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Bills Report Card: Comeback earns offense passing marks; defensive grades shine

RUNNING GAME: B-

At least early, the question to be asked was “what running game?” The Bills ran 17 consecutive pass plays to open the game. The first run didn’t come until the final play of the first quarter – a 1-yard gain by Frank Gore. The bulk of the Bills’ rushing in the first half came from quarterback Josh Allen, who scrambled his way to eight carries for 27 yards. The running game started to find its stride in the second half, led by rookie Devin Singletary. He had a game-high 70 yards on just four carries – a robust average of 17.5 yards per carry. Gore finished the game with just 20 yards on 11 carries. It would be nice to see more of his attempts go between the tackles as opposed to the outside. Not being able to get out of the end zone in the third quarter, leading to a safety, was an ugly sequence for Gore and the offensive line, which failed to get any sort of push. Allen’s scrambling ability produced a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter as part of the comeback win. He probably took more hits at the end of runs than the Bills would prefer. Thanks largely to Singletary, the team’s average of 5.1 yards per carry (25 attempts produced 128 yards and one touchdown) looks good.

PASSING GAME: B

New wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley played a huge part in the offense. Brown finished with a team-high seven catches for 123 yards and scored the game-tying touchdown with 3 minutes left. Beasley had five catches for 40 yards, although there were a pair of targets he would like back. A low throw from Allen bounced off Beasley’s hands in the first quarter, leading to a pick six for Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley. Then in the fourth quarter, Beasley was open along the right sideline, but failed to bring in a well-placed deep throw from Allen. Receiver Zay Jones made just two catches for 18 yards, but one of them was a big one. He picked up 20 yards on a slant on a second-and-10 play with 4:27 remaining, getting the Bills into New York territory. Robert Foster was a forgotten man – he didn’t get a single target. Allen’s game stayed true to his polarizing brand. He lost four turnovers, although it will be debated how many are truly on him. The first pick on the throw to Beasley was low, but probably should have been caught. The second pick came on a tipped pass, although Allen did throw right into the line, which led to the deflection. The first lost fumble came on a sack, while the second came on a sloppy exchange with center Mitch Morse. Blame on the sack obviously doesn’t fall on Allen, while the exchange is tough to assign blame to. Allen finished 24 of 37 for 254 yards and one touchdown. Stats aside, he led a comeback from 16-0 down late in the third quarter for a win. That’s big time.

RUN DEFENSE: A

A whole lot to like. Le’Veon Bell was kept in check, finishing with 60 yards on 17 carries. As a team, the Jets finished with just 68 yards on 21 carries. The Bills’ linebackers and safeties consistently swarmed to the ball. Jordan Poyer and Matt Milano shared the team lead with nine tackles, and Tremaine Edmunds was next with eight. Milano and Taron Johnson each had a tackle for a loss. The defense showed good discipline on a jet sweep by speedy Jets receiver Jamison Crowder, limiting the play to a 4-yard gain. The Jets threw the ball nearly twice as much as they ran it (41 to 21). That made life easier for the run defense, but doesn’t take away from what was a solid showing.

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PASS DEFENSE: A

If the Bills rush the passer like that all season, their defense can be special. The team had four sacks of Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and hit him four times. When the rush didn’t get there, the line was getting their hands up into passing lanes. “Our goal was to affect him,” defensive end Shaq Lawson said. “If you can’t get there fast enough, get your hands up or get him off his spot.” The defense did that well. The Bills held Jets receivers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa to a combined four catches for 19 yards. That’ll do. Crowder, though, did work out of the slot, catching a whopping 14 passes for 99 yards. With nickel cornerback Taron Johnson going out with a hamstring injury, that’s a concern moving forward. About the only negative defensively is the lack of a forced turnover (until the desperation lateral on the final play), but if the pass rush continues to get home like that, those will come.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Stephen Hauschka hit a 43-yard field goal and calmly converted the extra point that gave the Bills the winning point in the fourth quarter. Punter Corey Bojorquez’s final numbers don’t look great – a net average of just 30 yards on three punts – but they don’t tell the entire story. He was pretty good in the first half. Micah Hyde filled in for injured Andre Roberts as punt returner. His only return went for 10 yards. He cleanly fielded four fair catches. Maurice Alexander had the team’s only tackle on special teams. That came on a 10-yard kickoff return by Braxton Barrios. That’s a sign of good kick coverage.

COACHING: C+

After watching Singletary in the second half, it’s easy to ask offensive coordinator Brian Daboll why he wasn’t more involved early in the game. Clearly, the game plan was to attack the Jets’ weak secondary, but here’s the thing – it didn’t work. Splitting fullback Patrick DiMarco out wide is never going to be a good look. The Bills had an equal amount of rushing and passing attempts (14) in the second half, and results followed. Credit Daboll for making the necessary adjustments. The defense had to be ready, and Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier made sure it was. It was a fine showing for those two. There weren’t any second guesses to be found with McDermott by way of challenges or use of timeouts.

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