It would take a real grinch to tear apart the Bills’ performance in Friday night’s 27-14 preseason victory over the Panthers at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.
Still, it’s hard to ignore Buffalo’s 11 penalties for 100 yards, giving it 17 for 167 yards in its 2-0 start.
But more on that in a minute.
Those flags, while troubling, couldn’t diminish the myriad positives that evolved from a road victory over what is supposed to be one of the NFC’s elite teams, though Carolina played without four of its best players: quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Luke Kuechly, running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end Greg Olsen.
THE PERSISTENT complaint about Bills’ second-year quarterback Josh Allen has been his struggles with accuracy.
Against the Panthers, he was a glittering 9-of-11 for 102 yards and a 105.3 passer rating.
And, for the second straight week, Matt Barkley reiterated Buffalo is set at backup QB. In the preseason opener against Indianapolis, the seven-year veteran was 9-of-14 for 126 yards and a touchdown pass to Cam Phillips with a 117.0 passer rating. Last night he was even better, going 8-for-10 for 110 yards with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Duke Williams and a gaudy 145.8 passer score.
DEFENSIVELY, the Bills premier unit performed well, the first and second units failing to relinquish a touchdown.
But, for the second straight week, there was one glaring missing entity.
Where was Ed Oliver, the first-round draft pick, taken No. 9 overall?
The defensive tackle, playing with the first defensive unit, has failed to make a single tackle in two games with no sacks and no quarterback pressures.
In both games, he appeared to be easily blocked and made little penetration.
The only reason Oliver made the stat sheet against Carolina was because, seeing that he wasn’t going to get into the backfield, stopped his pass rush, jumped up and blocked the pass.
You have to start wondering.
And it doesn’t help when broadcast people have been slobbering over the quality of his play the first two games, though it’s hardly been apparent.
As for those Buffalo penalties, six were against the offense — three of them holds with two false starts — four were called on the defense, including two roughing the passer flags, plus one on special teams.
Some other observations from Buffalo’s victory:
— Williams is making a strong bid for a spot on the 53-man roster.
The former CFL star has the size — 6-foot-3, 225 pounds — Buffalo so desperately needs in its receiving corps. On his touchdown, Williams out-leaped and out-fought his defender. He caught his first three targets for 38 yards and the fourth was way overthrown.
— It’s already clear that the Bills’ best free agent signing — pending center Mitch Morse’s exit from the concussion protocol — is slot receiver Cole Beasley. He’s already become Allen’s go-to guy. He was targeted five times against Carolina and made as many catches for 44 yards.
— Last week, reserve running back T.J. Yeldon, signed away from Jacksonville, seemed to be playing his way off the roster, fumbling the ball away on his only carry and not returning.
But against the Panthers, he had seven carries for 26 yards, lost his longest run to a holding penalty and had a reception.
Meanwhile, Senorise Perry, who seemed to be taking Yeldon’s job when he scored a touchdown and had a clutch reception against the Colts, fumbled in his only carry against the Panthers and didn’t return.
— Rookie tight end Tommy Sweeney, a seventh-round draft pick from Boston College, dropped his only target against Indianapolis. But versus Carolina, he caught both targets for 47 yards. And that effort can’t hurt with starting tight end Tyler Kroft out with a broken foot, and both third round draft pick Dawson Knox and veteran Jason Croom unavailable due to hamstring injuries.
— Buffalo also has clearly found its No. 3 cornerback in Kevin Johnson, the former first-round draft choice by Houston, signed as a free agent. Johnson, in his fifth year, has a world of talent but has been vexed by injuries. However, he displayed his talent in a high-profile way via a 71-yard “pick six” against Carolina.
— While Oliver has been invisible, the most impressive rookie draft choice on the defensive line has been end Darryl Johnson. In two games, he has four tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)