LANDOVER, Md. (WROC) — It’s really hard to get better when you’re a team like the Bills.
Four straight years of winning at least ten games. Three straight seasons winning the AFC East. Sure, the playoff runs have not ended well, but this is still a 9.5 out of 10 team.
It’s easy to go from a 2 to a 6, but that last 0.5 is about tiny gains. Fine adjustments. It’s really difficult and it should be. As the Bills have found out the hard way, that last 0.5 is probably what gets a team to the Super Bowl.
Can’t get better without making changes, no matter how much success has come from doing things the way you’ve always done them.
Yes, I’m talking about Josh Allen.
I loved this Josh Allen game. Right from the very first drive. Allen scrambles for a first down and then unleashes an on-the-run, 30-yard dart to Stefon Diggs that converts a 3rd and long which had no business being converted. I thought that was one of the three or four best throws Allen has ever made.
The same drive ends with Allen wisely, safely whipping a ball out of the back of the end zone when things were breaking down near the goal line. It wasn’t a Superman play, but it saved the Bills three points.
Allen was sliding in this game. And liking it. The QB lit up at a question about it after the game. Sean McDermott lit up, too.
“I was very proud of him,” McDermott said.
In the 4th quarter, with the win still requiring some cement, Allen took off the moment the seas parted and scored a clinching TD. When it was time for a winning play, Allen made it without hesitation.
This Allen game won’t go down in any history books. Outside the throw to Diggs, there won’t be many clips earning likes on the X. Yet, I thought this was an example of Allen growing and improving. Getting better. It’s maybe even what the best version of Allen might look like.
No one thought Terrel Bernard is the best version of what middle linebacker might look like for the Bills. At least, not compared to Tremaine Edmunds.
Let’s not confuse Edmunds for the second coming of Mike Singletary or even Luke Kuechly, but it was going to be hard for anyone to immediately match his ability. Especially when you consider there may not be any player alive who knows the current McDermott defense and how to call it better than Edmunds.
Bernard could not have that experience simply downloaded. There’s also nothing Bernard can do about the four inches Edmunds has on him or the crazy athletic ability Edmunds has to carry his 6-5 frame on the football field.
What Bernard does have is speed and quickness. He can attack. As we all have discovered the last two weeks, Bernard can also make plays. Kinda sounds like another linebacker Bills fans know well: Matt Milano.
I thought Bernard looked like a Milano clone coming out of college. Which made his selection a bit perplexing when Milano was locked into a long contract. Bernard can’t play the Edmunds role and he won’t pass Milano on the depth chart.
Maybe Bernard doesn’t have to play the Edmunds role. The NFL is getting faster and smaller at a number of positions. Especially linebacker. That suits Bernard quite well.
Bernard isn’t better than Edmunds. Not yet, at least, and probably not this year. That doesn’t mean he still can’t improve the Bills this year, even if as a lesser player than the guy he replaced.
Instead of using Edmunds’ size and coverage ability to erase the middle of the field on passing plays, the Bills can unleash Bernard as another playmaker. Milano Lite next to Milano. He had two sacks and grabbed the ball on two turnovers in the win over Washington. Edmunds never exceeded that in a season with Buffalo.
Better doesn’t have to be the result of better. Sometimes, better can be the result of different. In this case, a different approach to roster building.
The Bills may have authored the most impressive statistical defensive performance in team history against the Commanders. It was only the 5th game ever Buffalo sacked a quarterback nine times, but the first of those five games that also included five turnovers or a defensive touchdown (weirdly, the first four games with 9 sacks never included more than two turnovers).
Yet, this is something we see almost yearly from the Bills. Death, taxes and the Bills taking apart a young quarterback. McDermott is now 8-0 against quarterbacks with five starts or less experience. Those QBs have thrown three touchdowns against a gaudy 20 interceptions. The historic part of this game was courtesy of some garbage time gloss. Not undeserved, but still a bit piled on.
What I’ll take from this game is the parts where I think the Bills showed some big-picture improvement. Where they might be gaining on that last 0.5 out of 10.
And not a moment too soon. The Dolphins team they face next week (with way more than you’d expect for a week four game on the line) seems like they may have found a way to be an 11 out of 10.