1. Coaching comes up big in win vs. Dallas
Any short week is tough when you are playing on a Thursday night, but this game was especially tough for both coaching staffs because this wasn't a divisional opponent. Generally, when you have a short week, they give you a common opponent that you play each year. That was not the case, it was an NFC opponent on Thanksgiving that Buffalo only plays every four years. For the Bills to be as prepared as they were yesterday was a great testament to the coaching staff. This staff got ahead on this game and looked at Dallas tape during their bye week, that's being disciplined and getting prepared early.
The Bills fell behind 7-0 in the beginning of the game. It was a loud atmosphere. I've played at Dallas on a Sunday at 1 pm in a game that didn't have a lot of implications, and it wasn't that loud. I asked Brandon Beane if he had ever been there for a Thanksgiving game and he said he had, and that crowd was generally louder than others. The Bills, with all the momentum against them early on, stick around and weather the storm after being down by a touchdown. They then come back and show great resiliency, but that all starts with the coaching staff. I thought the game plan they went in with was excellent. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier dialed up a defense that continued to put pressure on the quarterback at times, doing a great job of mixing it up. This is now three weeks in a row where Buffalo has been effective on offense. They continue to run a lot of no-huddle and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was in the booth for the third-straight game. We are really seeing this offense gain some confidence.
There were a number of third down plays that really impressed me throughout the game. The offense used motion a lot to identify coverages and not allow Cole Beasley to get jammed at the line of scrimmage. Daboll was able to script some nice plays on third down for easy conversions, which is not a simple task. Like most, I enjoyed the trick play. John Brown gets the touchdown pass and a perfect passer rating. What sets that up is the Bills have run a number of jet sweeps down in the red zone. Buffalo shows that they are going to run the jet sweep and puts Andre Roberts in, which also gives Dallas' defense extra added confusion because they normally run that play with Isaiah McKenzie. Brown threw a great pass to Devin Singletary; it was fun to watch. Trick plays are high risk, high reward. Buffalo ran that play on the 20-yard line and if they got a loss of 10 on that trick play, we would have been talking about how a play like that is too risky. Yesterday, it was high reward. It is not easy to score in the red zone and Buffalo is still very successful, sixth in the NFL, at scoring when they are in the red zone.
2. Ed Oliver's three-game tear
Ed Oliver has three-straight games in which he has a sack, that's the most for a Bills rookie since Darryl Talley in 1983. All season we have seen tremendous effort from Oliver, I knew the production would come from a statistical standpoint. Sometimes for defensive linemen, I would say it takes two guys to get a sack. Now the last three weeks, we are starting to see the numbers for Oliver as he has been very productive. He is also gaining more and more experience as a rookie. It can be tough coming into the NFL for those first few games. You can see he is learning as the season goes on as well. Now through 12 games, his experience is catching up and we are seeing him make a lot of plays.
It has also been great to watch him mature. He did not start this year for the first time in his life probably and Oliver didn't sulk, he understood that there was more work to do. That just shows the makeup of this team and the leadership from the top trickling down to the locker room. Jordan Phillips has seven sacks and is producing at such a high level, that it may take some reps from Oliver. Now we are seeing Oliver produce at the same level as Phillips. The rookie is learning from some very talented defensive linemen on this roster.
3. Team win on a big stage
The Bills all week said the right thing, that this was just the next game on the schedule. In talking to players on the field and watching them warmup before the game, you could tell there was a ton of energy out there. I'm proud of how the group played in their only "prime time" game slated for this season. They played really well against the number one offense statistically in the Cowboys on a big stage. We are watching these players become household names, too. If people didn't know of or haven't heard much about Josh Allen and Devin Singletary, they do now. Cole Beasley has a great game against his former team, six receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown.
A lot of talk around the league before this game was the Bills are 8-3, but it's really because of who they have played. Buffalo showed yesterday that it can compete against these talented teams who have superstar power across their roster. The Bills earned a lot of respect yesterday. Yes, it is one game and the win counts less than others because it was against an NFC team and that doesn't help with tiebreakers. The amount of momentum this franchise can get, the amount of respect, the amount of attention is great. I'm truly enjoying watching people see what we have been seeing all season from Buffalo.
4. Looking ahead: Bills host Ravens in Week 14
The Bills are at home next week to take on a tough team in the Baltimore Ravens. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has built this offense around Lamar Jackson and that's why they are having so much success. Mark Ingram is a physical, tough running back who has been a huge help to their offense. We have seen the Bills, at times, struggle against those bigger running backs. Baltimore has been scoring at an incredible rate this year, leading the league averaging 35.1 points per game.
This won't be an easy test for Buffalo's defense, but we saw them shut down the Cowboys yesterday. The Bills are top three in defense for a reason. Baltimore is playing good defense too, so we'll need to see another complete game from Buffalo if it wants to win this one. Luckily this one is in Orchard Park, which means it should be nice and cold for the game. The Bills know how to play in cold and windy weather. The Ravens face the 49ers on Sunday, so we aren't sure of their record yet coming into this Week 14 game. It will be a great atmosphere with two talented AFC teams fighting it out next Sunday.
5. Around the NFL: AFC Wild Card race
Bills fans are lucky this Sunday and get to watch a bunch of great games this weekend. Of course, there's Baltimore taking on San Francisco, two teams in the top-five of a lot of power rankings. That will be a fun one to watch. When you look around the AFC, the Bills are now three games ahead sitting at 9-3, but that will change as teams in the wild card race win or lose this weekend. Buffalo has a really tough strength of schedule left in the regular season, so there is no time to become complacent.
The Steelers-Browns matchup is interesting with what happened the last time the two met. Pittsburgh is sitting at 6-5 and second in the AFC North and Cleveland is one-game back at 5-6. Pittsburgh losing to Cleveland probably helps our wild card hopes, but selfishly if the Steelers win then our game against Pittsburgh could get flexed to a night game. That would be great for this team to play in another prime time game this season.
Two other games that stick out when looking at the wild card race — Titans vs. Colts and Raiders vs. Chiefs. Tennessee and Indianapolis are both at 6-5 in the AFC South. The Chiefs lead the AFC West at 7-4, the Raiders are second at 6-5. Oakland lost its first game against Kansas City in Week 2 with a final score of 28-10. The Raiders have won the last three of four, beating the Lions and the Chargers. The Chiefs are 2-2 in their last four games, losing to the Packers and the Titans.