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Plays that Shaped the Game

The O-line was haulin' as Bills snapped their screen-passing slump

The Buffalo Bills’ screen game lives!

The Bills had completed only five screen passes to running backs in the first seven games, and the longest one went for 11 yards.

But the team worked on the screen game this week, and it paid off for a 49-yard gain against the Washington Redskins. That highlights this week’s plays that shaped the game.

1. Screen right. When Devin Singletary hauled in the screen from Josh Allen at the Buffalo 10, he had a convoy. Center Mitch Morse and guards Jon Feliciano and Quinton Spain were leading the way with a field of green in front of them.

“This week we made it a point to really work on our screen game all practice week, and it showed,” Feliciano said. “It was just wide open on that one.”

Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie ran a shallow cross to the left and drew the linebacker on that side of the field, Cole Holcomb, out of the area. Credit Allen with looking McKenzie’s way to sell a fake. That left only cornerback Josh Norman in the way.

Spain made Norman change his path, and Singletary showed off his quickness. He couldn’t be caught from behind and ran through Norman’s grasp.

Then it was a sprint down the right sideline. Morse made a crackback block on linebacker Jon Bostic at the Bills’ 37.

“It was probably just me getting tired and slowing down, and I happened to run into someone, to be honest,” Morse said. “Jon was the one who was haulin’. I think Jon broke land-speed records on that play.”

Actually, Feliciano might have set a career record for his farthest block downfield. He knocked back safety Troy Apke 46 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, at the Redksins’ 40.

“I was messing with Motor about that,” Feliciano said. “I was very tired. Thank God we ran play-action on the next play.”

Singletary was pushed out of bounds at the Redskins’ 37. The Bills turned the big gainer into a field goal.

“It was really a great job on the coordinator’s part,” Morse said of Brian Daboll. “It was something we’d tried to work on.”

2. Third-and-forever. The Bills extinguished any hope of a Washington comeback when Allen hit John Brown for a 23-yard gain on a third-and-18 play with 4:01 left.

Allen’s mobility and Brown’s situational awareness made it happen. Allen was flushed out of the pocket to his right. Cornerback Josh Norman found himself in no-man’s land in underneath coverage. He came up to defend Allen. The quarterback deftly held up and threw to Brown at the Redskins’ 14.

“It was Cover 2,” Brown said. “I had to change my route depending on the defense. I sat in the hole on the sideline. Once Josh scrambled out, Josh Norman ran up to him. It was just a perfect pass.”

“That was Norman’s area,” Brown said. “He was the underneath guy. When he saw Josh scrambling, he took off to him. That left a big hole right there. It’s a tough decision. If he comes up, Josh makes the throw. If he stays back, Josh takes off.”

It led to the Bills’ final TD.

3. Back-shoulder first down. Allen hit Brown down the left sideline for 25 yards on the first-quarter field-goal drive.

The Redskins blitzed. Brown was one-on-one with cornerback Quinton Dunbar.

“It was hard count, and the defense jumped,” Brown said. “We were thinking a free play, but they didn’t throw a flag. So I ran a go. That’s something we practice every day in practice. Josh saw the back shoulder. He was playing over the top of me. So Josh made a perfect throw.”

4. Big kickoff return. Andre Roberts had returned only six kickoffs the first seven games. He had a healthy, 27-yard average, but none of the returns went beyond the Bills’ 40.

That changed in the second quarter, when he fielded a kickoff 4 yards deep in the end zone and returned it 66 yards to the Redskins’ 39.

“We’ve been working that for awhile now; we just haven’t had any opportunities,” Roberts said. “The guys just did a great job blocking, made the hole easy for me to see, and I took it where needed to go.”

Roberts, who led the NFL in kickoff returns for the Jets last year, said he has free rein to take it out of the end zone.

“Coach lets me take it out from wherever,” he said. “I have to make the decision and have a team-first mindset. He kind of doesn’t care. It’s just dependent on the hang time and how deep it is.”

The blocking was excellent. Solo blocks by Siran Neal and Jaquan Johnson and a double-team block by Dean Marlowe and Julian Stanford walled off the right side. Senorise Perry made a key block on the left, and Roberts followed Patrick DiMarco’s kickout block on Apke up the left side.

“I didn’t think he was going to take it out, but Dre has been itching to get one,” Marlowe said. “We had a plan. We called it. It was a return left. We’ve got the best returner in the league. If we give him a chance, he can make anything shake. We all did our assignments.”

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