Buffalo Bills 2021 Season Recapby Christopher Gallagher January 28, 2022 1 comment
The Buffalo Bills captured the AFC East title for the second straight season. They won 11 games to sit one game clear of the second-place New England Patriots for just their second division crown in the last 20 years. Sean McDermott‘s group was expected to compete for the No. 1 seed after advancing to the conference title game a year ago. However, the team endured a rough stretch of play while also being hit hard by the injury bug in the middle part of the season. This ultimately helped shoot down their chances at earning home-field advantage in the postseason. The team lost All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White to a torn ACL. The Bills also endured a disappointing 9-6 loss to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars and a 41-15 beatdown at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts.
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What Went Right
Once again, one of the most dynamic offenses in the game, the Bills finished fifth in yards per game. They averaged more than 389 per contest. Along with this, Brian Daboll’s group also ranked inside the top 10 in points per game, third-down conversion percentage, and yards per play. After finishing second in the league’s MVP voting a year ago, Josh Allen enjoyed another stellar season. The 25-year-old tossed for 4,407 yards while firing 36 touchdown passes and rushing for six more. Continuing to be one of the game’s most dangerous receiving threats, Stefon Diggs eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth consecutive year. The former fifth-round pick hauled in 103 receptions for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Stout on the defensive side of the ball under the guidance of McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Buffalo, finished as the No. 1 overall unit. Led by their two star safeties in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, the unit pitched two shutouts in the opening month of the year. They gave up just 289.2 yards per game while allowing their opponents to score just 2.1 touchdowns on average. Emerging as an every-down defensive tackle in his third year in the league, Ed Oliver led the way on the interior with 14 quarterback hits and one forced fumble. Still an effective pass-rushing specialist off the edge, Mario Addison also added in seven sacks while racking up 10 tackles for loss.
What Went Wrong
After advancing to the AFC Championship game last January, the Bills entered the 2021 season with Super Bowl expectations. They were looking to secure the top seed to play all of their playoff games in Orchard Park. However, the team’s plans quickly got derailed by some ugly and uncharacteristic losses. Starting with their season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo dropped games to the Jaguars, Colts, and Patriots. Unable to secure victories in one-score games after winning five of them in 2020, the team also dropped nail bitters to the Tennessee Titans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ultimately ending the regular season with an 11-6 record, the group finished with the worst mark in single possession games in the entire NFL.
Buffalo secured a date with its bitter rival in the Patriots on Super Wild Card weekend. Advancing on to the Divisional Round, the team scored touchdowns on seven straight possessions in a 47-17 rout. However, after heartbreakingly losing to the Chiefs, the franchise will be left kicking itself for the entire offseason. They wasted an all-time great postseason performance from Allen. The star signal-caller led back-to-back touchdown drives late in the game to give his group the lead with 13 seconds remaining in regulation. Ultimately allowing Patrick Mahomes and company to get into field goal range, the Bills elected to kick the ball deep instead of squibbing it to kill the clock. Furthermore, the defense gave up two straight completions to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in a shocking coverage display.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Josh Allen
Allen built off a breakout 2020 campaign this season. The University of Wyoming alumn completed 63.3 percent of his throws while averaging over 10 yards per completion. Along with this, he also posted a 92.2 quarterback rating while continuing to be one of the league’s most dangerous rushing threats. Adding another element to the high-powered Buffalo offense, the 6’5″ quarterback carried the ball 122 times for 763 yards. This led him to lead the NFL in yards per rush with a 6.5 average per carry. Red hot during the postseason, the former seventh overall pick posted video game-like numbers in an all-time great showing. He accounted for 771 total yards while tossing nine touchdown scores to 14 incompletions.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Spencer Brown
A third-round pick in April’s draft, he made 10 starts for the team during his rookie season. Inserted as the starter at the right tackle spot in October, the 23-year-old helped stabilize a struggling offensive line that was hit hard by injuries and COVID-19. This change moved veteran Daryl Williams to the guard position while pushing the struggling Cody Ford to the bench. Brown played over 700 offensive snaps while surrendering just eight penalties and one sack. The University of Northern Iowa alumn earned a 62.9 grade from Pro Football Focus, the fourth-highest mark on the team.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Gregory Rousseau
Buffalo selected Rousseau with the third last pick of the opening round. He was brought in to bolster the team’s pass rush after recording 15.5 sacks during his freshman campaign at the University of Miami. Earning significant playing time along the defensive line, the 21-year-old made 17 starts as a rookie. He racked up four sacks, one interception, and 50 tackles, with eight of them being for a loss. The former ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year made multiple big-time plays. He intercepted Mahomes during the team’s week five victory over the Chiefs. He also sacked Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa twice in a blowout victory in Week 2.
Biggest Surprise – Dawson Knox
In his third year in the league, Knox broke out after being lauded as a player to watch during the 2021 season. The 25-year-old quickly developed a rapport with Allen as one of the go-to targets in the team’s passing attack. Shattering his previous career highs, he hauled in 49 passes for 587 yards, with 12 yards averaged per catch. Dynamic in the red zone, the former third-round pick tied Kelce, Mark Andrews, and Hunter Henry for the most touchdown catches by a tight end with nine. This led him to become the franchise’s new all-time leader for single-season touchdown grabs at the position. The Tennessee native surpassed Pete Metzelaars, Jay Riemersma, and Scott Chandler.
Biggest Disappointment – Zack Moss
Brought in by Buffalo a year ago to form a one-two punch with Devin Singletary, Moss had a strong rookie campaign. The 24-year-old carried the ball 112 times for 481 yards and four touchdowns. He could not replicate that success during his sophomore season in the league. The University of Utah product struggled to earn snaps in the team’s backfield. This led him to average just 26.5 yards per game on a disappointing 3.6 yards per carry. Inactive for the Bills’ Thanksgiving game against the New Orleans Saints, Moss was benched in favor of speedster Matt Breida. Furthermore, Moss was also a healthy scratch against the Buccaneers in Week 12.
One Burning Question
How can Buffalo get Over the Hump?
Now one of the most well-run franchises across the NFL, Buffalo qualified for the postseason for the third straight year in 2021. After knocking off the Patriots in the opening round of the playoffs, the team would ultimately meet the Chiefs for the second season in a row. Coming up close in one of the games of the year, the Bills lost 42-36 in overtime. Falling short of their Super Bowl aspirations once again, Beane and company will face the task of trying to get the group over the hump in 2022.
With multiple key free agents, veteran pass rushers Jerry Hughes and Addison will be looking for new deals. In addition to this, receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie are set to hit the open market. Expected to lose Daboll to one of the open head coaching roles across the league, this will be an offseason full of interesting decisions in Orchard Park.
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
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