The Buffalo Bills beat the Cleveland Browns 31-23 at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday. That’s how they avoided their first three-game losing streak since 2018, advancing to 7-3 to climb back to first place in the AFC East with the Miami Dolphins (who, yes, currently hold the tie ). -head tiebreaker). Buffalo have a quick turnaround for their Week 12 game as they will fly home for a few days and then return straight to Detroit on Wednesday for a Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Detroit Lions.
Buffalo weathers some midseason struggles, which is much easier to handle when they can win in the process. Here are five things we learned from Buffalo’s big win to cap off a crazy week.
Bills ran and stopped the run
Early in this duel, Buffalo’s running defense was a little on the heels; After giving up a total of 382 rushing yards to the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets in Weeks 8-9, they mostly contained the Minnesota Vikings’ running game this past weekend — that is, until an 81-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook completely changed the swing of the game. Cleveland has one of the best running back duos in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, so naturally Bills fans were concerned about this matchup.
Chubb landed on 14 carries with 19 rushing yards. As a team, the Browns rushed for 80 yards for 26 carries (3.1 yards per rush). Buffalo contained a high quality rushing attack and prevented the big game on the ground this week and it made a big difference in the outcome of the game.
On the other side of the field, the Bills were finally able to run the ball with their own running backs. Buffalo has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game this season, but quarterback Josh Allen has had to do much of that work himself. In that game, Devin Singletary (18 carries, 86 yards and a touchdown) and James Cook (11 carries, 86 yards) gave the Bills a 171-yard rushing attack. Their ability to control the ball on the ground masked some more flaws in the second half as they put that game away.
Buffalo plays idle ball
A big topic of conversation in recent weeks had been the Bills’ inability to settle on the sales front; In the last 10 quarters, they had turned the ball over eight times, giving them two losses for a total of six points.
There were certainly some close calls, but in the end a clearly struggling Allen (more on that next) was able to play a clean game and the Bills didn’t turn football around in that contest. The only turnover in the game belonged to Cleveland, who fumbled a center-quarterback trade in the second quarter that was recovered by linebacker Matt Milano. The turnover fight wasn’t necessarily crucial to the outcome of this contest — although a fourth-down stop by Buffalo’s defense and a blocked field goal attempt by defensive tackle DaQuan Jones might change that discussion a bit — but the Bills haven’t hit this week and it made a big difference.
Josh Allen is grinding
Allen wasn’t the only Bills player to struggle badly in the first half – after all, the team only had one full squad practice this week – but, as is always the case with star quarterbacks, his struggles were more pronounced. Allen struggled with his accuracy early in this game while Buffalo’s offense stuttered. Even as he found his groove late in the second quarter and helped the Bills score 25 unanswered points while building a 28-10 lead, he clearly wasn’t the otherworldly self he was earlier in the season. By the end of the day, Allen was completing 18 of 27 passes for 197 yards, with one touchdown, no turnovers mentioned above, and a 100.4 quarterback rating.
Just like the team in general, Allen is working on some things right now. His lack of practice time could affect him as he only had a limited number of throws all week while nursing the sprained elbow he sustained in Week 8. He doesn’t see the field as clearly as before. It’s not all on him; It’s taken far too long for offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to find his running game in this offense-starting contest, and Buffalo receivers have dropped some key passes along the way.
Allen has always found his way through rough patches, but even with the win, he’s not out of the woods.
Bill’s pass defense struggles again
Over the past two weeks, Minnesota and Cleveland have been pursuing a chuck-it-up strategy against Buffalo’s young and inexperienced cornerbacks, and it’s paying off. While their reporting has been pretty solid, the Bills’ defensive backs — from cornerbacks Dane Jackson and Christian Benford to safety Damar Hamlin, overwhelmingly though they’re not the only culprits — have lost more than their fair share of 50-50 balls . Justin Jefferson posterized the high school in week 10, and Cleveland continued that trend this week.
Jacoby Brissett finished that game with 28 of 41 passes for 324 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 116.3 quarterback rating. He’s only been sacked once – by Milano, who had a stellar day (11 tackles, 7 solo, three tackles for a loss and that sack) – but the bigger story was Buffalo’s inability to make plays once the ball was in the air .
Under head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier, Buffalo’s pass defenses had not allowed consecutive 300-yard pass attempts in a season since Weeks 2-3 in 2020. This has now happened twice this year – in weeks 5-6 and now weeks 10-11 – and it feels like this streak could be extended if the team isn’t able to overcome its bias giving up controversial catches, avoiding penalties, and perhaps most importantly, getting linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and cornerback Tre’Davious White back on the field. That last bit doesn’t seem imminent with a four-day work week ahead.
Feeding James Cook via Nyheim Hines is the right choice
Buffalo’s swap for Nyheim Hines at NFL trade date looks more confusing by the week; Without snap counts to hand, Hines felt a little more involved this week but still saw only one miss (an incomplete) and lost eight yards on his only carry.
Meanwhile, it was rookie second-round pick James Cook who sparked Buffalo’s offense in the second and third quarters. He looked brilliant at carrying 11 carries for 86 yards, and bucking a recent trend where he looked like he was ready to give Buffalo’s ailing feral game some much-needed juice. He still wasn’t playing much – ESPN’s Mike Clay had played him with 16 snaps (25.8% of overall) – but Cook clearly made the most of his opportunities on a day when the Bills needed him.
At this point, Buffalo is rightly prioritizing Cook’s offensive engagement over Hines’, and it’s the right call from every perspective imaginable. Hines may only be loaned out for a part-season as his contract will be significantly more expensive after this season. Singletary is also in a contract year. Cook is the only player back under team control for the foreseeable future. He’s clearly talented and is playing a growing role on offense. Not only does he play well, the Bills need to know exactly what they have in him. It is likely that we will continue to see him involved ahead of Hines.