Monday Morning Breakdown

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Eric Wood | 5 ways Buffalo can bounce back in Week 9 and beyond


1. 5-2 Bills have no need to panic

My initial reaction after the game was the Bills are 5-2, it's not the end of the world. Did they want to win the game yesterday at home against a 3-4 team? Of course, but that was a really talented Eagles team that banded together coming off back-to-back losses and found a way to win when weather wasn't favorable. That was the Super Bowl champion from two years ago, which still has a lot of that nucleus on the team. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox made his presence felt early. Quarterback Carson Wentz played a good game and picked up some crucial third downs with his legs in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia was eight of 15 on third downs.

At 5-2, the Bills have another home game this week in which they will be favored in against the Redskins. There is a lot of the season left heading into Week 9. The Bills are still No. 3 in scoring defense, which is incredible. This is an offense that has nine new starters this year, they will continue to grow. Buffalo had the 7-3 lead to start the second quarter, it ended up 31-13 as the final. A majority of the game was a lot closer than the score reflected.

The key here is don't panic. This team can learn from the loss. Throughout my career here and playing under Sean McDermott it was always—you win or you learn. A loss isn't truly a loss if you learn from it, especially at this point in the season because it can end up paying off down the road with some of the lessons you do learn.

2. Improving the run defense

The Bills have given up more rushing yards than they've been accustomed to this season the last two games. The Dolphins didn't necessarily post a high number, rushing for 109 yards, but they ran the ball effectively at times. Going into the Eagles game, the Bills defense allowed an average of 91.3 rushing yards per game, which ranked top 10. The Eagles did have a successful day running the football accumulating 218 rush yards. A lot of these runs were up the middle. Last week linebacker Matt Milano was out, but you are still missing Harrison Phillips who is a great at stopping the run. Without Phillips, there is a different rotation of tackles playing those snaps and they are still finding their footing when it comes to stuffing the run up the middle.

This is a great defense full of veteran players. For many, it's their third year under Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier. They do not need to panic; they need to simply find some answers for the inside run game moving forward.

3. Offense can cause more havoc

Offensively, the Bills couldn't make enough big plays against Philadelphia. Early in the game the Eagles pass rush and penetration, especially from Fletcher Cox, was on full display. Cox is one of the best defensive players in this league and you could see why on Sunday. He had 1.5 sacks, but even on the first play of the game his penetration knocked off the pulling guard in Mitch Morse so he was unable to get to his assignment. It's the little things that affected this game so much.

Moving forward the Bills have this coveted 20-plus-yard completion that they want to get. I will go out on a limb and predict that it's going to happen this week. I said last week, the law of averages say it's coming and I stand by that. The Bills have generated big plays on the ground and in shorter passes that have ended up being bigger plays with yards after catch. Yesterday a swing pass that Devin Singletary catches ends up being a 28-yard touchdown. The Bills don't need to force the ball down field, but big plays and chunk plays need to come in order for them to bump their scoring average up on the season because they are 24th in the league right now. I don't want the offense to hurt the season the defense is having, especially when you consider the amount of turnovers they have had this season—losing four fumbles and throwing eight interceptions so far this season.

Yesterday, if the Bills had more time of possession, you might have seen Andre Roberts used in a jet sweep. We saw one fake to him and I imagine in the game plan there was one in there for Roberts. This is Brian Daboll's second year in Buffalo. There is so much new personnel this year, they are still trying to find the perfect match of what skill position players they want on the field and when. People are clamoring for more Devin Singletary carries, but Frank Gore has been extremely productive this year. Brian Daboll trusts Gore to get four or five yards to grab a first down, which is so valuable in the NFL.

I thought one of the best plays Josh Allen had yesterday was simply throwing the ball away on 1st-and-10 when he scrambled outside of the pocket in the third quarter. They were down 10 points and Allen obviously wants to make a play, but on 1st-and10 it doesn't have to be that play. That's growth. He didn't throw the ball across the field and risk an interception in that situation. Allen is a second year quarterback who missed time his rookie year, he is still so early in his development. He has a completely new receiving corps when you consider his top targets are the three free agents they brought in with John Brown, Cole Beasley and Tyler Kroft. He is still building a rapport with these guys and I think as the season goes on you will see more and more progression in his game. In his first four games this season he threw six interceptions and lost two fumbles. In his last three games, Allen has thrown one interception and lost one fumble. We are seeing him progress in the right direction.

4. Looking ahead: Washington Redskins vs. Bills in Week 9

The Redskins lost on Thursday night to the Minnesota Vikings 19-9, Washington is now 1-7. Quarterback Case Keenum left the game with a concussion. Keenum is a very productive quarterback, he had 12 completions on 16 attempts for 130 yards when he left the game. Running back Adrian Peterson is another huge name on the Redskins, late in his career, but similar to Frank Gore he is still affective in this league. Peterson had 76 yards against the Vikings and is averaging more than 50 yards a game.

The Bills will face a team that has already fired their head coach this year and they get to play them at New Era Field. Defensively, Washington has given up some points and yards being the 26th ranked defense allowing an average of 378.4 yards per game. This is a game Buffalo needs to take seriously, the Redskins did hold the Vikings to just 19 points. Hopefully the Bills can find some footing offensively and gain some confidence into a tougher stretch coming up with Cleveland on the road the following week. Looking at the forecast there is supposed to be some rain again, so maybe playing in yesterday's conditions will pay-off.

5. Observations from around the NFL

Patriots unstoppable defense

It's astonishing to me to see what the Patriots are consistently doing defensively this season. They have scored four defensive touchdowns and given up only four touchdowns so far. It's absolutely insane to see what they are doing and see how they are putting the ball in the end zone. A lot of that has to do with when a team goes up against a talented team like the Patriots they feel like they may have to step out of their comfort zone offensively and try and do a little too much, the Patriots can take advantage of those mistakes. Against the Bills, the Patriots had a special teams touchdown and that doesn't even count for that total.

AFC playoff talk

Week 9 is not too early to start the playoff talk, looking at the AFC you have the Patriots sitting at the top without a loss. Beyond that, everyone is clumped in. The Bills, Ravens and Colts are 5-2. The Chiefs and Texans are 5-3. The Bills are looking up at the Patriots in the AFC East, but a win like Buffalo had against Tennessee could prove to be big later in the year when you have some of these AFC tiebreakers for potential Wild Card spots.

Drew Brees has a big first game back

Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did a great job taking the place of Drew Brees while he was out with the thumb injury winning five straight games. Brees comes back and throws for 373 yards and three touchdowns with a rating of 116.4. The consistency that Brees has shown year in and year out is amazing to watch. In a year that he hurts his thumb, to be able to do that on his first game back definitely silenced any critics. Bridgewater proved his case to be a starter in the NFL. He will start and I imagine it could even be next season for a team even if it's not the Saints.

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