Buffalo Bills: Super Bowl run ends in Kansas City heartbreak (Highlights)

The Buffalo Bills’ couldn’t stop the Kansas City Chiefs’ run to a repeat, losing a two-possession lead in the AFC Championship Game.

The Buffalo Bills’ magic seasons came to an end on Sunday evening in Kansas City, as they fell in the AFC Championship Game to the Kansas City Chiefs by a 38-24 final. Josh Allen put up 375 total yards in his first visit to the conference title game, with Dawson Knox (6 receptions, 42 yards, 1 touchdown), Stefon Diggs (6 receptions, 77 yards), and Cole Beasley (7 receptions, 88 yards) serving as his top receivers.

Kansas City will advance to the Super Bowl for the second straight season, as they’ll take on the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the game’s 55th edition in two weeks (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS). The Chiefs are the defending champions are their triumph over San Francisco last year, but will face a Buccaneers team not only headlined by Tom Brady’s 10th appearance in the game but will also be serving as the first “home” Super Bowl squad with Raymond James Stadium hosting.

The Bills jumped out to a 9-0 lead after the first quarter, opening things up with a 10-play, 42-yard drive that was capped off by a Tyler Bass field goal. His 51-yarder made history, as it was the longest in the playoff history of Arrowhead Stadium. More special teams magic awaited the Bills after Kansas City got the ball back, as Taiwan Jones recovered a punt muffed by Mecole Hardman three yards away from the end zone. It took Allen and company a single play to capitalize, as he found Knox for a three-yard tally. Bass missed the extra point, but the Bills still owned a two-possession lead at 9-0.

But the Chiefs, mirroring their propensity for erasing large deficits during their last Super Bowl run, went on to score on each of their six full possessions, interrupted only by the end of the first half. It began with a tale of redemption for Hardman, who not only got the Chiefs on the board with a three-yard score but also set up Darrel Williams’ touchdown on the next drive with a big gain on the ground. Tyreek Hill proved unstoppable for the Bills, as he put up 172 yards on nine receptions, while Travis Kelce had two scores and 118 yards.

While the game remained close, Buffalo did manage to make their way into Kansas City territory, but questionable went for field goals in the Kansas City red zone in short-yardage situations. To his credit, Bass converted all four of his triple attempts, but they did little to chip away at the Chiefs’ growing lead. After a 27-yard field goal made 24-15 midway through the third, the Chiefs unofficially put the game away when Hill cut loose for a 71-yard gain before Kelce earned a one-yard score to make it 31-15. Chippiness ensued from there one out, with the two teams exchanging unnecessary roughness penalties for the remainder of the contest. Allen managed to find Isaiah McKenzie for a six-yard score before time let out, scoring the Bills’ final touchdown of the year.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Saturday’s win vs. Indianapolis

The Buffalo Bills made the most of their first playoff opportunity at home in nearly 25 years, ending yet another dubious streak of futility.

The Buffalo Bills have ended countless streaks of futility during this downright magical season. This one, however, might be the sweetest one yet.

Buffalo (14-3) withstood a furious Indianapolis Colts rally in the final minutes, using Josh Allen’s offensive output of 378 total yards to earn a 27-24 victory in the opening Wild Card round of the 2020-21 NFL playoffs. The victory, their first in the postseason since December 1995, comes in the first playoff game they’ve hosted at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park in nearly a quarter-century.

Bills Stadium will now host its first Divisional playoff game since January 1994. They will battle the highest seed remaining between the winners of the remaining wild card matchups. No. 4 Tennessee battles No. 5 Baltimore in Sunday’s early window (1:05 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC) while the battle between No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 6 Cleveland caps off Wild Card weekend at night (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC).

In the meantime, ESM has three game balls to give out from Saturday’s victory…

3rd Star: WR Gabriel Davis

4 receptions, 85 yards

Brandon Beane’s lasting impact on the Western New York area will likely always be choosing Josh Allen in the early stages of the 2018 draft. But his day three gems also played a major role in his recent extension. Day three choices were on prominent display during the first playoff win of the Beane era. Taron Johnson, a fourth-round in 2018, made a major tackle on a third-and-goal that forced Indianapolis into a bad fourth-down call, keeping the deficit at 10-7. On the drive that gave Buffalo the lead for good, Johnson’s 2020 draft counterpart from the fourth round, Davis, channeled his inner Fred Flintstone with several tiptoe sideline grabs that allowed the Bills to take the lead just before the halftime break.

