Buffalo Bills: Halftime takeaways from the AFC title game

The Buffalo Bills’ early endeavors in the AFC title game featured a rediscovered rushing game and a little bit of championship luck.

At halftime of the AFC Championship Game, the Kansas City Chiefs lead the Buffalo Bills 21-12.

ESM has three takeaways from an exciting first half of football…

-Chief Concern

If the Bills have had a consistent struggle, it’s been their defense’s issues covering opposing tight ends. Kansas City, of course, is armed with the ultimate weapon in that regard in Travis Kelce, and they’re taking full advantage of that flaw in the early going. They did so in the first 2020 meeting when Kelce had two touchdowns back in October, and now he’s running absolutely wild to the tune of 92 yards on nine receptions. Buffalo needs to strengthen their defense in the middle if they’re going to muster a comeback in the second half. Buffalo, to their credit, is taking advantage of their own tight end’s talents, as Knox has not only scored the Bills’ only touchdown but his other two receptions picked up crucial first downs (including one on a fourth down that kept Buffalo’s opening drive alive).

-Bold Rush

Devin Singletary appeared to be the odd man out in the Bills offense during their Divisional tilt last weekend, as it took nearly two full quarters for him to get a carry against the Ravens despite the loss of rookie Zack Moss in the Wild Card stage. But the Bills got him far more involved in the early going at Arrowhead, even granting him carries on two of the first three plays. Singletary also picked up a reception in the first half, though another drop could loom large later on if Buffalo fails to score again. Buffalo is 11-3, including playoffs, in games where Singletary has at least 14 touches. He’s not the only Bills rusher getting involved on a larger basis. T.J. Yeldon earned his first receptions since October 13 against Tennessee, including two huge first down touches through both the air and ground on the drive that narrowed the gap. Additionally, Taiwan Jones has had a strong game as a punt gunner, recovering Mecole Hardman’s muff at the three-yard-line (setting up Knox’s score) and doing another Corey Bojorquez punt inside the opponents’ 20.

-Cole Pursuit

Cole Beasley has proven himself to be a man of many talents this season. He has posted career-best receiving numbers and has even been shown to have a hankering for throwing. But if the Bills come back and win a nailbiter, remember Beasley’s big defensive play at the end of their first drive (shortly before Tyler Bass’ foot opened scoring). An errant Josh Allen pass seemed destined for the arms of Juan Thornhill, but Beasley was able to wrestle the ball away from the defender to preserve an incomplete pass and allow a good drive to earn a little reward.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

VIDEO: Buffalo Bills lead after 1st quarter after Dawson Knox TD

The Buffalo Bills took an early lead on Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game thanks to a short score for Dawson Knox and a field goal.

After one quarter of play at Arrowhead Stadium, the Buffalo Bills own a 9-0 lead on the Kansas Chiefs in the AFC Championship. Buffalo’s scoring came through a 51-yard Tyler Bass field goal and a three-yard scoring hookup between Josh Allen and Dawson Knox.

The Bills scored on their opening drive, going 42 yards on 10 plays to set up Bass’ long boot. Knox came up big prior to his score, as his eight-yard reception at circa midfield kept the driver going. Bass’ kick made a bit of history, as it was the longest field goal in Arrowhead Stadium’s playoff history, dating back to 1972.

Buffalo failed to keep the momentum alive on their next possession and were forced into a Corey Bojorquez punt. But they caught a big break when the ensuing launch was mishandled by Mecole Hardman. The muff was recovered by reserve running back Taiwan Jones, who couldn’t advance it past the Kansas City three-yard-line, but set up the Bills in prime position to grow their lead. Allen wasted no time in capitalizing, find Knox for the score. It was Knox’s second touchdown of the postseason. Bass missed the extra point, but the Bills held a two-possession lead at 9-0.

Though Buffalo owns a two-possession lead, Kansas City may have them right where they want them. En route to Super Bowl LIV, the Chiefs made up several sizable deficits in their playoff home games, including a 21-0 hole during the AFC Divisional playoffs against Houston.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

VIDEO: Josh Allen, Dawson Knox end Buffalo Bills’ playoff TD drought

For the first time since December 1996, someone from the Buffalo Bills visited Orchard Park’s end zones during a playoff game.

It wasn’t pretty by conventional means. But when you’ve gone just over 24 years without experiencing the glory of a playoff touchdown, you’ll take them however you can get.

