting his first career pick and Matt Milano making all the highlight reels with his second interception of the season. Don’t let the stats fool you: Even though Garoppolo wasn’t sacked, there was sufficient pressure on him, which led to forced throws. Greg Rousseau tipped the pass that led to Bernard’s interception, while Christian Benford and A.J. Epenesa also had passes defensed. Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones each had a quarterback hit.

A dominating, 38-10 victory in the home opener at Highmark Stadium did more than just even the Bills’ record at 1-1. It also showed that a good deal of concern that was expressed after the season-opening stinker against the New York Jets just might have been overblown.

Special teams

A nondescript game – which was welcome after the way Week 1 ended. Kicker Tyler Bass was perfect on four extra points and a 29-yard field goal. Sam Martin was only asked to punt once, and did a great job getting off a 54-yarder despite heavy pressure. Damien Harris took his first career kickoff return back 41 yards to give the Bills good field position. Deonte Harty didn’t get a chance for a punt return, making two fair catches. Bass kicked six touchbacks, which was wise, because the one kick return by DeAndre Carter came dangerously close to going to the house. Jackson made a good tackle to prevent that.


It sure was an ugly start, as the Raiders went 75 yards on just five plays to an opening touchdown. Credit Sean McDermott for settling his defense down, holding Las Vegas to just three points from there. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey did a great job putting Josh Allen in position to make comfortable throws, and the quarterback did the rest. One small issue with Dorsey. The fourth-and-goal play design from the 1-yard line that had Allen in shotgun was an easy second guess. In that situation, why not just have the quarterback sneak it? It felt like Dorsey got too cute there, but overall, he called a nice game. The Bills were penalized just four times for 30 yards, which is an acceptable amount. Three of them, however, were of the pre-snap variety that McDermott hates.

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