6 plays of 20-plus yards on offense
On its own it’s not enough of a sample size to call it a trend, but the Bills offense in just one half of play Sunday demonstrated that it possesses the potential for big play ability in both the run and the pass game.
Combining that performance with the second half of the 2018 season, when over the last seven games Buffalo’s offense averaged more than five plays of 20 yards or more per outing, you see a very promising development.
The Bills in Week 1 this past Sunday had six plays of 20 yards or more. They were given a seventh with tacked on penalty yardage.
That means in four of their last eight games played, the Bills had six 20-plus yard plays or more.
What’s perhaps most encouraging is the new weapons this season put their big play ability on display right away.
John Brown had two of the longest plays from scrimmage with a 28-yard reception and a 38-yard touchdown catch.
Devin Singletary had carries of 20 and 23 yards and chipped in a 15 yarder as well.
The other role players on offense are sure to contribute as well, like Zay Jones (20 yards) and Tommy Sweeney (29 yards) did on Sunday.
"I think John Brown did a nice job and factored into some of those big plays along with Devin," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Josh obviously had a hand in some of those as well. But to have the protection up front and do some things in the run game. I thought the blend was good there in the second half. We showed the ability to move the chains and then create the chunk plays. It was good to see."
When you consider the fact that the Bills haven’t even tapped into the abilities of two of their best big-play threats last season in Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie, it’s hard not to believe that Buffalo’s offense could approach explosive territory knowing how many more options offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has in his arsenal in 2019.
Add Buffalo’s top five defense into the equation, which did not give up a single play of 20 yards or more to the Jets last Sunday, and it only boosts the difference-making potential of the chunk plays that the Bills offense can generate.
Last season, the Bills defense had two other games in which they did not surrender a 20-plus yard play. Week 3 at Minnesota and Week 17 vs. Miami, which were two of Buffalo’s three most lopsided victories last season. The Bills were a plus-three in turnover margin in each of those games.
So if Buffalo just takes better care of the football, their big-play ability could arguably lift them to more comfortable victories going forward.
4 sacks, 9 quarterback hits and 5 batted passes
As we profiled last week on Buffalobills.com, Lorenzo Alexander has inherited the on-field pass rush play calling role previously held by the retired Kyle Williams. On obvious passing downs he orchestrates all the twist and stunt games that the Bills defensive line throws at the opposing offensive line.
Against the Jets in Week 1 it was remarkably productive. With the help of defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s well-timed blitzes, Alexander made some good calls to generate consistent pressure on Sam Darnold.
For comparison sake, facing the Jets at home last season in Week 14, Buffalo’s pass rush had no sacks, no quarterback hits and just a pair of batted passes.
This past Sunday on the road, the Bills pass rush generated four sacks, nine quarterback hits and five batted passes.
Although the sack is glorified defensive statistic, Buffalo’s defensive coaches believe just as much success in foiling an opposing quarterback can be accomplished by hurrying, pressuring or hitting a QB.
“The coaches say affect the quarterback,” said Shaq Lawson, who had a sack and a batted pass Sunday. “That is the game plan throughout the week. If you can’t get their fast enough (for a sack) get your hands up or get him off his spot. Our goal was to affect him.”
Buffalo’s pass rush was more varied against the Jets, with linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds a bigger part of the package, as well as defensive backs like Jordan Poyer, Taron Johnson and Siran Neal.
“Defensively, we were able to keep them off balance and get off the field on third downs,” said Alexander.
The Jets only converted seven of their 17 third down plays.
Other numbers to know
16: Buffalo’s comeback to overcome a 16-point deficit is the largest by the Bills since the 2011 season, when Buffalo trailed New England 21-0 and won 34-31.
70: Devin Singletary’s 70 yards on four carries gave him the third-highest rookie debut rushing total in team history behind only Marshawn Lynch (90 yards – 9/9/07) and Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas (86 yards – 9/4/88).
4: Buffalo has won four of their last six season openers. Their only two losses in that span each came at the hands of Baltimore (2016, 2018).
.313: The Bills strength of schedule over the first three weeks is the easiest in the NFL (.313). Next up after the Jets (4-12) is the Giants (5-11) and Cincinnati (6-10).
52.2%: Since 1990, teams that start the season 1-0 reach the playoffs 52.2 percent of the time. Teams that start 2-0 reach the postseason 61.3 percent of the time.