Josh Allen and Dawson Knox collaborated to end yet another dubious streak of futility in Buffalo Bills history, as the quarterback found his third-year tight end for a three-yard score that gave the Bills a 7-3 lead over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card matchup at Bills Stadium. It was the first playoff touchdown scored in Orchard Park since Jacksonville’s Jimmy Smith scored on a two-yard pass from Mark Brunell during the Wild Card round in December 1996. As for Bills representation, it’s the first postseason score at home by the home team since Jeff Burris took back a Brunell interception 38 yards and the first offensive tally since Thurman Thomas scored in the same game, a 30-27 Jacksonville victory.

After the Bills went three-and-out on their first drive by keeping Allen in the pocket, the MVP candidate was able to break free on his second attempt with the ball. Situated at his own 15 after the Colts took a 3-0 lead, Allen accounted for all but six yards on the ensuing 85-yard trek to the end zone. He got things started with his legs on a 12-yard tally on the second play before getting into Indianapolis territory with a 36-yard strike to Stefon Diggs. The score itself wasn’t pretty…Allen appeared to attempt to run it in himself before he got it off at the last minute with the pocket collapsing…but Knox was wide for a catch worth six points not matter its attractiveness. Tyler Bass would later boot the extra point to make to create a 7-3 Buffalo lead.

Allen also earned first downs through passes to Devin Singletary and Gabriel Davis. Each of Allen’s first six completion went to a different receiver, with Zack Moss and Cole Beasley also earning catches in the opening frame.

Buffalo continues to lead Indianapolis 7-3 in the early stages of the second quarter.

Geof Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Monday’s win vs. San Francisco

An offensive explosion allowed the Buffalo Bills to exorcise their Glendale demons and come away with a win over the displaced 49ers.

The Buffalo Bills struck prime time, offensive gold against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night in a most unusual location.

Josh Allen threw for 375 yards and four scores, helping Cole Beasley earned a career-best 130 yards. Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White also had interceptions as the Bills rolled to a 34-24 victory over the Niners at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals and one of the most heartbreaking defeats in recent Buffalo memory. 

The win on Monday broke several dubious records in Buffalo history. It was good for their first win in a Monday night setting since October 1999, and the team also clinched their first pair of consecutive winning seasons since 1998-99. Stefon Diggs’ 92 yards allowed him to hit the plateau of 1,000 for the season, giving the Bills receivers with four digits in back-to-back years for the first time since 2011-12 (both Steve Johnson with John Brown accomplishing the feat last season). Buffalo (9-3) also maintains a one-game lead on Miami for the modern AFC East division lead.

ESM is ready to hand out game balls in the aftermath of a memorable victory…

3rd Star: TE Dawson Knox

4 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD

I’m Dawson Knox, and this is a 10-point swing.

Knox tied his career-best with four receptions, none more important than a four-yard touchdown reception that gave Buffalo the lead for good. The second-year tight end has now scored touchdowns in back-to-back contests and is turning into a reliable red zone option. It’s perhaps a play that will only gain recognition and accolades in the Bills’ film room this week, but Knox would also come up big on another Buffalo scoring quest. Late in the first half, Knox stepped in front of quarterback hunter Dion Jordan as Allen rolled out to his right. It bought Allen enough time to find Beasley for a 20-yard gain that set the Bills up in San Francisco territory. Two plays later, Tyler Bass booted a 37-yard field goal that created a two-possession lead going into the halftime break.

2nd Star: WR Cole Beasley

9 receptions, 130 yards, 1 TD

Jon Feliciano may have rocked Beasley to sleep during first half action on Sunday, but the veteran was anything but sleepy on Sunday. Beasley continues to take on a larger role in the Buffalo offense, enjoying a career-night through mostly early endeavors in the first half. He has been one of the biggest contributors to the Bills’ division title trek, having reached triple digits in four games this season (yet another career-best), including three of the past six. His time couldn’t be much better, as his personal rise has coincided with John Brown being forced to miss some time with an injury.

1st Star: QB Josh Allen

32-of-40, 375 yards, 4 TD

The Bills’ ongoing national tour…they’ll host their first Sunday night game since 2007 next week against Pittsburgh (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC)…is a chance to prove themselves to the NFL at-large. Their roaster features several parties trying to make their professional cases on a wider scale, perhaps none more prominent than Allen, who, despite nearly every analyst suggesting the contrary, is proving himself as one of the most reliable franchise quarterbacks in the league.

Allen certainly got off to a good start in that endeavor, joining Jim Kelly as the only Buffalo representative to throw four touchdowns in a Monday night game and misfiring on only four of his passes. The journey will get a little more difficult next week against what’s sure to be a furious Steelers defense, but it’s one he seems well-equipped for. His name may not be as attractive as that of Patrick Mahomes, but MVP talk might be part of the holiday conversation in Western New York.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags