MIAMI, FL — When the Bills made a trade with the Minnesota Vikings for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, many believed Buffalo was adding the final piece to an offense that had a real chance to become one of the better units in the league.
Through two games, the Bills offense has been nearly unstoppable, racking up 928 total yards which are good enough for third in the NFL behind the Green Bay Packers (1,010) and the Dallas Cowboys (950). Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen certainly receives plenty of the credit for the offensive transformation as having totaled 729 passing yards and seven total touchdowns through two games Allen is playing the best football that we have seen him play in his young career. There is no mystery why Allen is having such a transcendent start to the season, as a combination of work in the offseason coupled with a growing crop of talent on the offensive side of the ball has set Allen up for monumental success.
Monumental? Yes, monumental.
Allen’s QB rating of 122.9 is the highest by a Buffalo Bills quarterback through two games. His 249 passing yards in the first half against the Dolphins were the most by a Bills’ QB at halftime in 20 years. To give you a grander scope of how great Allen has been, he is one of four QBs in NFL history to throw for 700+ yards, six-plus touchdowns, and zero interceptions in the first two weeks of the season - Peyton Manning (‘13), Tom Brady (‘15), Patrick Mahomes (‘19) being the other three.
Allen’s effort through two weeks has been a boon for the Bills, but it’s not all on account of the third-year quarterback. Along with the addition of Diggs, other players have stepped in and immediately helped improve the Bills offense while helping elevate Allen’s game as well.
In the Bills’ win over Miami, four separate receivers caught touchdown passes, including two rookies, WR Gabriel Davis and TE Reggie Gilliam. It was both Davis and Gilliam’s first touchdown grab of their respective careers.
Gilliam’s TD catch came on the goal line with 4:55 to go in the first quarter and put the Bills ahead 7-0. With the departure of former Bills’ fullback Patrick Dimarco, Gilliam, who was signed by the Bills as an undrafted free agent took on an increased role on the Bills offense and his promotion has already begun to pay dividends. While he has only played six snaps through two games, his usage is likely to expand if he continues to make plays as he did on Sunday.
Gilliam recalled his first career score when he met the media after the Bills’ win over Miami.
“I knew going (into the game) that we had a couple plays out of that package down at the goal line and when my opportunity came up, I knew I had to take advantage of it,” said Gilliam. “I was scrambling to slow down a little bit to kind of tempo myself because I knew I had to mirror (Josh Allen) to give him a good angle to throw.
“It was difficult because of the rain and I wasn’t wearing the rain gloves. I was wearing the regular ones so I was like I really have to lock in on this and see it to the tuck.”
After Gilliam made the catch he was quickly surrounded by his teammates.
“I was ecstatic because just thinking about where I started - not having a pro day and thinking about maybe not making it to the league,” said the Bills tight end. “Here I am week two scoring a touchdown. It was an amazing feeling.”
Gilliam’s acclimation to the NFL has been a tough road, especially considering that there were no OTAs or preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Gilliam says that after two-game weeks he feels the game is beginning to slow down for him.
“I’m getting adjusted to it,” said Gilliam. “Coming in at first it was pretty fast and I kind of struggled getting adjusted to it but I think I’m in a good spot now.”
After a more linear path to the Bills roster, Davis has come on strong in his first two games, being on the field for almost half of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 1 and following that up by being on the field 22 percent of the time in Week 2. Davis has stood out during his time on the field, as he caught the first pass thrown from Allen against the Jets and followed that up with a touchdown against the Dolphins.
His scoring grab against Miami was anything but ordinary, as with 5:55 to go in the game Davis streaked across the formation, laid out with a full extension, and hauled in one of the best catches you will ever see to give the Bills the lead.
“As soon as I saw the ball in the air, I knew it was going to be a diving catch,” recalled Davis. “I tried to dig for as long as I could to get as close as I could because I knew it was gonna be a tough play. I was able to catch it at the last minute before it hit the ground and pull it in.”
Davis was well aware of the difficulty of the catch.
“It was a great catch but something I expect out of myself every single day,” said Davis. “I always felt I was ready for those situations so anything that ever came to me I felt like I was ready.”
Davis is confident in his ability and what he has contributed to the team early in his first season but says he couldn’t have asserted himself this quickly if he wasn’t surrounded by a group of talented players who all understand their given roles.
“I just feel like everyone on the team knows their role and sticks to that role and does it to the best of their ability,” added Davis. “Everyone on the team whenever it’s their time to make a play they go out there and do it. I feel we have a lot of guys on the team that can do that and it showed up (against Miami).”
Along with the Bills’ rookie duo, their veteran duo of receivers Diggs and John Brown recorded their second straight solid performance, as each recorded touchdown catches at Miami. Diggs led the team with eight catches for 153 yards while Brown added four catches for 82 yards.
Brown says that the impact that Diggs has made on the Bills’ receiving game through two weeks has been obvious, with no greater example being Brown’s game-clinching touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
“The way Stefon Diggs was playing I think they were trying to control him and slow him down,” said Brown about the Dolphins’ secondary. “The route that (Diggs) ran, the safety ended up closing down on it. I took my route deep enough to get across the field and it was a great throw by (Allen) and great blocking by the offensive lineman.”
While Brown and Diggs have been the primary beneficiaries of Allen’s surge through two weeks, fellow veteran Cole Beasley has quietly caught nine passes for 128 yards through the first two weeks and is on pace to record 1,024 receiving yards this season.
“It’s a lot of fun. We’ve got guys that are true professionals, that put in a lot of work and know how to get open,” said Allen after Sunday’s game. “We have guys that work hard, study their playbook and when their names are called they make plays and I think you saw that today.”
Allen attributed his success through two weeks not to the scheme or a sudden breakthrough that he’s had, but rather to the group of talent that the Bills have surrounded him with.
“We have a lot of faith in our guys to go out get open and catch the ball...(Our success on offense) is not about the X’s and O’s it’s about the Jimmy and Joes,” Allen added, echoing words from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Don’t be fooled Daboll has undoubtedly played a key role in the Bills’ rapid progression on offense, says Bills head coach, Sean McDermott, as he believes Daboll has done a masterful job integrating all of the new players that the team brought in on offense.
“Our offensive staff has done a great job of establishing with great clarity what we are all about it, how we want it done at every position and what it needs to look like,” said McDermott. “I think you’re seeing some of that come to life.”
McDermott went on to explain how important it was to him and the Bills front office this offseason to inject life into the offense through key additions at positions of need. McDermott says, unlike other defensive coaches, he doesn’t enjoy winning low scoring games and would much rather light up the scoreboard and win a shootout.
“I think some coaches decide to pad their side of the ball and like winning 11-9. and having no hair,” he said. “Whereas I guess for me I don’t like winning 11-9. I like winning, but I feel like to have a good football team that can sustain success you have to have a balanced football team.”
Balance. A novel concept, but something the Bills haven’t been able to achieve in nearly 20 years. Now that they have it, what will they do with it?
If the first two weeks of the season are any sign of things to come, the sky is the limit for this group and this organization.