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COMMENTARY

Bills' offensive line flexes muscle, depth in manhandling Broncos

Jason Wolf

Devin Singletary was surrounded by microphones and cameras as reporters eagerly asked about his mentor, Frank Gore, passing Barry Sanders for the third-most rushing yards in NFL history.

Gore butted in, selflessly imploring everyone to ask about the rookie’s career day.

“Coming in, I told Frank, ‘Let’s go get them 46 yards,’ ” Singletary said. “He told me, ‘Let’s get your first 100-yard game.’ And we were able to do that. It was a great day all the way around, and we got the win.”

The Buffalo Bills played their most complete game of the season, dominating the Denver Broncos, 20-3, on an historic and wind-whipped Sunday at New Era Field to improve to 8-3 for the first time since 1996. Buffalo rolled up 244 rushing yards on 47 carries against one of the league’s top defenses, the franchise’s most rushing yards in a game since 2016.

Josh Allen tossed two touchdowns, 18 yards to Cole Beasley and 34 yards to John Brown, and the Bills tied a season high set last week against Miami with 424 yards of total offense.

Most impressively, it happened behind a reshuffled offensive line.

Rookie right tackle Cody Ford more than held his own against All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller, playing an entire game for the first time in his career with veteran Ty Nsekhe out with an ankle injury that is considered week to week.

And starting center Mitch Morse, one of the team’s most high-profile offseason acquisitions and the highest-paid center in the league at the time of his signing, was knocked from the game after dislocating the pinkie on his right hand on the first series, which affected his grip and ability to snap the ball.

The injury, coupled with Nsekhe’s absence, forced Jon Feliciano to slide over to center and Spencer Long to enter the game at right guard.

And still the Bills rolled against a Broncos defense ranked No. 4 in the league in total yards, fifth against the pass, eighth in points allowed and 11th against the run.

“Selfishly, as a man, you want to go out there and play,” said Morse, who said he expects to play Thursday against Dallas. “But at the same time, it’s an excellent team win. I’m so proud of these guys. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t be a part of it. But I couldn’t believe the grit these dudes showed and I’m very proud.”

The Broncos, like many of the Bills’ opponents this season, have a poor record. But their defense has been stout.

Denver entered the game allowing an average of just 319.7 yards of offense and 100.5 rushing yards per game.

And yet the Bills’ offensive line had its way.

“We talked before the game a little bit on how important it was going to be, especially with the conditions the way they were, to control the line of scrimmage,” coach Sean McDermott said, “and I thought our offensive line showed that they could do that, as well as our defensive line.”

Buffalo’s first two possessions were long, grinding marches into the red zone.

The first, 17 plays covering 69 yards and chewing 8:49 off the clock.

The second, 12 plays, 87 yards and 5:50.

Both ended in field goals, an unwelcome development, but also served to wear down the Denver defense as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, for the second consecutive game, called plays from the box rather than the sideline and relied on an up-tempo attack.

Buffalo’s final possession began with 7:02 remaining in the fourth quarter – and the Bills didn’t give the ball back.

Allen handed off to either Singletary or Gore nine consecutive times before kneeling in victory formation.

Singletary finished with 106 rushing yards on 21 carries, often plowing through first contact.

Gore had 65 yards on 15 touches, including a 27-yard gain in the third quarter.

“In November and December, that’s real football,” Gore said, “and our team, we’re stepping up.”

The Bills’ pass protection was excellent, as well.

Denver managed just three quarterback hits and Miller recorded the Broncos’ lone sack, which came on left tackle Dion Dawkins’ side of the field.

“Von … he’s a great player. Slippery, elusive, very talented,” Dawkins said. “But we’re getting better and we’re getting better and we’re getting better.”

Ford said he was well aware of Miller’s elite speed and ability to bend around blockers, but surprised by his strength. He said his game plan didn’t change once Long entered to begin the second possession.

“My game plan consisted of letting the guard know, ‘Hey, if I need him or not,’ or certain things when I’m going to be more aggressive, ‘Watch my inside,’ stuff like that,” Ford said. “Playing the whole game was different, being that we had a rotation the whole year. But it wasn’t that challenging. We practice hard, so when it comes for game-time situations as far as playing the whole game, we’re all conditioned and ready to go.”

Long, a former third-round draft pick, has plenty of experience, with 44 career starts over the last four seasons with Washington and the New York Jets.

On the occasion when the Bills’ pass protection broke down, Allen often danced away from trouble.

His 18-yard scramble on third-and-5 in the second quarter should wind up on the team’s 2019 season highlight reel.

Allen finished with 56 rushing yards on nine carries.

The quarterback said there was “not much difference” between taking snaps from Morse and Feliciano.

“That’s what I was very pleased about,” Allen said. “We didn’t really miss a step there. Great communication. I think up front we played our tails off and shoutout to those guys.”

A year after the Bills’ offensive line ranked among the team’s greatest liabilities – General Manager Brandon Beane replaced four starters last offseason – the unit’s depth is beginning to prove one of the team’s strengths.

Cole Beasley escapes injury, comes back to put up big numbers in Bills' win over Broncos

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