2nd Star: WR Stefon Diggs

6 receptions, 128 yards, 1 TD

The Bills’ recent success hasn’t made them immune to the fact that their roster, talented as it may be, is relatively low on playoff experience. Diggs, a bonafide postseason hero…nay, miracle worker…brought in a good chunk of it, putting a target on his Buffalo back right from the get-go. He responded by not only topping the league’s receivers in yardage and catches, but setting Bills records every step of the way. Granted his first playoff opportunity in his new settings, Diggs took full advantage in his cleats inspired by the 2003 Buffalo-based comedy Bruce Almighty. Diggs lived up to Jim Carrey’s fictitious surname in the second half, putting up 92 yards and a score that came at the onset of the fourth quarter.

1st Star: QB Josh Allen

26-of-35, 324 yards, 11 carries, 54 yards, 3 total TD

If anything proved that Western New York’s future belongs to Allen…as if anyone needed further convincing…Saturday’s game was perfect concrete evidence. When the Bills needed a score, needed to try and run out the clock…they turned things over to Allen. For some reason, the Bills’ playcalling took the ball out of Allen’s hands during the middle stages of the first half. The rush-heavy diet yielded only three-and-outs and a Colts lead. Once Allen got free reign after the Colts left three points on the field, Allen took over to the tune of a 96-yard drive, capping things off by himself. It was only appropriate that Allen be responsible for the first playoff touchdown scores tallied in Orchard Park since the mid-1990s, as he found Diggs and Dawson Knox through the air, sandwiching the one he took in himself just before the half.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Three Stars from Sunday’s finale at New England

The New York Jets’ 2020 season ended on an appropriately sullen note, as they fell to the New England Patriots in a snowy slog.

If there was ever a perfect day to end the 2020 New York Jets’ season, it was an overcast, cold, snowy, sloppy day at Gillette Stadium…where the Jets were on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Cam Newton put up 322 yards of total offense and threw for three scores in the New England Patriots’ victorious season finale, topping the Jets by a 28-14 final in a meaningless game in Foxboro. The Jets (2-14) were paced by 84 receiving yards on a trio of receptions by Breshad Perriman. In what could his final game as the Jets’ franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold threw for 266 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions.

The Jets end this season with their lowest win total since 1996, when they won a single game under Rich Kotite. New York also endures their fifth consecutive sweep at the hands of the Patriots (7-9).

For the final time this season, ESM issues the game balls, as multiple eras come to their potential end in Florham Park and East Rutherford.

3rd Star: WR Breshad Perriman

3 receptions, 84 yards

Last season, Perriman earned himself de factor WR1 duties with a strong finish to the regular season. It wasn’t as impressive this time around, but he provided the Jets a strong potential parting gift by serving as their deep ball threat in Foxboro. This comes after he was kept off the stat ledger in last week’s win over Cleveland.

2nd Star: RB Josh Adams

11 carries, 47 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions, 11 yards

It truly is a shame that, with all due respect to Frank Gore, that consequence-free football in Florham Park and East Rutherford wasn’t dedicated to exploring the Jets’ rushing future. During their brief time together, Adams and Ty Johnson formed a dynamic pair, and it was the former who wound up scoring the final touchdown of this wretched season. He and Johnson united for 92 yards in New England (4.2 average carry) after previously putting up a collaborative 178 in the infamous December loss to Las Vegas.

1st Star: TE Chris Herndon

7 receptions, 63 yards, 1 TD

The case for keeping Sam Darnold often covers the ridiculous amount of turn over he has experienced in only three years at the New York helm. No receiver remains from his rookie campaign, with the exception of the tight end Herndon. Darnold’s former rookie camp roommate had struggled to replicate the success of his rookie season, hampered by injuries and other calamities. But Herndon managed to recapture a little bit of his 2018 spark toward the end of the season, capping things off with a game-best in receptions and a touchdown in each of his last two games.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Sunday’s win vs. Miami

The Buffalo Bills booted the Miami Dolphins from the AFC playoff bracket with a dominant effort in Orchard Park.

