Entering Sunday’s game, the Buffalo Bills were in the driver’s seat in the AFC East, sporting a 7-2 record on the heels of a three-game win streak — but there’s a backseat driver.
Buffalo (7-3) lost, 32-30 on a Hail Mary from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins with two seconds remaining, spoiling what would have been the Bills’ game-winning drive just 30 seconds prior and sending the Bills into their bye week with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Josh Allen led a 12-play, 78-yard drive to take a 30-26 lead with :34 seconds remaining, seemingly dulling the noise from the second-place Dolphins’ win against the Chargers earlier in the day. But Murray and the Cardinals pulled off the miracle, with Hopkins reeling in the last-ditch pass over three Bills defenders.
What was once a comfortable division lead has turned into a tight race — and could completely disappear next week with Buffalo one its bye week and Miami (6-3) just a 1/2 game behind and playing the Broncos (3-6). With seven weeks remaining in the season, the Bills-Dolphins matchup in Week 17 should slowly be circled on every calendar in both western New York and south Florida.
Describe the game in two words: Ground, pound. Even as they fell behind 23-9 in the third quarter, it was impossible for the Cardinals to abandon their running game — because they averaged more than six yards per carry against the Bills. Buffalo’s run defense entered the game allowing 125.9 rushing yards per game and was gashed once again, giving up more than 200 rushing yards for the second time this season.
Biggest hole in game plan: Bills receiver Stefon Diggs entered the game leading the league in targets, seeing 10 per game. But midway through the fourth quarter, both Cole Beasley and John Brown had more targets than the NFL’s leading receiver. Perhaps it was the shadow coverage from all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson but Buffalo’s offense clearly needs a certain level of production from Diggs in order to play its best football. Peterson is one of the best to ever do it but at first glance, this seemed like a game that needed a heavier dose of the Bills’ best skill player.
Still — when it mattered most, Diggs was a crucial part of the Bills’ game plan. On their go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Diggs caught three passes for 32 yards, including the game-winning 21-yard touchdown catch with Peterson trailing behind. You could argue he should have been more involved throughout the game but it’s tough to argue with the results.
Promising trend? The Bills’ defense was gashed on the ground, no doubt about it, and that remains an area of concern as the team enters its bye week. But for three quarters, at least, Buffalo played good enough defense to win this game — and that’s a promising trend considering its struggles on that side of the ball this season. You have to look beyond the numbers and more at the game, itself. In the past two weeks, the Bills have faced two of the league’s top-three offenses and, for the most part, limited what they do best. The wheels came off a bit during the third quarter but in the first half and the fourth quarter, the Bills’ defense did its part.