ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Here are my five takes from the Buffalo Bills’ 38-10 victory against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at Highmark Stadium:
1. How’s that for a resounding rebound performance? Josh Allen played as if his disastrous, four-turnover showing last Monday night never happened.
“Just us getting back to who we feel like we are,” Allen told reporters.
There were no giveaways in this one. No forced throws leading to interceptions. No fumbles. No blatant mistakes. Allen’s play was an efficient masterpiece as he completed 31 of 37 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns.
He was a composed, dialed-in leader who allowed the game to come to him. He consistently got the ball out of his quickly and decisively. He maintained full command throughout, leaving zero doubt about the fact the day would end with a Bills victory.
“The discipline was present, really, with the whole team and, in particular, Josh,” coach Sean McDermott said. “When he does that, when he’s willing to take what they give him and take those check-downs and then use his legs as well in a decisive way, he makes it very hard to defend.”
2. It helped that Allen had superb pass protection for the bulk of the day.
The Bills’ offensive line did an outstanding job allowing the quarterback to operate from a tight pocket and blowing open big holes for the run. That played a large role in the Bills opening the third quarter with a nine-minute drive that ended with a 2-yard Allen touchdown pass to Gabe Davis to make it 28-10.
“I think our line, they blocked their tails off today in the pass game, run game,” Allen said. “They gave me time back there and when there wasn’t an option deep, I was finding the check-downs and letting those guys pick up some yards for us. Again, just staying in front of the chains is the No. 1 thing for us.”
It’s also fair to note that, unlike the season-opening loss at MetLife Stadium, he was not facing one of the top defenses in the NFL. The Raiders don’t have immense talent the Jets have at all levels of their D, and the Bills had no problem mostly doing as they pleased.
3. Ken Dorsey’s game plan and play-calling were an immense improvement over what he showed against the Jets.
Allen completed passes to nine different receivers, with the passing game showing far greater balance than it did in the opener when it basically was all Stefon Diggs all the time.
“I think it settles me down,” Allen said of the Bills’ offensive balance.
Diggs finished with a game-high seven receptions for 66 yards, but the receiving star of the game was Gabe Davis, who had six catches for a game-leading 92 yards and a pretty catch in the middle of the end zone on a fourth-down Allen rollout dart.
Allen mostly threw high-percentage passes, with short and intermediate throws allowing him to find an early rhythm and maintain it throughout the game. The Bills’ run game also was a significant part of the offense with 183 yards on 35 attempts for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. James Cook led the way with 123 yards on 17 carries, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt.
“We stayed pretty balanced,” Allen said. “I thought Dorsey called a great game in terms of switching it up and given our guys some options. Guys went out there and executed it at the end of the day.”
“I think everything in moderation was what the game plan was and that’s the way we have to play,” McDermott said. “That’s how you win games, on the offensive side, at least.”
4. After struggling to stop the run Monday night, the Bills’ defense never allowed Raiders’ standout back Josh Jacobs to get anything going on the ground.
Jacobs finished with minus-2 rushing yards on nine carries. The Raiders wound up with 55 net yards on a day when they were forced to try to make throws against a steady pass rush and good coverage that intercepted two Jimmy Garoppolo passes.
Unlike the comfortable manner in which the Bills were able to operate offensively, the Raiders were mostly in desperation mode and Garoppolo rarely was allowed to feel comfortable dropping back.
5. Though it was only the second game of the schedule and a loss would not have spelled the end of the Bills’ season, it felt as close to a must-win as a mid-September encounter could feel.
After the debacle in New Jersey, the pressure on the Bills to respond with a good showing Sunday was palpable. Not just a victory, but a strong performance, especially by Allen.
Anything less would have left some lingering doubts as to the Bills’ worthiness as a Super Bowl contender and whether Allen could get back to the form he showed before the middle of last season, when he began a downward spiral that carried into the postseason.