1- The offense awakens
Buffalo’s offense put an end to a difficult stretch of play in which they managed just one touchdown in three games on Sunday. After 26 consecutive first-half drives without a touchdown, the Bills reached the end zone after just two plays from scrimmage on a 47-yard catch by Robert Foster and a 28-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy.
The much-maligned offensive line for the Bills dominated at the line of scrimmage as Buffalo rumbled for 152 yards on the ground in the first half alone, with new addition rookie Wyatt Teller at left guard.
“The guys up front controlled the game,” said LeSean McCoy of Buffalo’s offensive line. “Pass blocking, run blocking, they controlled the game. A lot of praise goes to them for sure.”
Buffalo, which had not scored in the first quarter in their last four games, and 24 points all season, had 14 on the board against the Jets after 15 minutes.
“It was good to see us get going early. Opening it up early,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “I thought it was also good to see a lot of our young guys make significant contributions. Whether it was the offensive side, defensive side, special teams. It was a good team win overall.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll used a myriad of formations and personnel groupings as well as quick snapping early in the play clock to attack the Jets, who appeared to be on their heels the entire half. He even called a play action pass to LT Dion Dawkins, after he lined up as a tackle eligible and pulled in a seven-yard reception for a score midway through the second quarter.
“We’ve been holding onto that play for quite a while, so I’m happy he got a chance to score,” said McCoy. Knowing him he thinks he’s a wide receiver anyway. It’s good for his confidence. A lot of linemen will see that on tape and be very jealous.”
McCoy had a 2018 single-game high 96 rushing yards by halftime and finished with 113 for his first 100-yard rushing day on the season.
Buffalo’s 313 yards of offense and four offensive touchdowns in the first half was the most by the team since 2000 at Seattle (332 yards + 4 TDs).
More importantly the team scored on seven of their 12 possessions in the game. Their 41 points were more than Buffalo had scored in their last four games combined (33).
“I give credit to the guys whose names weren’t called with the way that they blocked in the running game,” said McDermott. “They got LeSean going a little bit as well as Marcus (Murphy). That really starts up front. I talk a lot about establishing the line of scrimmage early in the football game and I thought we were able to do that and get the run and the pass going.”
2- Barkley provides balance
No one knew what to expect from Matt Barkley when he was named the starting quarterback for their Week 10 game against the Jets. Barkley, like Derek Anderson four weeks earlier, was being asked to run Buffalo’s offense after just 11 days of preparation.
But Barkley proved to be up to the task. He provided an instant spark with a 47-yard bomb down the right sideline on the first play from scrimmage, and it loosened up New York’s defense for the Bills rediscovered running game.
“We knew we were going to get a lot of man matchups,” said Barkley. “We had confidence in those matchups with our guys. So to start it off like that and get a big chunk play I think it set the tone for the rest of the game for us.”
While the offensive line provided exemplary protection, Barkley took what they gave him most of the afternoon. He gave the offense some much needed balance with the passing game.
Evidence of that came in the team’s first-half totals as Buffalo’s 152 rushing yards was complemented by Barkley’s 162 passing yards.
“The biggest thing I appreciated about Matt was the way he led our football team. He had good energy during the week. The look in his eye was a good one,” said McDermott. “He brought good energy to our offense and gave our receivers opportunities to make plays on the ball. And he took care of the football, which we haven’t done to this point of late. When you take care of the football you give yourself a chance to win.”
The new QB worked well with Zay Jones to convert a handful of third down situations, and he executed a well-designed play action fake to hit Dion Dawkins for his first career touchdown.
His 232 passing yards was the third-highest total on the season and his 60 percent completion percentage led to some much-needed consistency in the pass game.
It was quite a performance knowing Barkley’s last regular season start came in 2016.
“For me I knew that I could play in this league,” he said. “So to get back out there after two years it was like riding a bike. I’ve done this for years. I feel like I was made to play football and tonight was just an example of going out there and doing what I was made to do.”
3- Defense locks it down
As productive as Buffalo’s offense was Sunday, their defensive unit was even better. New York’s offense went nowhere in the first half, but they tipped their hat to the offense for making their job easier.
“Anytime an offense comes out and established themselves early, two plays and a touchdown like ours did that helps us,” said Lorenzo Alexander. “We were able to get after them. Josh hasn’t played much this year. We were able to tackle in space and we were able to get off the field. They never really got into a rhythm.”
The Bills sent the Jets attack three and out on each of their first four possessions allowing just one total net yard over those four series.
“I felt the defensive staff came up with a good game plan and had a good week of practice and the players executed,” McDermott said. “They played fast. We established the line of scrimmage early with our run defense. They tried to throw it a little bit early there and weren’t able to get it going. Third down was outstanding for our defense.”
The Jets failed to convert a third down in the first half as they went 0-for-6. New York did not move the chains until the third quarter and went 1-for-12 on third down conversions for the game.
Buffalo’s pass pressure did not bring Josh McCown to the ground much, but it did lead to some ill-advised throws. Both Matt Milano and Micah Hyde came up with interception as a result.
“That just gives us the confidence to shut them down and then they become one dimensional,” said Micah Hyde. “They have to throw the ball with the clock winding down and that’s when we got a couple of takeaways.”
The men up front also got their hands in the passing lanes as they batted down a total of four passes. Jerry Hughes, Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson were among the players who got their hands up to force incompletions.
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