Hours after assuming the role of the Buffalo Bills’ interim offensive coordinator and tasked with saving the season with his play-calling, Joe Brady led an initial meeting and delivered the motto for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.
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“Take the shorter throws, running game, play at a good tempo,” left guard Connor McGovern explained. “We stayed true to what we talked about during the week, and it worked.”
Translation: The emphasis was taking the small profits in the passing game, grinding away yards in the run game, eliminating turnovers, avoiding penalties, etc.
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For at least one night, Brady’s plan was beautiful. The Bills hammered the Jets 32-6 in a game that should have been over at halftime, but didn’t become a rout until receiver Khalil Shakir’s 81-yard touchdown catch midway through the third quarter.
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No matter how this Bills season ends, at least the obituary won’t be top-lined with, “Lost to Zach Wilson … twice!” Hey, the Bills should enjoy every little step of progress after the previous six weeks were full of backward steps.
The defense made sure of that with six sacks and three takeaways. And the offense made sure of that by mixing big plays with sensible plays. They didn’t do the mind-numbing stuff that plagued them during a 2-4 stretch that saw them fall from the AFC East lead to out of playoff position.
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Brady’s “Don’t get bored,” mantra is similar to the “K.I.S.S.” philosophy – keep it simple, stupid. Simple was running it 38 times. Simple was a jet-motion action to divert the Jets’ eyes away from running back Ty Johnson in the flat, who scored a 28-yard touchdown. Simple was not the self-inflicted wounds such as the turnovers that marked the last six weeks.
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“This wasn’t an offense that was broken,” quarterback Josh Allen said. “We’ve been playing close to where we need to play. (Sunday was) not as good as we can play, but, obviously, better, and that’s, obviously, a good thing to see. I felt like I didn’t try to force anything, and trusted the guys around me to make plays.”
Allen was in the dumps Wednesday, understandable considering former offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was previously his position coach, and their bond was rock-solid. By Thursday, the offense had turned the page to Brady’s game plan because it had to. These are professionals, and they acted like it.
The offense followed the lead of No. 17.
Allen completed only five of his first 10 passes, and only 14 of his 24 in the first half, but his interception was a low-risk heave downfield as the clock expired. He was smart, throwing to role players such as Johnson and Shakir. He protected himself on his scrambles and keepers except for one hit;. He delivered a dart to Shakir that led to the second-longest touchdown pass of his career.
“It wasn’t an easy week, I will tell you that,” Allen admitted. “Sometimes, you have a good process and a bad result and it feels terrible and you feel like you need to switch everything. But you really don’t.”
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Allen is right – Brady was the new play-caller, but he was working within Dorsey’s offense. Dorsey’s concepts. Dorsey’s terminology. Dorsey’s vision. But Brady probably understood the Xs and Os were only half of his job during the week. He need to repair the cracks in the offensive foundation. He went about that by stressing how the complacency needed to stop and the fun had to begin.
“We do get the most amazing job on the planet, to come out here and play football,” Allen said.
Now comes the tough stuff, an amazingly tough schedule.
Allen mano a mano against Jalen Hurts (Philadelphia), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City), Dak Prescott (Dallas) and Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers) in the next four games.
The Bills’ defense against the tush-pushing Eagles and elite receivers A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith.
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Sean McDermott’s play-calling defense against old boss Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ offense.
Cowboys one-man wrecking crew Micah Parsons against the Bills’ offensive line.
And the Chargers … well, that will be Highmark Stadium West on Dec. 23, so advantage Bills.
Did the move from Dorsey to Brady save the season? Momentarily.
The Bills (6-5) are a half-game behind Houston/Pittsburgh (6-4), which hold the Nos. 6-7 playoff spots. The key is finding a way to get a road win against Philadelphia or Kansas City. Both would be great and would rekindle all your playoff hopes and dreams. But a split is essential. If the Bills pull that off, they will be have a 7-6 record for the stretch of Dallas-Chargers-New England-Miami.
It was a fascinating week in the AFC. Cleveland lost quarterback Deshaun Watson on Thursday morning. Cincinnati lost quarterback Joe Burrow and Baltimore lost tight end Mark Andrews on Thursday night. Pittsburgh’s anemic offense will bring the Steelers back to the pack, right? And Houston? Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is terrific, but he also threw three interceptions against Arizona earlier Sunday.
Everything remains in front of the Bills if they get hot, and maybe Sunday was the start. And the offense may have its motto – “Don’t get bored” – on T-shirts if the wins start to pile up.