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10 Observations

Defense toughens up enough to hold Washington run game at bay

Leslie Frazier was confident the Buffalo Bills would fix what was broken with their run defense.

Through the first half Sunday against the Washington Redskins, he looked to be grossly mistaken. A week after allowing 218 rushing yards to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bills were in the process of being gashed again.

Washington running back Adrian Peterson, the 34-year-old, future Hall of Famer, turned back the clock, piling up 101 yards in two quarters during his first game at New Era Field.

On the first play of the second quarter, Peterson ripped off a gain of 18 yards. On the next play, he popped off for 17. On the next, he looked to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, only to somehow break outside and race for 28 more yards.

“You have a couple big runs, it’s like, ‘OK, what’s going on?’ ” Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said.

Fans were undoubtedly wondering the same thing.

“When you’ve got Adrian Peterson, I’d get him the ball that many times a game, too,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said. “He runs as hard in person as when you watch on film. That was the first time I had ever played him. On the one play, he gashed up the middle and I’m coming out of the post and it’s just me and him. That’s a hard tackle to make. … Your eyes kind of get a little wide when you see him 10 yards away from you running like a horse downhill.”

Even as Peterson ran wild in the second quarter, the Bills’ defense toughened when necessary, holding Washington to a pair of field goals inside the red zone. That allowed the Bills to get into the locker room with a 17-6 lead and make some much-needed adjustments.

“You stay in your gaps. Don’t try to do too much,” Alexander said. “I think oftentimes that’s a knee-jerk reaction when you have a game like we did last week and you have a couple big plays. … Staying within the scheme, we’re able to make plays in the second half.”

That’s an understatement. Peterson looked like a completely different player in the second half, rushing eight times for 7 yards.

“Second half was more of what we expect,” coach Sean McDermott said. “Leslie Frazier and his staff did a good job. … That’s what a game is all about, making those adjustments. That was key today.”

2. The Bills continue to look for the right mix at wide receiver. On Sunday, that meant Duke Williams was the odd man out. Williams, who made his NFL debut in Week 5 against Tennessee and caught the go-ahead touchdown pass, was a healthy inactive against the Redskins.

Williams suffered a shoulder injury against Miami in Week 7, but he was able to play in Week 8 against the Eagles. He finished that game with just one catch for 6 yards, however. He practiced fully all week and was not listed on the injury report ahead of Sunday’s game.

The Bills went with John Brown, Cole Beasley, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie and Andre Roberts at receiver against the Redskins.

McKenzie, who was a healthy inactive against Philadelphia, got involved early with an 11-yard reception on the quick pitch from quarterback Josh Allen that the team has run successfully multiple times this season. He finished the game with three catches for 12 yards.

3. Rookie right tackle Cody Ford was active, but veteran Ty Nsekhe started and took all the snaps at the position against his former team. Ford was questionable coming into the game with an elbow injury. It’s likely that he was active, but he only would have played in an emergency situation.

4. Allen fumbled twice against the Redskins. That brings his season total to 10, two more than all of last season. Allen’s 10 fumbles are second most in the NFL, one behind Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew. Allen’s first fumble came on a mishandled snap in the first quarter that he was able to pick up, though he was sacked on the play.

The second one was nearly a lot more costly. Allen put the ball on the ground in the fourth quarter when he tried to run through Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. The Bills were lucky that left guard Quinton Spain was there to jump on the loose ball.

“I was blocking and I saw the ball went out,” Spain said. “I saw Josh, he tried to run Josh Norman over, and I just saw the ball drop and I just hurried up to try to get on it … and I just recovered the ball. The ball’s on the ground, we had to get it. No turnovers.”

The Bills did indeed finish the game without any turnovers, as did Washington.

5. It was nice to watch an NFL game that wasn’t interrupted by a penalty flag every other play. The Bills and Redskins combined for just five penalties, two of which went against Buffalo for a loss of 20 yards.

It’s the fewest penalties against for the Bills since Week 14 of the 2017 season against the Colts, when they were also flagged twice. The lack of flags also contributed to a quick game. The game finished just after 3:40 p.m., well less than three hours.

6. Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor made his Bills debut after joining the active roster Saturday. Taylor, who replaced Kyle Peko, made a 4-yard tackle for loss in the third quarter on Redskins running back Wendell Smallwood, properly diagnosing and then blowing up a screen play. Taylor appeared to take a regular spot in the rotation at defensive tackle.

7. Defensive end Trent Murphy was injured early in the third quarter for the Bills. It appeared to be a shoulder injury for Murphy, but nothing was ever announced by the team and he was able to return at the start of the fourth quarter in his first game against his former team.

Safety Micah Hyde was briefly looked at by trainers in the fourth quarter, as well, but was able to jog off the field and returned later in the game.

8. Linebacker Maurice Alexander (knee) and safety Kurt Coleman (hamstring) missed the game because of injury. Alexander had previously been ruled out, while Coleman was questionable. The Bills are deep at safety, with Dean Marlowe and rookie Jaquan Johnson backing up starters Hyde and Poyer.

9. The Bills made a depth change along the offensive line, making guard Spencer Long a healthy inactive. He was replaced by undrafted rookie Ryan Bates, who was acquired in a trade with the Eagles during training camp. Bates, 22, played 20 snaps at right tackle in the Week 5 win over the Titans. Long played 41 snaps in that same game, the only real meaningful offensive work either player has received this season. Bates had been inactive in five of the seven games leading up to Sunday, and did not play in the other game he dressed for. Long, signed to a three-year contract this offseason, was previously inactive against the Patriots in Week 4.

10. Buffalo’s other healthy inactives were tight end Tommy Sweeney and guard Ike Boettger. Sweeney has been inactive the last two games following the return of Tyler Kroft, while Boettger has been inactive for all but one game this season.

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