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Carucci Take 2: A win is a win, but the Bills might have paid a big price in Detroit

WGRZ Bills/NFL Insider Vic Carucci says a path to the Super Bowl would have to be viewed as compromised, at best, if Von Miller misses a significant amount of time.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Here are my five takeaways from the Buffalo Bills’ 28-25 victory against the Detroit Lions on Thursday at Ford Field:

1. How good should the Bills feel about this win? It’s fair to say they’re happy to be 8-3, despite struggling against an inferior opponent and a mostly sloppy effort, as they enter the stretch run. It’s also fair to say they might have paid a steep price for the outcome.

Von Miller left the game late in the first half with a knee injury. The Bills promptly declared that he wouldn’t return. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that the initial diagnosis is a sprain, and that Miller would undergo an MRI and other tests Friday to confirm the severity.

If Miller misses all or even most of the rest of the season and perhaps even the playoffs, the Bills’ path to the Super Bowl would have to be viewed as compromised, at best. He has been an important component to their ability to generate pressure on the quarterback, especially late in games. Miller also has done plenty to help others in the defensive front be more effective because of extra blocking attention he draws.

The Bills’ missed Miller even more against the Lions because they already were without ends Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa, as well as linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

Another concern is the status of the ankle injury that caused offensive tackle Dion Dawkins to miss the second half. His absence was especially felt in pass protection with David Quessenberry taking Dawkins' place. Suffice it to say the Bills don’t have the greatest depth at offensive tackle.

2. The excitement many Bills fans likely felt over cornerback Tre’Davious White being active for the first time this season from the major knee injury he suffered in last Thanksgiving’s win at New Orleans was short-lived.

White only played two series, leading to more questions about the status of his recovery. Sean McDermott said that was by design, but such a plan doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I've always understood the rule of thumb when it comes to putting a player in the lineup is that he is healthy enough to be there the whole way. This is not the preseason, not a time for any sort of physical testing. So we are still left to wonder: Did the knee heal properly? Does White lack trust in it holding up?

Either way, the absence of White is a growing concern because the Bills’ other cornerbacks are having issues. Dane Jackson was awful Thursday.

3. Ed Oliver was a beast.

He did plenty to help pick up the slack created by Miller’s injury. He was credited with six tackles, a sack for a safety, a forced fumble and fumble recovery on the same play, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit.

The fumble he forced and recovered early in the second quarter helped set up Josh Allen’s three-yard touchdown run to give Bills a 14-7 lead.

For the second game in a row, Matt Milano made his presence felt. He had seven tackles, one tackle for loss, one QB hit and a pass defense.

4. So … the question is being asked again, “What’s wrong with Josh Allen?”

I thought he might have put his reckless, inconsistent, off-target ways behind him after leading an impressive two-minute drill at the end of the first half of last Sunday’s victory against Cleveland.

On Thursday, however, Allen was back to looking like a mistake waiting to happen. That is, until he deftly led the Bills on a 90-yard touchdown drive that ended with his 5-yard scoring throw to Stefon Diggs with 2:40 left and 48-yard march to the winning field goal with two seconds seconds remaining.

Before that, Allen was missing targets, some badly. Of course, he also wasn’t helped by receivers, including Diggs, dropping passes. Allen finished 24-for-42 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He had a passer rating of 80.8.

Allen threw one interception and nearly a second to linebacker Alex Anzalone. The first, which looked like a terrible decision and throw, was the Bills’ fifth red zone turnover in the last six games, all by Allen. The second appeared to result from a miscommunication between Allen and James Cook.

Allen’s play prompted the CBS broadcast duo of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo to speculate that the quarterback is still bothered by the elbow injury he suffered Nov. 6 against the Jets.

5. Even before their injury list expanded Thursday, the Bills figured to face a stern challenge down the stretch, with four of their remaining six games against AFC East opponents.

Their play, in all phases, has been inconsistent. After strong rushing performances by Devin Singletary and James Cook against the Browns, against whom they had 86 yards apiece, only Singletary made any impact on the ground Thursday with 72 yards. The rest of the Bills’ ground attack, as usual, relied on the legs of Allen, who had a game-high 78 yards.

There were too many defensive lapses and special teams also contributed to the sloppiness with Tyler Bass’ missed extra point.

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