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Consulting With The Coaches

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James Cook's receiving uptick, defensive line's pressure on Mahomes key in Bills' nail-biting win over Chiefs


The Bills coaching staff met with the media Monday evening, looking back on their Week 14 win over the Chiefs and giving an early look at their next challenge in the 10-3 Dallas Cowboys.

Here are the top takeaways from Sean McDermott, Joe Brady and Eric Washington.

RB and TE group help Bills beat Chiefs

James Cook's sophomore season explosion has him in the conversation for one of the most dynamic players in the league, particularly over the last month of play. The Bills running back has soared in recent weeks, racking up 100+ scrimmage yards in four consecutive games.

In Buffalo's 20-17 win over the Chiefs, Cook was a do-it-all back totaling 141 scrimmage yards and a touchdown.

Cook's 1,180 yards from scrimmage in 2023 ranks seventh in the NFL this season and third-most among running backs, trailing only Christian McCaffrey and Travis Etienne.

In the three games since Joe Brady took over has interim offensive coordinator, Cook has been a staple in the team's passing game. He has 14 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns since Week 11 against the Jets. Brady said it's been a focus for him to get Cook and the rest of the Buffalo running back group involved in the pass game.

"I think utilizing those running backs, just helps. It opens up paths for the receivers and the tight ends where we're not necessarily one dimensional and predictable about where the ball is going," Brady explained.

Josh Allen had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeting Cook on Sunday and it was also the first time in Cook's career that he recorded over 75 receiving yards in a game. Brady shared that he was encouraged by the way Cook responded during the bye week after he dropped a touchdown pass against the Eagles. 

"I was proud of the way that Jimbo responded. Last week, he had a similar situation. And when he dropped it — and I said last week I had full faith and I still do — and the work that he put in last week. We repped through those plays and Josh trusted them and he made a big play," Brady said.

Sunday was also the first time since Week 7 with TEs Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox both in the lineup in the same game.

Kincaid remained a big part of Buffalo's offense with a 78% snap share against the Chiefs (third-highest rate this season) and Knox returned to the fold with a 47% snap share. As a result, the Bills were able to get back to running more than 12 personnel with the two TEs on the field at the same time.

"It's always good to have him in there and being able to go 12 personnel, go 21 personnel and kind of mix it up with that. So I was pleased with Dawson coming back," Brady said.

Getting pressure on Mahomes

Entering Week 14, the Chiefs were 8-0 this season when allowing 20 or fewer points. Buffalo became the first team to buck that trend, partly because their defense held the Chiefs to 17 points. The Bills are now 7-0 when allowing 20 or fewer points.

The Bills pressured Mahomes 11 times, according to TruMedia, the second-most pressures Mahomes has faced in a game this season. Of his 11 dropbacks while facing pressure, Mahomes completed just 3 of 10 passes for 27 yards. He was also sacked once and had a 39.6 passer rating.

"Our defensive line in particular did a great job being coordinated and working well off of one another and staying aggressive at the same time. And I think that's the key," McDermott said.

The Bills mixed up their looks against the Chiefs, sometimes sending blitzes and other times dropping back into their normal coverages while keeping a QB spy in the area to limit Mahomes' scrambling ability.

"Patrick likes to scramble quite a bit, in particular in those key moments of the game," McDermott said. "We thought we lost him earlier on a third down, where he completed it over the middle to Kelce, and we went with a spy on the next play and were able to get off the field on the following third down. So it was a good balance."

Of the 11 pressures, nine of them came in the second half and twice on the final drive of the game.

Injury updates + first impressions of the 10-3 Cowboys

As the Bills prepare to return to Highmark Stadium for what figures to be an entertaining showdown against the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday, they may have to do so without two impact defenders.

McDermott said that DE A.J. Epenesa (ribs) and S Micah Hyde (stinger) are both considered week-to-week. TE Dalton Kincaid (shoulder) is day-to-day.

If Epenesa and Hyde are forced to sit out this week, the defense will need to have another 'next man up' mentality type of game.

Assistant head coach and defensive line coach Eric Washington said one of the keys for the defense this week will be keeping the Cowboys' explosive offense one-dimensional as much as possible. The Cowboys are the highest scoring team in the league going into Week 15.

Offensively, the Bills will have to know where Micah Parsons is at all times. The hybrid linebacker and pass rusher lines up at multiple spots along the defensive line to create mismatches. As a result, he leads the NFL in pass rush win rate (37%) and has 12.5 sacks.

"Dan (Quinn) does an unbelievable job of moving him around and getting him on matchups and mismatches. And there's really not much that he can't do, and it'll be a great opportunity for us this week," Brady said.

Bills-Cowboys kicks off at 4:25 p.m. from Highmark Stadium this Sunday. The game will be broadcast on Fox.

Check out the best images from the field and inside the Bills locker room following Buffalo's big win over the Chiefs.

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