What changed after “Hail Murray?”

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)AP

This isn’t going to be an article about how the Bills went from worst to first in some made for movie season. That is not the story of the 2020 season. (A story  that is still being written as we speak.) The Bills were a solid, albeit flawed team early in 2020. Early season Bills were unkind to the hearts of Bills fans with constant down to the wire games, sluggish third quarters, and mind numbingly bad play of defense. After a hot start Buffalo lost two covid shifted football games in front of national audiences only to put together another win streak heading towards a late bye. 

Buffalo went to Arizona and blew a two score lead behind two Josh Allen interceptions. Then enter fourth quarter Josh Allen and best friend Stefon Diggs to reclaim the lead of an ugly game with 34 seconds left.

I am going to stop telling the story here because you know what happens next. 

A loss like that, can damage a team going into a bye. It can mark the start of a skid that defines a disappointing season. Since that game on November 15th, Buffalo has not lost. Not only have they not lost, they have won every game by two or more scores.

Buffalo has been a different team since losing to the Cardinals in soul crushing fashion. They are playing SUPER BOWL caliber football thanks to years of developing a coaching staff, a team, and a culture.  

Third Quarter Narrative

Prior to the bye week, Buffalo had a point differential in the third quarter was a dismal -46.  As much love as Daboll gets, fans grew frustrated with his inability to quickly adjust to other teams adjustments. Double digit halftime leads often became comeback efforts by the Bills. Since the bye, the Bills are +37 in third quarter point differential. What has changed? For one, Daboll has shown the ability to adjust to what teams are doing, beyond just his scripted plays. Second, has been the emergence of a more productive run game. By no means are the Bills going to be able to run like the Titans or Browns, but the emergence of Zack Moss in a closer role has been huge for this team. This is a pass first team, but the ability to shorten a game with running the football is a big development for the playoff bound Bills.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Return of MVP Josh

As much as Josh might bring it up, he was not his normal self after having his shoulder busted in during the Raiders game. In four following games, sporting a shoulder brace, Josh posted passer ratings of 78, 73, 90, and 65, in what was arguably, Josh’s worst stretch of the season. Since the bye week, Josh has two games with passer rating below 100, one being against the vaunted Steelers defense who got torched in the second half. He also has only thrown 2 interceptions to 13 touchdowns.  He is also taking a lot less negative plays, only being sacked 5 times over the last 5 games. Josh will end the season clearly on the medal podium for MVP, thanks in large part, to his second half resurgence. 

Never Doubt a Bills Defense. 

Fans let their discontent with the defense be known at the trade deadline this year. And for good reason. Over the first ten games gave up 26.3 points per game to only 16.8 over the next five. After seemingly never being able to get to QB for the first part of the season and being 20th in sacks per game with 1.8 by week 8, Buffalo is now 14th with 2.5 sacks per game. After being ridiculed by fans, AJ Klein played admirably in place of Matt Milano over the second of the season. You can thank Leslie Frazier for that too. Buffalo quickly discovered that AJ Klein is best at playing downhill. So instead of having him cover tight ends and running backs, he was out in positions rush the passer and sniff out runs. The second half of the season has also seen the rise of defensive line talent like AJ Epenesa, Vernon Butler, and the continued domination of Jerry Hughes. 

Author note:

  • All Stats from Pro Football Reference

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