The Buffalo Bills’ historic regular season ended with “Scoragami“, a No. 2 seed, and a gift for the Tennessee Titans.

Buffalo capped off a dominant stretch with a 56-26 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the 2020 regular-season finale at Bills Stadium. Isaiah McKenzie scored two touchdowns through the air, while Antonio Williams added two more on the ground. Receivers Gabriel Davis and John Brown also had touchdowns, the latter also earned 72 yards in his first action since November 15 in Arizona.

With the win, the Bills (13-3) have clinched their best win tally since 1991 and they also locked up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming AFC playoffs. While the first-round bye only applies to the top-seeded Chiefs, the Bills will be assured of a home game if they reach the Divisional round and will face the defending champion from Kansas City no earlier than the AFC title game. Their win over the Dolphins (10-6) also allowed the Tennessee Titans to clinch a playoff spot and put Miami’s own playoff dreams on life support, now needing a loss from the Indianapolis Colts to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

ESM hands out game balls from the final regular season game…

3rd Star: QB Josh Allen

18-of-25, 224 yards, 3 TD

Those tuning in were treated to a lite version of Allen, who was removed in the early stages of the second half for Matt Barkley. While he struggled in the early going, a stretch that included his first interception since Week 14 against Pittsburgh, he was able to turn the game into one last case for MVP voters, tallying three touchdowns, including one to the returning John Brown, before giving way to Matt Barkley. Allen also managed to cap off his 16-game slate with one more team record, passing Drew Bledsoe’s mark in 2002 for the best passing-yard tally in a single season.

2nd Star: CB Josh Norman

4 tackles, 2 pass breakups, 1 INT/TD 

Norman gave fans an incredible blast from the past in the rout. In addition to two crucial pass breakups (one of which stifled a Miami comeback deep in the red zone), he took back a Tagovailoa interception 16 yards for a score to help bury their aquatic foes. It was Norman’s first touchdown since the pair he scored during his magical 2015 season in Carolina. Under Norman’s veteran leadership, Buffalo’s secondary is firing on all cylinders at the perfect time. In addition to the three turnovers, the defense let up only 171 yards from opposing throwers in their prior contests.

1st Star: WR Isaiah McKenzie 

6 receptions, 65 yards, 2 TDs, 1 punt return, 84 yards, 1 TD

Often seen as a “gimmick” receiver that comes up big on trick plays, McKenzie played a larger role on the receiving front on Sunday with Cole Beasley injured and Stefon Diggs getting some rest. He took full advantage of his extended opportunity, earning new single-game bests and his first multi-touchdown game. McKenzie also scored through more traditional methods, taking back a punt 84 yards for a score that more or less put the game away early in the first half.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 3 stars from Sunday’s win vs Cleveland

The New York Jets took advantage of a depleted Cleveland Browns squad to earn their second consecutive victory in their home finale.

For their role as spoilers, the New York Jets might be gaining some extra Christmas presents across the NFL. 

Jamison Crowder earned touchdowns through both passing and receiving, while the defense sacked a beleaguered Baker Mayfield four times as the Jets (2-13) earned their second straight victory, topping the Cleveland Browns 23-16 in their 2020 home finale. Sam Darnold also threw two touchdown passes (the other going to Chris Herndon) while Frank Gore (48) became the third rusher in NFL history to surpass 16,000 rushing yards. The ensuing loss of the Browns (10-5) was welcome news for their fellow wild-card combatants in Miami and Baltimore, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers, who clinched the AFC North title with the Cleveland defeat.

ESM has a trio of game balls to hand out in the wake of another big victory.

3rd Star: DL Nathan Shepherd

3 tackles, 1 sack

Shepherd, a Canadian import out of both Fort Hays State and Simon Fraser, is one of several Jets establishing himself as essential personnel as the Jets go through the macabre process of free research and development. He was a constant prescience in the Cleveland backfield on Sunday, earning three tackles, a sack, and two other pressured hits on Mayfield, making sure the polarizing thrower was even more uncomfortable without his top receivers in tow.

