Here are how my five takes before the Buffalo Bills' 26-16 victory against Denver Broncos worked out:
1. The Bills need to stick with their run-first offensive personality, because it's nearly impossible to successfully reinvent yourself in the NFL once the season starts. However, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison had better be ready to make some tweaks. Check.
Once again, the Bills struggled in their running game, producing 75 yards and averaging only 2.3 yards per carry. LeSean McCoy more than doubled his output against the Carolina Panthers, but still only ended up with 21 yards on 14 carries — for a meager 1.5 yards per rush.
The learning and adjusting to the new wide-zone blocking scheme is going to take time, as guard Richie Incognito explained last week. And not just for the linemen, but for McCoy as well.
Still, the Bills did some necessary tweaking to get more production from their offense. They incorporated more crossing routes to take advantage of the man-to-man coverage the Broncos mainly use, they occasionally had Tyrod Taylor operate from the edge with a moving pocket, they worked in quarterback keepers to help slow down the pass rush, and also changed up pass protections. That went a long way toward minimizing the impact of All-World outside linebacker Von Miller, who finished with only one sack and two quarterback hits.
2. One way for the Bills to get their offense kick-started is to use more high-percentage quick throws. Check.
The Bills made good use of McCoy and tight end Charles Clay in the passing game. It didn't do a whole lot to help their rushing attack, but it did contribute to keeping the Broncos' defense off-balance.
McCoy caught all seven of the passes thrown his way for 48 yards, an average of 6.9 yards per completion, while Clay caught all six of the throws that came in his direction for 39 yards, an average of 6.5 yards per completion. Not spectacular, but efficient — and efficient was what the Bills desperately needed in their passing game.
3. For the second time in as many games, the Bills' defense must deliver a monster of a game. Pretty close on this one.
The Bills intercepted Trevor Siemian twice, sacked him three times, and allowed only one touchdown, which was only the second they've given up in their 2-1 start.
They didn't allow the Broncos' dynamic receiving duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas to do a whole lot of damage, even though each had 29-yard receptions. One of the biggest plays of the game was Sean McDermott's challenge that reversed what officials originally ruled a 44-yard reception by Sanders in the second quarter. The drive ended with a punt from deep in Denver territory that helped set up the first of Stephen Hauschka's four field goals.
4. Besides applying every bit as much heat to Trevor Siemian as they did to Cam Newton — something that should be helped by the leg injury to Broncos left tackle Garrett Bolles — the Bills also have to do everything possible to confuse Siemian and force him into mistakes. Check-plus.
The Broncos' game plan was to aggressively attack the Bills' secondary from the start. They were especially focused on testing rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White. And it backfired. White had an interception and knocked down four passes.
Fellow starting cornerback E.J. Gaines also had an interception, plus three passes defensed.
In general, the Bills' zone coverage left some openings that the Broncos could exploit, but also did a good enough job to help the pass rush get to Siemian.
5. Whatever the Bills do, they cannot let C.J. Anderson do to them what he did to the Cowboys. Check-plus.
Against the Cowboys, Anderson rushed 25 times for 118 yards and a touchdown, and caught three passes for 36 yards and a score.
Against the Bills, he ran only eight times for 36 yards and caught only two passes for a mere seven yards.
Minimizing Anderson's effectiveness was a major factor in the Bills' win, because it allowed the defense to put more heat on Siemian.