Buffalo looked like a team that was a win away from playing in the Super Bowl a season ago, with an MVP candidate at quarterback in Josh Allen and a turnover-forcing defense. Washington looked like a team still trying to find its way — and its quarterback of the future.
Making his first career road start, Taylor Heinicke failed to recapture the magic of Week 2’s dramatic win over the Giants. He had a highlight-worthy scramble and pylon dive for a touchdown that was reminiscent of his score in Washington’s first-round playoff loss to the Buccaneers, but he also threw a pair of interceptions, including one into triple coverage. Heinicke finished 14 for 24 for 212 yards and two touchdowns with two picks.
Defense is no match for Josh Allen: Buffalo improved to 9-0 when Allen throws for at least 300 yards, a mark he eclipsed midway through the third quarter against a Washington defense that has been more bark than bite through three weeks. The former Wyoming star finished 32 for 43 for 358 yards and four touchdowns and accounted for a fifth score on the ground.
Buffalo used short, quick passes to neutralize Washington’s vaunted pass rush, which finished without a sack. Slot receiver Cole Beasley had a game-high 11 catches for 98 yards, including five on a 17-play, 93-yard touchdown drive that all but iced the game in the third quarter.
Equally concerning as Buffalo’s ability to sustain drives — the Bills were 9 for 15 on third down — was how little resistance the Washington defense offered with the home team in hurry-up mode before halftime. With 25 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Buffalo drove 51 yards on four consecutive completions to set up a 48-yard field goal by Tyler Bass that extended its lead to 27-14.
Another slow start spells doom: The final three quarters of the game made it clear that Washington was outclassed by a wide margin, but in what has becoming a troubling trend, Rivera’s team didn’t give itself a chance of pulling off an upset in a hostile environment by sleepwalking through the opening 15 minutes. Make it three straight weeks to start the season that Washington’s defense has allowed a touchdown on its opponent’s opening possession and the Washington offense has gone three-and-out on its first drive. That’s no way to survive a first-place schedule.
The Bills dominated the first quarter, outgaining Washington 144-36 and possessing the ball for more than 11 minutes. Washington, which ran six plays in the quarter, committed turnovers on two of its first three possessions, including a fumble by Logan Thomas and an interception by Heinicke.
Antonio Gibson gives offense a brief jolt: With Washington trailing by three touchdowns and struggling to sustain drives, Gibson provided a much-needed spark. The second-year running back took a short pass from Heinicke and outraced Buffalo’s defense for a 73-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter. Gibson, who covered the last five yards of the longest play of his career with a leap toward the pylon, scored 11 touchdowns as a rookie. Sunday’s dazzling score was his first of the season.
Gibson was largely ineffective in the running game, with 12 carries for 31 yards, but he’s one of the few healthy playmakers on the team besides Terry McLaurin. Buffalo all-pro cornerback Tre’Davious White helped limit McLaurin to three catches for 25 yards before Washington’s No. 1 receiver had a 37-yard reception in the fourth quarter with the game no longer in doubt. McLaurin can’t be expected to carry the offense every week, so Washington might need to find more ways to get Gibson the ball.