2nd Star: LB Tarell Basham  

5 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack

There no greater defense than Basham’s antics as Cleveland’s comeback fell just short. The Ohio alum ended each of the Browns’ final two drives, forcing a pair of Mayfield fumbles that secured the final score. His first, recovered by John Franklin-Myers, allowed the Jets to add Sam Ficken-induced insurance, while the other was recovered by the Browns, but unable to be advanced due to rules enacted inside the final two minutes of the second half.

1st Star: WR Jamison Crowder

7 receptions, 92 yards, 1 TD
1 carry, 14 yards
1-for-1, 43 yards, 1 TD

Could it be that the Jets’ new franchise quarterback has been on their roster the whole time?

Obviously, Crowder isn’t that man, but the Jets were happy to provide Duke fans with a blast from the past during Sunday’s festivities. New York trickery was likely the first sign to the Browns faithful that Sunday was not going to be their day, as his 43-yard strike to Braxton Berrios put the Jets ahead for good. It was Crowder’s first touchdown pass since the 2014 Sun Bowl, when he gave the Blue Devils a late lead over Arizona State with a 12-yard scoring toss.

Crowder, who has turned into one of the NFL’s most dependable slot receivers, also got his name in the scorebook through his traditional aerial ways, nabbing a 30-yard scoring grab from Sam Darnold to conclude the Jets’ first drive of the second half.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Saturday’s win at Denver

The Buffalo Bills departed Denver on a Rocky Mountain high, clinching an elusive division title through a dominant showing.

The Buffalo Bills are coming home for Christmas…and the playoffs as well.

Through a 48-19 victory over the Denver Broncos during the NFL’s Saturday showcase, the Bills (11-3) clinched not only their third playoff berth over the last four seasons but also their first AFC East division title since 1995. Restrictions pending, Orchard Park’s Bills Stadium is likely set to host its first postseason contest since a 1996 loss to Jacksonville in the wild-card round. Buffalo has also reached the 11-win plateau for the first time since 1999.

ESM gives out game balls for the victorious Bills…

3rd Star: DE Jerry Hughes

1 fumble recovery, 1 TD

Hughes’ fearsome size may lead to incredulousness on this end, but he got his football start as a running back at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas, earning 19 touchdowns during his senior season. His ensuing time spent in Fort Worth (with TCU) and Orchard Park have rarely given him a chance to showcase his rushing talents, but Saturday’s tilt provided a welcome exception.

With Buffalo holding a 28-13 lead, they closed the book on any idea of a Denver comeback with Tre’Davious White’s sack and forced fumble of Drew Lock. Hughes picked up the loose change and athletically avoided several pursuing Broncos to put in a touchdown that took far more than the 21 yards dictated in the final box score. The 32-year-old earned the second touchdown of his career and his first since November 2014.

 

2nd Star: WR Stefon Diggs

11 receptions, 147 yards

On a historic day for Buffalo football, Diggs was sure to get his personal achievement out of the way early on. His first reception of the late afternoon allowed him to break a tie with Eric Moulds from 2002 for the most receptions in a single Bills season. With 11 grabs on the night, Diggs is likely ensuring that it will be a long time before his contemporaries even sniff his records. Diggs and Cole Beasley each broke the century mark on Saturday, uniting to earn 259 yards from Allen’s arm. Buffalo, however, may have to hold its breath when it comes to Diggs’ status moving forward. Fox Sports’ Lindsay Czarniak revealed toward the end of the game that Diggs was carted to the locker room with a foot issue, though he later returned to the sidelines before the clock let out.

1st Star: QB Josh Allen

28-for-40, 359 yards, 2 TD, 3 carries, 33 yards, 2 TD 

Allen’s success in Colorado probably shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise. After all, he was perfect in terms of the scoreboard during Wyoming’s visits to Colorado State and Air Force. But, for Allen, Saturday’s business was personal. Denver previously passed on him during the early stages of the 2018 NFL Draft, choosing Bradley Chubb two picks before Allen got his call from Western New York.

