Don't Sleep On The Bills
At 4-1, Buffalo is off to a strong (and quiet) start
- The elite Buffalo Bills defense stymied Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans offense behind three sacks from Jordan Phillips.
- The Bills are now 8-0 when committing one or fewer turnovers dating back to the start of last season.
- Titans kicker Cairo Santos struggled as he missed three field goal attempts and had another blocked.
- Duke Williams played in his first NFL game and caught the game winning touchdown after playing in the CFL the last two seasons.
A Meeting Of Optimistic Teams
The 3-1 Buffalo Bills traveled to Nashville to take on the 2-2 Tennessee Titans in a matchup between two AFC teams with postseason aspirations. The Bills looked to regain momentum suffering a 16-10 home loss to their division rival New England Patriots last weekend. The Titans have been one of the least consistent teams in the NFL and were looking to put together a second consecutive winning performance for the first time this season. After routing the Browns 43-13 in Week 1, the enigmatic Titans lost back-to-back division games against the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars before dominating the Falcons in Atlanta 24-10 last weekend.
A Gritty Win
The Bills defeated the Titans 14-7 in a defensive slugfest in Nashville on Sunday as neither team could establish much success offensively. The stat lines looked eerily similar as the Titans averaged 3.8 yards per rush while the Bills averaged 4.0. The Titans gained 5.6 yards per pass while the Bills averaged 5.7. Both teams nearly split the time of possession as they each struggled to convert on third downs (the Titans finished 4-for-14 on third down while the Bills converted 4-of-13).
One of the most crucial plays of the game came on a third-and-five for the Bills at their own 35 yard line. Josh Allen was looking for Cole Beasley over the middle but was picked off by Kevin Byard at the 38 yard line. This gave the Titans their best field position of the game and set up Tennessee’s only touchdown of the game after a seven-play drive was capped off by a one-yard Derrick Henry touchdown run on third and goal. The interception for Allen was part of a tough third quarter where he was sacked once and completed just 3-of-5 passing attempts for 19 yards and an interception as the Bills were held scoreless. This continued a troubling trend for Allen and the Bills offense as they have scored just 10 points in third quarters all season. Outside of the third quarter, Allen quietly put together a strong performance completing 20-of- 27 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
The Titans had momentum until early in the fourth quarter when kicker Cairo Santos had a 33-yard field goal blocked which would have given Tennessee a 10-7 lead. Instead, the Bills marched down the field on a six-play, 77-yard drive capped off by a seven yard touchdown pass to Duke Williams to take a 14-7 Buffalo lead with 9:46 to play.
Tennessee had another opportunity on the following possession as they faced a fourth and four with 6:35 to go from the Buffalo 35 yard line. Down seven points, the Titans chose to send the struggling Santos out for a 35 yard kick instead of going for the first down. The decision backfired as Santos missed wide left, but the Titans would get another opportunity to tie the game after a Buffalo three and out. With 5:26 to play, the Titans failed to pick up a first down and chose to punt on fourth and five with 4:21 left from their own 25 yard line.
The Titans would never see the ball again as Frank Gore led the Bills on a nine-play, 50-yard drive as Buffalo put together an impressive four-minute drill and ran out the clock. This was a statement drive for the Bills, who lost their two most notable offseason offensive line acquisitions (center Mitch Morse and right tackle Cody Ford) to injuries earlier in the game.
For the first time this season, the Bills defense did not force any turnovers, but they still put forth a stout performance up front. The Bills sacked Marcus Mariota five times and held him to fewer than 160 passing yards. Jordan Phillips led the way for the Bills defense with three sacks. The Bills allowed just 252 total yards as they now rank second in total defense behind only the New England Patriots as Buffalo has allowed 275.0 total yards per game. The Bills scoring defense now ranks third in the NFL as they have allowed 14.0 points per game through five contests.
Despite the great defensive showing by the Bills, the Titans left points on the board on special teams. Titans kicker Cairo Santos missed three field goals and had another blocked, including a 33-yard attempt that would have given the Titans a 10-7 lead with 12:27 left in the fourth quarter. He missed attempts from 50 yards and 36 yards in the first half before the Titans trailed 7-0 at halftime. His 33-yard attempt that would have given the Titans a 10-7 lead with 12:27 left in the fourth quarter was blocked and a 53 yard attempt with 6:35 remaining sailed wide left and sealed the Titans’ fate.
Just hours before playing in his first NFL game on Sunday, receiver Duke Williams was overcome with emotion as tears ran down his face in the team hotel room. After being kicked out of Auburn, failing to stick in the NFL in 2016 and playing two seasons in the CFL, he had finally gotten a chance in the NFL this fall as a member of the Buffalo practice squad. After impressing in practice over the last few weeks as 2017 second round pick Zay Jones has continuously disappointed (most recently catching just two of eight targets last week), Williams was promoted to the 53-man roster this week. The Bills didn’t call him up to sit on the bench; they called him up to play. In his first NFL action, he caught all four of his targets for 29 yards including the game-winning seven-yard touchdown reception with 9:46 remaining in the fourth quarter in Nashville.
Jones did not record a reception in the game and tallied just a single snap on offense while Williams saw action on 50-of-64 total snaps (78.1 percent) on offense. Unless Jones can bounce back with a breakthrough performance of his own after the upcoming bye week, his days in Buffalo might be numbered.
Looking Ahead To Week 7
With the road win at Tennessee, the Bills now have more road wins this season than they did all of last season as they are a perfect 3-0 away from home. Josh Allen put together a decent performance except for the one terrible interception, but Bills fans should feel encouraged after bouncing back from a tough game against the Patriots last week.
The Bills defense remains one of the best units in the league and has not allowed any team to score more than 17 points in a game against them through five weeks. Coming up are three home games against the Miami Dolphins (0-5), Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) and Washington Redskins (1-5).