Bills go old school in win over Titans

October 7, 2018
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Going into Week 5, the NFL was on pace to break single season records for points scored, passing touchdowns and passing yards. The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans did nothing to contribute to those record pursuits during a real snooze fest at New Era Field on Sunday.

This was one of the most boring regular season football games I have ever seen. The Bills were the second-lowest scoring team through the first four weeks of the season and the Titans scored the fifth fewest points. Those rankings won’t be improving. The two teams combined for just one touchdown and six field goals.  

But hey, the Bills won and I’m very thankful for that. I don’t hold out any hope for the 2018 Bills to surprise me as last season’s team did, but a loss to the Titans would have dropped them to 1-4 and left me where I was after the Los Angeles Chargers game when I figured the Bills were headed for the worst record in the league. I have no desire to declare the season over and go heavy into draft talk before we even experience Halloween.

The Bills went old school for this victory, winning it by running the ball and playing strong defense. The Bills went with a heavy dose of the ground game, which wasn’t surprising at all given the state of their passing game. LeSean McCoy, who has been an after thought in this offense, was their best weapon. He ended up with 24 carries for 85 yards, which might not sound like a banner day but it is when you consider he had 21 carries for 85 yards through his first three games.

I’m not here to tell you running the ball is the way to go in an NFL that is built more for passing than ever before, but with a rookie quarterback trying to learn on the job and a mediocre group of wide receivers, it makes sense to get the ball into the hands of the best weapon. The Bills ended up with 43 runs and just 20 passes. Chris Ivory had 43 hard earned yards on 14 carries. The lone touchdown of the game came on a Josh Allen 14-yard scamper on the Bills' first offensive drive of the day.

Speaking of Allen, he was better than last week against the Green Bay Packers. Not from a statistical standpoint, but from an eyeball standpoint. Allen was only sacked one time, and that came on a play where he scrambled out but wasn’t able to get back to the line of scrimmage. He did a better job of getting the ball out and taking some short passes in an effort to keep the offense with the highest percentage of three and outs in the NFL, on the field. The Bills managed to hold on to the ball for just under 34 minutes and went three-and-out just one time. Sadly, it was when they declined to run the ball and Allen threw three straight incomplete passes. Allen ended up with just 82 yards passing, the lowest total for a Bills quarterback since Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for just 86 yards against Kansas City in 2009.

Allen did make two key throws on, what turned out to be, the game winning drive. Down 12-10, the Bills had the ball at their own 25-yard line with 4:43 to go. Not surprisingly, they ran on first and second down. Facing a 3rd-and-3 at their own 32, I wondered if offensive coordinator Brian Daboll would trust Allen and call a pass play. Knowing they had all three time outs left and the two minute warning, I was worried the Bills would take the conservative way out and run the ball. If it didn’t work they would punt and hope to get the ball back. However, Allen connected on a short throw to McCoy and he made at least four different guys miss as part of a 13-yard gain.

Allen’s second throw on that drive came on a 2nd-and-6 at the Titans' 40-yard line. Tennessee blitzed up the middle and Allen made a quick throw to his left to Ray-Ray McCloud for a seven-yard gain. The Bills kept running the ball after that, ran the clock down and got the game-winning kick from Stephen Hauschka. WHEW!!! Allen did not have a good day, but he executed two throws when the Bills dearly needed them.  

The Bills won the game because of their defense, which has looked much better since that rocky first game and a half against Baltimore and the Chargers. The defense held Tennessee to four field goals on nine possessions. They also took the ball away three times and all three times set the offense up in Titans territory. 

Titans quarterback Marcus Marriotta was coming off a fantastic performance in a win over the Eagles (344 yards passing and two touchdowns), but he was limited to just 129 yards by the Bills, was sacked twice and threw an interception. Star wideout Corey Davis, who most of the day was covered by Tre'Davious White, had just six targets, four catches and 49 yards. Linebacker Matt Milano was all over the field with a team-high 10 tackles, as well as a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss.  

It wasn’t pretty and the Bills' passing game is downright painful to watch, but a win is a win so I’ll take it and cross my fingers for next week in Houston.