1. RB Devin Singletary gives offense early and late lift
The Bills had been giving Devin Singletary a good amount of time on the field. They just didn't give him a lot of opportunities with the football. That changed on Sunday against Washington as Singletary had nine first-half touches and delivered 99 total yards from scrimmage. By game's end he accounted for 140 total yards from scrimmage with 95 on the ground and another 45 through the air along with the game-clinching touchdown. It's the most by a Bills player since LeSean McCoy had 147 total yards against New England in the 2017 season.
"He did a great job, but we owe it to the guys up front, the five plus the tight end, whoever is in there," said Josh Allen. "They did a great job of establishing it early. We have to continue to finish these runs. Devin did a good job today and he's only going to grow and get better. It's only his fourth or fifth game in action. He's doing some really good things for us and we're going to continue to use him."
Singletary's rushing success on first down was instrumental in keeping Buffalo's offense on schedule in terms of down and distance and was a big reason why the Bills finished two of their first three drives with touchdowns. In the first half on first down, Singletary rolled up 40 yards on six carries for a 6.67 yards per carry average.
"It was great. We were getting four yards most of the time," said Jon Feliciano. "The more we can do that the better team we can be."
Of Buffalo's 158 total net yards in the first half, Singletary was responsible for almost two-thirds of that total (62.6%), as he also delivered the longest pass play of the game racking up 49 yards on a screen pass late in the first quarter.
"Basically it was set up perfectly," Singletary said. "It was called at the right time, so when I got the ball I just had to make one person miss and then I had a wall in front of me, so all I had to do was run."
Washington countered Buffalo's first-half run game success with some run blitz calls, sending safety Landon Collins at the line of scrimmage for overloads. Linebacker Ryan Anderson was also utilized, but the Bills offensive staff re-adjusted enabling Buffalo to close the game out with the ground attack and Singletary, who capped his day with a two-yard touchdown run.
"(Offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) and (offensive coordinator) (Brian) Daboll did a good job of talking about which runs they wanted," said Allen. "It was no secret we wanted to run the ball and finish the game that way. 'Smoke' (Brown) got open on a couple of pass plays and that helped us finish the game. We got down there and put it in the end zone with Motor. Those are the ones you have to have and the ones you want to see."
Singletary certainly demonstrated that going forward he needs to be a larger component of the team's attack. He helped the offense establish an identity, even if it was the 28th ranked run defense. As Josh Allen continues to advance his game, Singletary can be the perfect supplement to keep opposing defenses honest.
2. Run defense tightens up late
Washington running back Adrian Peterson looked like he stepped back in time in the first half against the Bills, as Buffalo's run defense was suspect for a second consecutive week. Peterson rolled up 101 yards on just 10 carries in the first half against the Bills averaging better than 10 yards a carry.
The problem once again was gap integrity. On too many occasions Buffalo's run front was overaggressive and did not stay gap sound with their assignments.
"Even when you think that the ball is running away from you, stay in your gap and trust that the guys on the other side are going to make the play or they're going to turn it back to me," said Trent Murphy. "A savvy, veteran back like that is going to keep coming and keep coming and then bounce it back. So that was really just the key. Stay in your gap even when you think the ball is away."
The Redskins appeared to borrow a page out of Philadelphia's playbook with an inside run scheme that resembled the successful play that worked well for the Eagles the week before against the Bills when they rolled for over 200 yards on the ground.
Buffalo was able to correct their run defense deficiency. In addition to reminding their defenders to stay gap sound no matter, what, they also brought their safeties up closer to the line of scrimmage to hold the edges of the defense, which allowed the linebackers to play more aggressively.
"I thought (defensive coordinator) Leslie (Frazier) and his staff made some good adjustments," said head coach Sean McDermott. "The players really took ownership. We had some runs get out in the first half, but good to make good, solid adjustments later in the game."
After allowing 109 rushing yards against them on just 13 carries in the first half (8.4 avg.), Buffalo permitted just 18 yards on 10 carries in the second half (1.8 avg.).
3. Short yardage shortcomings
As solid as Devin Singletary was in allowing Buffalo's offense to open and close strong with the run game, there was one problem area. Short yardage.
After converting their first 3rd-and-1 of the game on a sneak by Josh Allen, Buffalo was stopped on three consecutive plays in a 1st-and-goal situation at the Washington one-yard line.
Frank Gore carried for no gain on three consecutive plays despite the fact that the Bills were in their heavy personnel with a full back and three tight ends.
"I don't know," said Gore when asked about the short yardage struggles. "I guess they played harder and stopped us."
"A little defensive line movement," said Pat DiMarco of the problems in short yardage. "I would say more than anything just movement and guys were falling off (a block). Slants and stuff where we weren't as stable as we needed to be."
In the third quarter, facing a 4th-and-1 at the Washington 24-yard line, Buffalo again failed to reach the line to gain for a fresh set of downs as Gore was tripped up behind the line of scrimmage.
Allen did convert a 3rd-and-1 on a sneak on their ensuing possession late in the third, but in the fourth quarter on a 3rd-and-1 Gore was again dropped, this time for a three-yard loss as penetration proved to be the biggest issue. It forced the Bills to punt while still clinging to an eight-point lead.
"Sometimes when you get in those third and fourth and shorts and you get nine and 10 guys in the box and it's hard to run the ball," said DiMarco. "I think one guy fell off (a block) on all those plays. It was just tough luck. We'll check it out on tape, get back next week and get better."
Scroll through to see photos of all the action as the Bills take on the Redskins during Week 9 of the 2019 football season.