The Buffalo Bills made quite a statement Monday night, defeating the San Francisco 49ers 34-24 to improve to 9-3 in 2020 and maintain a one-game lead over the Miami Dolphins (8-4) in the AFC East.
After hearing all the outside noise about returning to the site of the last-second loss to the Arizona Cardinals a few weeks ago, the Bills bested the short-handed 49ers in decisive fashion, in a game that featured many promising moments from both the offense and defense. Josh Allen’s 375 passing yards are the most San Francisco has given up in a game all season. The defense forced a pair of turnovers and held the 49ers to just 86 rushing yards. Corey Bojorquez didn’t even have to punt until the final few minutes of the game. All-around, it was a great team win.
The Bills should be able to bring a lot of momentum from this game over to the matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers this upcoming Sunday night. The wide receiving corps continues to move along despite the absence of John Brown. Matt Milano is back in the lineup for the defense. The secondary is now consistently forcing turnovers. Like I said before, Monday night’s win, on a national stage, made it known that the Bills are a contender and when they’re playing well, they’re not a team one would like to face.
Here are three quick observations from the victory over the 49ers on Monday night:
1.) Cole Beasley just keeps getting better
In his second season with the Bills, Cole Beasley just seems to improve and become a bigger piece in this offense as the weeks go on. After recording a career-high 11 catches against the New York Jets in Week 7 of this season, Beasley registered a career-best 130 receiving yards on Monday night, along with nine catches and a touchdown.
Not only did Beasley get the Bills their first points of the game with a five-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter, the receiver set the entire tone for the offense in the first half, grabbing seven balls for 113 yards in the first two quarters.
The Bills tried to establish the run game early on, but after a couple fumbles from Zack Moss and Devin Singletary getting banged-up in the first quarter (he would return to the game and finish with 61 yards on 18 carries), Buffalo had to resort to the passing game primarily to move the ball.
While only making two catches in the second half, both grabs by Beasley were huge. Both got the Bills first downs, and his last catch of the game was an 11-yard gain on third-and-six with 6:08 to play and kept Buffalo’s possession at the time alive.
Allen’s performance shouldn’t be forgotten. He completed 32-of-40 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns, one of his best games of the season and in his young career, against a tough 49ers defense nevertheless. His receiving corps was great as well, and it was led by Beasley’s efforts.
2.) The Bills offense showed top-level execution
The Bills did a great job of keeping the 49ers defense on the field on Monday night. It took a little while to break through into the end zone against the stingy group, but even though they didn’t score points in the first quarter, Buffalo realized they could move the ball against this team.
Despite the 49ers offense missing a number of impact players, the Bills needed to keep them off the field as much as possible and keep the San Francisco defense on it. Buffalo managed to put together five drives of 70-yards or more Monday night, along with another 69-yard series. Four of the Bills’ drives featured a double-digit amount of plays, with each of those drives lasting over five minutes of game time.
The Bills also finished drives when they needed to Monday night. Aside from San Francisco’s final touchdown, every 49ers score was answered with one from Buffalo. The Bills capitalized on San Francisco’s mistakes as well, most notably scoring a touchdown and then a field goal, respectively, in the second quarter to go up 17-7 following back-to-back punts from the 49ers.
Buffalo scored points on six consecutive drives Monday night, and also did a good job not letting the game slip away in the third quarter, an issue that’s occurred in previous contests this season. The offense helped maintain the lead in the third frame; its 10 points in the period helped the Bills take a multi-score lead into the fourth quarter, one that would be held on to.
3.) Buffalo’s defense continues to trend in the right direction
The Bills defense received good news just hours before opening kickoff Monday night when it was announced that Matt Milano would be active and back in the lineup for the game. The linebacker finished with just two tackles in the game, but his presence helped the defense play one of its better games in 2020.
Going into the game, the Bills knew San Francisco would try to run the ball and eat up a lot of clock. With backup Nick Mullens at quarterback, the 49ers weren’t going to do a lot of damage through the air. The Bills’ plan was to stop the run, and they did exactly that. San Francisco finished with just 86 rushing yards as a team, with Jeff Wilson leading the way, finishing with 47 yards on seven carries. The run game was a total non-factor for San Francisco, and ultimately they had to rely on the passing game to keep them in it while playing from behind.
Mullens did finish with 316 passing yards and three touchdowns, but the Bills did get two huge interceptions from Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White. Hyde’s pick in the third quarter led to a field goal from Tyler Bass, and White’s interception on third-and-goal at the Bills’ five-yard line with 7:05 to go practically sealed the win for Buffalo, who was up 34-17 at the time of the turnover.
The defense still gave up some big plays here and there, especially in garbage time. But, no completed Hail Mary’s. Tremaine Edmunds, who’s had an up-and-down campaign in 2020 put in a good performance. And White, who received criticism along with other Bills’ defensive backs earlier in the season for lack of forced turnovers, has now recorded three interceptions in the last four games.
I know it was against an offense that wasn’t at full strength, but it’s hard to not be happy with this Buffalo defense as of late, especially considering where it was earlier this season.