The Buffalo Bills entered their Thursday night showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers desperately seeking a win to erase the bitter memory of their recent loss to the struggling New England Patriots. They also aimed to maintain the pressure on the AFC East-leading Miami Dolphins. Fortunately for the Bills, they secured a much-needed victory by defeating the Buccaneers with a final score of 24-18, improving their season record to 5-3.
Conversely, the Buccaneers saw their season record dip to 3-4 and found themselves a full game behind the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons. The early promise displayed by Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers’ offence had given way to deeper concerns.
The tone for the Buffalo Bills’ offensive strategy was set right from the opening drive. The Bills swiftly marched down the field, utilizing a no-huddle approach, a departure from their recent habit of employing it in the late stages of games. This allowed quarterback Josh Allen to use his running abilities early in the game, resulting in an eight-yard gain on the second play. Their 10-play, 77-yard drive culminated in a 37-yard field goal by kicker Tyler Bass. This drive was significant as it signaled a shift in the Buffalo Bills’ offensive approach, emphasizing an early-game attack.
In contrast to their previous struggles in first halves, the Buffalo Bills scored 17 points in the first half against the Buccaneers. The offence involved:
• Various players.
• Producing five drives of eight or more plays.
• Granting them control of the game from the outset.
Allen demonstrated his running prowess with seven rushes for 42 yards, including a rushing touchdown. Additionally, he had one of his best passing performances in weeks, completing 31 of 40 passes (77.5%) for 324 yards, two passing touchdowns, and a single interception, marking his third 300-yard passing game of the season.
While this game represented progress for the Buffalo Bills in terms of their tendency to start slowly, there were still some issues to address, particularly in the second half. Three consecutive punts provided the Buccaneers with opportunities to narrow the gap, and the deep passing game continued to be an area for improvement. Nevertheless, against Tampa Bay, the Buffalo Bills managed to secure a crucial victory.
In two words, the game could be described as “greatly needed.” It may not have been a perfect performance, but after recent struggles against seemingly beatable opponents, all three units of the Buffalo Bills stepped up at various moments to secure the win.
Promising Trend: A positive trend to note is the rise of Dalton Kincaid. With tight end Dawson Knox on injured reserve and Quintin Morris sidelined due to an ankle injury, Kincaid, a rookie, was the only active tight end. He made the most of his opportunity, scoring the first touchdown of his career in the second quarter on a 22-yard pass from Allen. He also made a remarkable sideline catch in the third quarter. Although Kincaid didn’t have as many receptions as the previous week, he continued to become more involved in the offence, playing a career-high 83.8% of snaps.
Buy on a Breakout Performance: Wide receivers Gabe Davis and Khalil Shakir had notable performances. While Davis has a history of delivering big games but has yet to be consistent, his contribution to this game was pivotal, providing the team with a solid foundation to build upon. Davis and Shakir stepped up, especially in a game where star receiver Stefon Diggs had a quieter night. Davis set a career-high with nine receptions on 12 targets, accumulating 87 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Shakir had a career-best performance, recording six catches for 92 yards. Notably, four players had at least five receptions and 50 receiving yards, which tied a franchise record.
Pivotal Play: A crucial play in the game was Sam Martin’s punt with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. While it may not have been the flashiest or game-deciding moment, it exemplified the vital role that Martin and the special teams played in the game. Martin’s punt, which travelled 48 yards and was downed at the Buccaneers’ three-yard line, set the stage for a three-and-out by the Buccaneers’ offence. Martin consistently pinned the Buccaneers deep in their territory, providing valuable field position for the Bills’ defence.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
In the early part of the season, the Buccaneers managed to scrape by their opponents with limited offensive production, thanks to their stout defense’s ability to create turnovers. However, when facing more vigorous opponents, such as the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night, the defense struggled to carry the load, as the offence sputtered, resulting in a three-game losing streak for the Bucs.
The Buccaneers did manage to score two offensive touchdowns in this game, but they struggled to sustain drives consistently. Offensive coordinator Dave Canales had expressed frustration earlier in the week, acknowledging that the team had more potential. Unfortunately, they couldn’t unlock that potential on this occasion. On the defensive side, the Buccaneers continued to grapple with issues on third downs, allowing 7 of 13 conversions. Even their league-leading red zone defence conceded two touchdowns.
Quarterback Breakdown: Baker Mayfield completed 25 of 42 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns without any interceptions. Facing one of the most formidable pass rushes of the season, Mayfield was sacked three times. Running back Rachaad White emerged as their leading receiver with six catches for 65 receiving yards.
Mayfield connected with Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans only twice until late in the fourth quarter, limiting their offensive effectiveness. Mayfield and the Buccaneers’ offence had been designed to funnel the ball to their top playmakers, Evans and Chris Godwin, and failing to do so for most of the game was a significant setback.
Troubling Trend: Penalties became a worrisome trend for the Buccaneers. With an offensive strategy focused on incremental gains and a defense known for taking risks, the team couldn’t afford the penalties they incurred. Right tackle Luke Goedeke committed three false starts, including a crucial one during the Bucs’ attempted comeback in the fourth quarter.
Additionally, a holding penalty on rookie guard Cody Mauch nullified a 42-yard completion to Evans. This marked the second consecutive week in which the Buccaneers accumulated double-digit penalties, starkly contrasting their earlier average of six penalties per game during the first three weeks.
Promising Trend: Despite their last-ranked rushing attack, the Buccaneers showed signs of life in the ground game, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. They managed this by incorporating different rushing strategies, including an end-around by Godwin for 14 yards and a 4.3-yard per-carry average by White. Furthermore, a 15-yard run by left guard Aaron Stinnie, filling in for the injured Matt Feiler, contributed to the improved ground performance.
It was challenging to rely on the running game given their constant deficit on the scoreboard, including a 14-point shortfall less than five minutes into the third quarter.
Buffalo Bills secured a crucial victory, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced ongoing challenges, particularly on the offensive and penalty fronts. The Buffalo Bills showed promise in various aspects of their game, while the Buccaneers must address their shortcomings to regain their winning momentum.