In his first visit to Mile High, Allen showed a Broncos team at a crossroads when it comes to their franchise quarterback exactly what they were missing. He was responsible for four touchdowns on his own, two each of the aerial and ground variety, and racked up 392 total yards. Technically speaking, Allen was more or less the culprit behind six scores, but the latter couple was wiped out due to penalties. His rushing scores carried historic importance on the Buffalo landscape: he not only tied Jack Kemp for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (25) but also passed Willis McGahee to move into the top ten in the rushing score category tying Kemp and LeSean McCoy.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Sunday night’s win vs. Pittsburgh

The Buffalo Bills made a victorious return to Sunday Night Football, topping the Pittsburgh Steelers to earn their 10th win of the season.

After their performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s safe to say that it definitely won’t take another 13 years for NBC’s Sunday Night Football to return to Bills Stadium in Orchard Park.

The Buffalo Bills celebrated their return to the NFL’s most sought-after primetime spot, topping the Steelers 26-15 on Sunday night in Western New York. Taron Johnson brought the invisible crowd to its feet through a 51-yard runback of a Ben Roethlisberger interception, while Stefon Diggs put up 130 yards and a score on nine receptions. Levi Wallace added another interception of Roethlisberger to seal the deal in the fourth quarter, while Josh Allen overcame an inconsistent start to throw two touchdown passes.

Not only did the Bills (10-3) star in their first Sunday night home game since 2007, but they also earned consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time since 1998-99. Buffalo will clinch a playoff spot on Monday if the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Cleveland Browns. The Bills also picked up a tiebreaker in terms of AFC playoff seeding. They’re a game behind Pittsburgh (11-2) for the second seed, while they also gained a game on the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East division race with the latter’s loss to Kansas City, the current kings of the conference.

ESM has a series of game balls to award after Sunday’s historic win.

3rd Star: P Corey Bojorquez

5 punts, 45.6 average, 2 Inside 20 

Bills fans may be unwilling to admit it thanks to the final result, but the early stages of their Sunday night return were rather boring, packed with three-and-outs and appearances of Bojorquez. To put things in perspective…Bojorquez was invited on the field four times in the first half after getting only four chances over the past two games.

But Bojorquez made the most out of his opportunities and put the Bills’ defense in management situations. Two of his five kicks on the night situated the Steelers inside their own 20 to start off, and every one of Pittsburgh’s post-punt opportunities in the first half yielded no points. Elsewhere on special teams, Andre Roberts averaged 31 yards per kick return to start the Bills off on the right foot when their offense came on the field.

2nd Star: CB Taron Johnson

7 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TD

At the risk of hyperbole, Johnson’s big play at the end of the first half may go down as one of the most impactful plays of the new century for the Bills franchise.

With the Bills’ offense struggling to gain traction and the Steelers holding a 7-3 lead, the first half scored appeared to be ready to read in favor of the visitors going into the halftime break. But, with Pittsburgh driving with barely over a minute to go in the half and looking to extend their lead, Johnson read Roethlisberger, his eyes fixated on the champion quarterback before stepping in front of JuJu Smith-Schuster to take the intended pass away. The ensuing 51-yard dash to glory gave Buffalo the lead at 9-7 and permanently shifted momentum in the primetime thriller.

Johnson, alas, wasn’t around to enjoy the postgame celebration. He left the game in the third quarter with a concussion and did not return.

1st Star: WR Stefon Diggs

10 receptions, 130 yards, 1 TD

Diggs’ propensity for yards after the catch came up big on Sunday night, consistently setting Buffalo up in Pittsburgh territory through eating chunks of yardage and clock. He was targeted 14 times during the contest, earning catches on all but three of those opportunities on a night where the Steelers were able to mostly hold his fellow catchers in check (though Gabriel Davis did break free for a touchdown). One of the biggest reasons behind the extension for general manager Brandon Beane, Diggs may well end this season as the most impactful veteran acquisition in the league this year.

Geoff 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

Three stars from the Buffalo Bills’ Sunday loss at Arizona

The Buffalo Bills’ visit to Arizona ended in heartbreak, but several players still managed to stand out in defeat.

