So what do we make of the Bills’ 18-10 victory over the Jets on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium?
Here are some observations on a game Buffalo had to win:
— Clearly, after two losses to a pair of the AFC’s best teams, the Bills needed an impressive win against the league’s worst team to show their 4-0 start wasn’t a mirage.
Well, they got the victory, but it was anything but impressive and, indeed, we really don’t know anything more about this team than we did before.
To be sure, at 5-2, Buffalo is in charge of the division, 1½ games and a head-to-head win up on the Dolphins (3-3) and 2½ on the fading Patriots (2-4).
But are the Bills at the same level as conference foes Pittsburgh (6-0), Kansas City (6-1), Baltimore and Tennessee (both 5-1) considering they already lost to the Chiefs and Titans and still have to face the Steelers?
— In fairness, Buffalo regrouped after an ugly first 22½ minutes when they trailed 10-0 and, in the opening period, were out-possessed 12½ minutes to 2½. But, for the rest of the game, the Bills had a 32-to-13-minute edge in time of possession. And, after being outgained 103 yards to 48 in the opening period, the Bills had a 374-87 edge the rest of the way to finish with a 422-190 advantage, including holding New York to only four second-half net yards, the fewest given up by Buffalo after intermission in 20 years.
It was a solid defensive performance but against a team scoring the fewest points per game in the league (12.5).
Offensively, Buffalo never punted, but also, of course, didn’t score a touchdown.
— Quarterback Josh Allen’s performance was better than the past two games, but not up to his lofty standards during the unbeaten start. He finished 30-of-43 through the air for 307 yards, with no TDs or interceptions and a 90.0 passer rating with a lost fumble while being sacked twice. He also rushed for a game-high 61 yards on 11 carries. But he also didn’t display the confidence he showed over that glittering first quarter of the season.
And, for the second time in three games he lost a touchdown pass to rookie Gabriel Davis on a mindless illegal formation penalty.
— Speaking of penalties, the Bills were flagged 11 times for 106 yards, both season highs and, for the second-straight game, Buffalo was flagged twice for unnecessary roughness. The one against safety Micah Hyde was called after a brutal head-to-head hit on Jets receiver Breshad Perriman that left him woozy for two minutes before he got to his feet.
— One of the highlights of the game was the persistent connections between Allen and wide receiver Cole Beasley. The former Cowboy was targeted 12 times and made 11 catches for 112 yards.
When asked about the second-year Bill, Allen noted, “Cole is super smart, he sees the defense very well … he knows how to find the holes in zones and sit down and give me good body language (to throw to).”
— Of the less-than-stellar win over a struggling opponent, Allen admitted, “Obviously we want to score more, but it is what it is, a division win, they’re not always going to be the prettiest of wins, but we’ll take ‘em any way we can get them.”
— Asked about throwing for 307 yards but settling for only six field goals, the 17th time in franchise history Buffalo has won a game without a touchdown and the first time in 13 years, Allen allowed, “I think we did a good job of moving the ball.
“We’ve got to find ways to finish in the end zone. There still are situations where I can put the ball in better spots and give ourselves a better chance in the end zone. We’ve got to be better and we understand that.”
— Coach Sean McDermott agreed, “I thought one of the things we did well was moving the football, but we hurt ourselves with penalties and ended up with three (points) instead of seven. If that doesn’t happen, it’s a different game at the end. I thought our defense stepped up and did a heckuva job in the second half. This was a character win for us and the guys showed their character in this game.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)