The Bills took down the Bucs 24-18 on Thursday Night Football. Here's what we learned as Buffalo improved to 5-3.
1 — Quickly establishing a rhythm (on both sides)
Following a frustrating 29-25 Week 6 loss to New England, the Bills talked all week about ensuring they got out to a better start on a short week against the Bucs. The opening minutes of Thursday's game dictated what would go on to be the theme for the night in the 24-18 victory.
Tempo, toughness, leadership. All Buffalo Bills hallmarks were on display right out of the gate — and even before the game started. Bills head coach Sean McDermott said WR Stefon Diggs gave a speech to the team before they took the field.
"I could feel the team and I'm hoping you guys could too. They came out with an attitude and it started in the locker room, really. Stefon Diggs, there's a little motivational couple of words he said to the team before we went out there. That's what a leader does. He did a phenomenal job of basically setting the tone with his message before the game," McDermott said.
Once the game started, the Buffalo defense forced a punt after six plays, giving the ball to an offense in need of early success.
Right on cue, Josh Allen and the Bills went no huddle on five of their first nine plays, throwing the ball seven times to get into Tampa Bay territory and eventually get a field goal from Tyler Bass. After trailing for 53 minutes of the game last week, Buffalo established a lead less than halfway through the first quarter vs. the Bucs.
"I think we just came into this game with a different mindset," second-year wide receiver Khalil Shakir said. "We've been, obviously ups and downs. McDermott always tells us, don't ride the roller coaster. We've got to stay consistent as a team, stay on the gas pedal."
The 3-0 score at the end of the first quarter may not have been a dream scenario, but it still marked the first time Buffalo led a game going into the second quarter since Week 4 against Miami.
The Bills' use of tempo and no huddle continued throughout the night in spurts, using it to their advantage when necessary. Buffalo had 75-yard touchdown drives in the second and third quarters; they went no huddle on 7 of the 18 total plays between the two series.
TE Dalton Kincaid, who scored his first career TD, said he felt the Bills caught Tampa Bay off guard with their up-tempo offense.
"I didn't think Tampa Bay was expecting it necessarily," he said. "I felt like at first, we had more energy and were more conditioned with the short week. So I think we were just kind of putting the foot on the gas and they weren't ready for it."
2 — Spread the love and good things happen
Josh Allen and the Bills improved to 21-5 when coming off a loss, the best winning percentage by a starting QB in the Super Bowl era (min. 25 starts). Allen's three total TDs (two pass, one rush) put him at 199 for his career, but that was far from his favorite accomplishment Thursday night.
"Spread the ball around," he said. "I felt just mentality wise, we were in a good spot."
That was evident on the opening drive as he found three different receivers, including WRs Khalil Shakir, Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs. In particular, Shakir had his best performance of his young career.
The second-year player led the Bills in receiving yards Thursday with 92, a career-high for him. Shakir got the ball in his hands in a variety of ways, using his speed and shiftiness to rack up over 40 yards after catch (YAC). Shakir had 69 yards on the first two drives.
"It felt good to get more touches. I think Diggs has said it before: you can spin a wheel and stop it at any time with the playmakers we have and anybody is going to make a play," Shakir said.
The wheel spun Dalton Kincaid's way in the second quarter when the rookie hauled in his first NFL TD from 22-yards out.
"I would say it was close to a scramble drill. It just happened to be where I was supposed to be on the route, but (Allen) did break the pocket and then just made the play," he said.
In total, Allen connected with six different receivers. Gabe Davis notched a career-high nine catches on 12 targets, putting up 87 yards and a score. He's up to five TDs on the season, two shy of tying his career-best. Diggs finished with 70 yards on nine receptions.
Allen was also masterful at both identifying blitzes and knowing where to throw once the ball once snapped — something he struggled to do the week prior. He said he picked up on the Bucs' defensive tendencies "pretty early" in the game and that helped the communication in the offense.
"Our offensive line played extremely well tonight," the quarterback said. "I think that they made their calls and we picked up a lot of the pressures that they were doing and so credit to our coaching staff for putting together a good game plan but ultimately the guys out there executed."
Allen got the ball out of his hands quicker than any game he's played in the NFL. According to Next Gen Stats, he averaged 2.27 second per throw, the quickest of his career. As a result, he faced pressure on 13% of his dropbacks, also a new career low.
"This team moves really well when I'm able to get the ball around to our playmakers and I thought guys did a great job with the ball in their hand," Allen shared.
While not perfect, the Bills offense showed a much more cohesive effort than weeks past.
"The offense looked very comfortable and probably the first time other than maybe in episodes of the Raiders game and then again in Miami," McDermott said. "There looked like there was some easy plays, I guess I should say. So that was good."
3 — Flip the script
The Bills offense couldn't maintain their same rhythm and success for all 60 minutes and had to punt on their final four drives of the night. Luckily, Buffalo's special teams unit and defense were there to pick them up on most of those occasions.
Outside of Tampa Bay's late fourth quarter scoring drive, the Bills defense held it down, limiting the Bucs to 20 or fewer yards on four of their five second half possessions.
Punter Sam Martin played a big role on the special teams unit as he pinned the Buccaneers inside their own 10-yard line on three different occasions. The Bucs went three-and-out when starting from their own 3 and 4 yard line.
"We harp complementary football and special teams is a huge part of that," Martin said. "Trying to set them up as far back as possible, try to help the defense out. Once the ball comes off my foot, there's the 10 other guys that are making the play."
The flipped field position gave the defense extra confidence to come up with critical stops down the stretch.
"Special teams is usually the ones that are flipping the field and all that," safety Micah Hyde said. "It was huge. We talk about field position all the time."
The Bills now get extra rest for a pivotal Sunday night matchup on the road at the Bengals next week.
"Watch this film, start correcting things tomorrow and hopefully get a couple of days off to spend with the family. And just good to get the win today," Hyde said.
Check out the best on-field and locker room photos following the win over the Buccaneers.