Sal's Sticks: Lions at Bills

December 16, 2018 - 11:09 pm
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It wasn’t the easiest win, that’s for sure.  But through injuries and attrition, the Bills grinded their way to a 14-13 victory over the Detroit Lions Sunday.  The win means the positives come first here:
 

AHEAD OF THE STICKS

  • QB Josh Allen

How can anyone come away not liking the way Allen performed Sunday?  Unless you’re simply “box score scouting,” I’m not sure how anyone can come away from this one not impressed with the way he threw the ball, his leadership and command, and of course the result thanks to a fourth quarter comeback.  Of course there were a few throws that weren’t as on-the-mark as many would like, but for most of the day, he was decisive and good from the pocket.  And that’s exactly what he needed to be since the Lions limited his ability to make big plays with his legs.  Early-on, Allen threw darts into tight windows.  Then as the game wore on, he did a great job on a couple beautiful floaters when those were needed, especially on a touchdown to Robert Foster and a big second down to Jason Croom with less than three minutes remaining.  Allen finished the game 13-for-26 for 204 yards and a touchdown passing, adding 16 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

  • WR Robert Foster

The undrafted rookie continued his impressive run as of late with his third 100-yard receiving game over the last five contests.  Foster caught four of the five targets his way for 104 yards and a long 42-TD strike that gave the Bills the lead in the fourth quarter.  

  • Pass protection

Allen was sacked once and had to get out of the pocket a few times, but overall this was the best the offensive line had protected him all season, and the most time he had to throw from the pocket on a consistent basis.

  • Offensive players gutting it out

Give a lot of credit to both the players and coaches on the offensive side for finding ways to move the ball, and ultimately score, given the injuries on that side of the ball.  With no LeSean McCoy or Chris Ivory, Marcus Murphy and Keith Ford were the only two healthy running backs.  Then Murphy got hurt.  Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll used wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Ray-Ray McCloud, as well as fullback Patrick DiMarco (and Allen, of course) to run the football.  McKenzie also left the game, and was even carted off the field, but came back later to handle punts while limping around.  This isn’t about the numbers.  They were okay.  This is about the unit gutting and grinding it out and finding ways to get it done.

  • Second half defense

After giving up 196 yards, 13 points, and allowing the Lions to convert 4-of-6 third downs in the first half, the Bills defense made some adjustments, stepped up, and limited Detroit’s offense to only 117 yards, 1-of-7 third downs, and shut them out in the second half.  The Lions second half drives ended punt, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt.

  • S Jordan Poyer

Poyer was all over the field for the Bills’ defense.  He played in the box at times and as a deep safety others, finishing with a game-high eleven tackles, including one for a loss and a huge stop on a critical late third down as the Lions were trying to drive for the lead.

  • LB Lorenzo Alexander 

The Bills didn’t get a ton of pressure on Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford, but when they did, Alexander was usually a part of it.  The veteran linebacker collected six total tackles, including two for a loss, two QB hurries, and deflected a pass that he almost intercepted.

  • DE Shaq Lawson

Lawson showed once again why he’s a valuable contributor to the defense.  He finished with three tackles, one for a loss, two QB hurries, and had a huge batted-down ball on a third and one pass from Stafford.

  • Penalties

Only three penalties for 20 yards against is a huge upgrade for a team that had been committing far too many of them as of late.
 


BEHIND THE STICKS

  • CB Tre’Davious White

Two weeks in a row White finds himself on this side of the ledger after getting beaten more than once by Lions’ receiver Kenny Golladay.  

  • Defense on Kenny Golladay

It wasn’t just White Golladay beat.  The defense had a tough time with him all day, to say the least.  He made some tremendous catches, but wound up with seven grabs for 146 yards, which is not what one player should ever be able to do to the Bills’ defense.

  • Third down offense

The Bills converted on only 3-of-12 (25%) third down attempts.   They were 0-for-5 in the second half.

  • Dropped passes

Once again Allen didn’t get much help from his pass catchers at critical moments.  Several key drops kept the offense in poor situations and didn’t allow them to gain first downs.

  • No sacks…..again

Two weeks in a row the Bills’ defense failed register a sack of the opposing quarterback.


THE BIG PICTURE

If you’re someone who only cares about draft position and regards any win at this point as meaningless and even detrimental, no matter how it happens, this game wasn’t for you.  If you’re someone who either wants the Bills to win or is mainly concerned with the growth and development of Josh Allen, regardless of result, this game was exactly what you wanted.

I’ve written a lot about how these games are really only about Allen at this point and watching his growth.  Every snap he takes for the rest of the season is more and more critical to his development because they are the final snaps of his rookie year before he heads into his first offseason and next training camp as the unquestioned starting quarterback.  He’s been showing clear signs of growth and Sunday was no different.  He had a good day.  Don't let anyone point to a a boxscore or stats and tell you otherwise.

I’m excited for Bills fans to be excited about Josh Allen.  They should be.  

I think back to last month when Allen was close to returning from an elbow injury that sidelined him.  Many fans and media alike took the position that he should continue to sit.  He’d keep learning from Derek Anderson and Matt Barkley and wouldn’t be subject to any more injuries.  

Thank goodness Sean McDermott decided to put him back under center and make a commitment to him as the starting quarterback, because the last four games have been invaluable to the rookie and have given the team an idea of what he is capable of and what they need to improve in the offseason, both with him personally and as far as offensive personnel.  Really, can you imagine if this team had sat Allen over all these games? 

As much as these games are about the rookie QB’s growth, Sunday’s win was about a team that stuck it out and found a way to win.  Pretty?  Probably not.  Exciting?  At times, but not for the most part.  But it was certainly hard-fought and earned, and that’s always a good thing to see, regardless of record or circumstance.

Bills’ fans should be proud of their team and how they battled and found their way to a win.  And along the way they got to see yet another positive day for their young quarterback.

That’s a good Sunday.
 



Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

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