The Bills can cling to their victory over Vikings as a source of hope, and the idea that anything can happen on a given Sunday in the NFL, if that makes them feel better. It was a temporary reprieve from critics who wondered if they would win a game all season.
However, if this is going to be a long season, as the Bills themselves have suggested in various ways and many were led to believe, they can still go about their business in proper fashion. They can instill this season how they want to play next season.
Bills coach Sean McDermott continues to say the top priority is winning, but it sounds hollow. The ideal situation would be winning games and developing their young players. The Bills can accomplish both today if they ...
Establish the running game. The Bills figure to have a chance, albeit slim, of beating the Packers last week if they exposed Green Bay’s run defense. It never came close to happening. LeSean McCoy had five carries while Chris Ivory had six. They combined for 39 yards rushing while Josh Allen was sacked seven times. Buffalo led the league in rushing in 2015 and 2016 and were sixth last season. They were 24th through four weeks this year. McCoy was on pace for 425 yards rushing, assuming he remains in one piece. It needs to double.
POSTGAME UPDATE: McCoy rushed for 85 yards on 24 carries in a 13-12 win. Ivory picked up key yards to help set up Stephen Haushcka's winning field goal.
Get tight ends more involved. Kelvin Benjamin and Jay Jones could be the worst tandem at wide receiver in franchise history. Both have hada difficult time getting open while lined up against cornerbacks. Charles Clay and Jason Croom should be able to win most battles against linebackers and safeties. Get them on the field at the same time, especially with the Titans expected to be dialing up blitzes to confuse Allen. It might help the running game. Never mind making them an extra option in the passing game or safety valves when Allen sees pressure. On this team, they should be primary receivers.
POSTGAME UPDATE: Clay had one catch for 12 yards while Croom had two catches for 9 yards. Allen threw for just 82 yards in the game.
Have a conservative game plan. If Brian Daboll wants to soften the secondary with deep throws early in the game, fine. It would prevent them from cheating too much in the running game. Who knows? Maybe Allen would complete a long pass when it mattered. For the most part, the Bills should be calling quick-hitters that can get McCoy the ball with more time and space. It would help Allen regain his feet after he spent much of the afternoon running away from pressure. He just might step into the pocket on passes over the middle.
POSTGAME UPDATE: Daboll dialed up a deep ball early in the game, which helped set up the run in the first half. Allen's longest pass play was 13 yards to McCoy on the final drive, and McCoy did most of the work.
Attack, attack, attack. Look, the Bills don’t even have realistic hopes of making the playoffs this season. If they’re going down, they should go down swinging. They came out hungry and hostile against the Vikings, which was one reason they forced two turnovers early and ended up running away with the game. They were aggressive in the second half against the Chargers, too. They were more passive against the Packers last week and were exposed by Aaron Rodgers in the first half. The secondary is banged up. Sending an extra pass rusher (or two) would take time away from Marcus Mariota. If he wants to run, let him run. Buffalo should at least make him uncomfortable.
POSTGAME UPDATE: Neither team had a sack, but the Bills put enough pressure on Mariota and limited him in the passing game. Buffalo forced three turnovers, a sign of aggression.
Tre’Davious White starts covering Corey Davis in the parking lot. White has earned his reputation as a shutdown corner after keeping Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams in check the past two weeks. He has been the Bills’ best player on defense. Davis is a true No. 1 receiver who leads the Titans with 22 receptions for 312 yards in four games. Other than him, the Titans' wideouts don't scare anybody. The Bills’ defense should be able to handle Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe despite their banged-up secondary. Ryan Lewis and Taron Johnson have been pleasant surprises. It’s time for the Bills to give them more responsibility.
POSTGAME UPDATE: Davis had four catches for 49 yards but was non-factor for most of the game. He did pick up a third down on a play White wasn't covering him.
Tremaine Edmunds plays more instinctive. The rookie linebacker leads the Bills with 30 tackles. He’s had a full plate while trying to adjust to the NFL and calling defensive signals. McDermott seems less impressed with Edmunds than others, but overall the kid has been solid. He a great athlete who plays better when he’s reading and reacting. The more experience he gains, the more he can rely on his instincts. There will come a day in which the Bills can turn him loose and allowed him to maximize his athleticism, especially in pass coverage. Like Allen on offense, he’s trying to process and play the game at the same time.
POSTGAME UPDATE: Edmunds finished with eight tackles and was able to get his hands on a pass that fell incomplete. He's fast, as Mariota found out when getting dragged to the turf.