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2023 NFL season, Week 8: What We Learned from Bills' win over Buccaneers on Thursday night

Buffalo Bills
2023 · 5-3-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2023 · 3-4-0


  1. Josh Allen plays through pain but delivers. With the Bills’ offense coming in slumping, and the team off to its worst start in five years, all eyes were on Allen on Thursday night. It wasn’t perfection, but Allen and the Bills had their best all-around offensive performance in recent games -- and it was in spite of Allen appearing to hurt his shoulder in the first half. It happened just prior to his 13-yard TD run in the second quarter, and Allen was in the medical tent -- with backup Kyle Allen warming up -- when Buffalo’s defense was on the field. Josh Allen didn’t miss a snap, but he was picked on his next pass attempt. He’d eventually lead back-to-back TD drives (not counting the end-of-half kneeldown) to give the Bills a 14-point edge. Allen also pleased Bills fans with a bit more scrambling, which they’ve pleaded for. Against a good Bucs run defense, and with the Bills down to one healthy tight end, this game was always going to fall on the shoulders of Allen and the passing game, especially amid their recent skid. Even with a few awkward patches and painful moments, Allen and Co. passed a tough test.
  2. Baker Mayfield showed toughness but too much indecisiveness. The Bills’ defensive strategy appeared to be to primarily sit back in zone defense and force Mayfield to diagnose and make decisions. For the most part, it worked. Mayfield appeared hesitant and indecisive at times, double-clutching on several throws. He arguably had two dropped interceptions and was lucky not to take a few more sacks than he did (including more than one in the end zone). Then late in the game, Sean McDermott started heating up Mayfield more, and two of the Bills’ three sacks came in the fourth quarter. To his credit, Mayfield fought all night and -- improbably -- kept his team alive until the last second. He grinded his way through the Bucs’ longest drive of the year (92 yards), capping it with a gorgeous throw to Mike Evans. Mayfield’s ensuing two-point pass was a fun improv, and the game ended with no Bucs receiver making a play on an excellent Hail Mary attempt by Mayfield. On the whole, though, it was a tough night for Mayfield, who missed some open receivers, threw short of the sticks too often on third downs and couldn’t get Evans and Chris Godwin involved enough early in the game.
  3. Bills made a concerted effort to get other targets involved. The Bills appeared to come out intent on getting targets to players not named Stefon Diggs. He’s still the meal ticket, but at times during their 4-3 start, the Bills struggled to strike the right balance of knowing when to force it to Diggs and when to spread it out. That was not the case Thursday. Gabe Davis had a terrific game to end his mini-slump, catching a career-high nine passes for 87 yards, running wide open for his fifth TD of the season. (And Allen might have missed Davis late in the third quarter for another one.) Khalil Shakir also notched a career high in receiving yards, with 92 on six catches. Rookie Dalton Kincaid was the Bills’ only active tight end, but they kept him busy after a big game Sunday in New England. Against the Bucs, Kincaid scored his first NFL TD, keeping in harmony with Allen on a scramble drill, and later cooking Lavonte David in man coverage for a pretty 15-yarder. The Bills didn’t punt until the third quarter, and it came after they targeted Diggs on three straight passes. Diggs finished with nine catches for a pedestrian 70 yards, but the Bills will take this. Being able to move the ball without force-feeding Diggs will be a must, and Thursday was a good showing.
  4. Bucs lose field-position battle, commit early costly mistakes. The way the Bills seemed to control the game in the early second half, it felt wild that the Bucs had a shockingly good chance to win on the game’s final play. They can look back at several plays prior to that which might have cost the team a big road victory. Several penalties were costly, including four false starts (three by Luke Goedeke), a Trey Palmer hold wiping out a 26-yard gain and a Cody Mauch hold that erased a 42-yard completion to Mike Evans. There was also the blocked field goal in the first half. The Bucs also tackled poorly on punt coverage and lost the hidden-yardage battle, starting four drives inside their own 8-yard line, with three of those in the second half. It felt like half of Mayfield’s passes Thursday night came out of his own end zone. Credit to Mayfield for avoiding a disastrous mistake down there, but he got away with a near pick to Jordan Poyer (who could have had two INTs on the night). The Bucs showed some mettle late in enduring the long fields, but it was too much to overcome in the end.
  5. Bills’ coverage was on point early. Until they got on their heels a bit late, the Bills’ defensive backs really clamped down on the Bucs’ receivers most of the game. Buffalo played a lot of zone, but cornerbacks Christian Benford and Dane Jackson especially did nice jobs sticking closely with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Evans beat Benford late for a touchdown, with Baker Mayfield’s pass glancing off Benford’s helmet. But for most of the evening, the Bills’ coverage was on point. Mayfield could be seen skittishly coming off his first reads and hesitating where to go with the ball. On many plays, he had few quality options open. After a tough game against the Patriots on Sunday, Taron Johnson was beat by Godwin for a touchdown, but as with Benford on Evans, the coverage was good, and Johnson had a good night overall. Jordan Poyer will rue his two dropped INTs, but he and Micah Hyde (who broke up a big play to Payne Durham late) were big parts of the victory.

Next Gen stat of the game: Josh Allen hit Dalton Kincaid for a 12-yard touchdown, which was Allen’s 18th passing TD on scrambles outside the tackle box to the right side of the formation since 2020 -- the most in the NFL in that span.

NFL Research: William Gholston’s interception was the first in his 11-year NFL career. Thursday night was his 160th game in the league.

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