Wide Right. No Goal. Hail Murray?

Kyler Murray’s 43-yard desperation heave landed in the arms of DeAndre Hopkins with two seconds remaining, allowing the Arizona Cardinals to steal a 32-30 victory from the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo (7-3) previously took a lead on a 21-yard scoring hookup between Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs with 34 seconds remaining before Murray had time to work his miracle. The game was overall a struggle for Allen, who threw two interceptions in the second half after the Bills had taken a 23-9 lead. Hopkins earned 127 yards on seven receptions for the victorious Cardinals (6-3).

3rd Star: WR Isaiah McKenzie

McKenzie had a special job at practice this week, donning a late Halloween costume to portray Kyler Murray on the Buffalo scout team this week. It appears that McKenzie was still in character on Sunday, partaking in a Buffalo trick play that accounted for their first points of the ball game. His throw back to Allen after taking a pass behind the line of scrimmage gave the Bills a 7-3 lead after Arizona opened the game with a field. It was the first throw McKenzie launched in his professional career.

2nd Star: K Tyler Bass

Had it not been for a certain play at the end of the game, Tyler might’ve ended the day outscoring Kyler.

The rookie’s status at kicker might’ve been in jeopardy after starting the season 6-of-9, but he has been one of the hottest kickers in football with 13 conversions on his last 16 attempts. Entering Sunday’s action, Bass was only 1-of-3 from field goals of at least 50 yards, but he successfully booted a trio of attempts from such distance on Sunday, including a jaw-dropping, career-best, 58-yard launch that gave the Bills a 16-9 lead at the end of the first half. His first field goal was a single-doink off the right upright from 54 yards away. The Buffalo offense has shown little trouble getting to midfield, so if Bass can establish himself as a legitimate deep threat, the possibilities could be endless.

1st Star: WR Cole Beasley

Sunday’s game was a struggle for Allen, who made several ill-advised throws and mostly dealt with strong pressure on Stefon Diggs, at least until what many thought was the game-winning touchdown. But the lead-up to some of the Bills’ biggest second-half moments came through Beasley, who broke through the Arizona defense at several crucial points.

Beasley tied a career-best with 11 receptions (set less than a month ago in East Rutherford against the Jets) and fell three yards short of his personal best in that category. Three of his four receptions (32 yards) on the final push to the end zone led to Buffalo first downs, including a stunning one-handed grab deep in Buffalo territory that gave the Bills the momentum they needed. Alas, Beasley couldn’t play defense on the Cardinals’ memorable trek, but it was clear from the performances of he and John Brown (6 receptions, 72 yards before leaving the game with an injury) that Buffalo’s receiving threats go far beyond the mere prescience of Diggs.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that shaped the Buffalo Bills’ Sunday fate vs. Seattle

The Buffalo Bills made a definitive statement on Sunday afternoon, topping the NFC front-runners from Seattle in convincing fashion.

The Buffalo Bills were able to silence both the 12th Man and, perhaps, their biggest detractors on Sunday afternoon, earning one of the memorable victories in recent franchise memory on Sunday afternoon.

Josh Allen was responsible for four touchdowns and earned 415 yards through the air, while Stefon Diggs and John Brown united for 227 receiving yards. On defense, the Bills took down Russell Wilson five times (Tremaine Edmunds being responsible for half of that tally) and also forced the renowned Super Bowl champion into two interceptions, paving the way to a 44-34 victory at Bills Stadium. Buffalo (7-2) is off to their best start since 1993…the year of their last Super Bowl appearance. They took down a Seahawks team (6-2) that had entered the day atop the NFC playoff standings.

The gravity of the victory wasn’t lost on observers.

“It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Sunday’s win could be a tone-setter for the Bills,” Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport noted. “They’re after more than just an AFC East title in 2020. This is a team with genuine Super Bowl aspirations, and they showed against the Seahawks that they can take it to one of the better teams in the NFL.”

ESM looks back at the big plays of Sunday’s game, one from each quarter, that could help shape the team’s past, present, and apparently bright future…

1st Quarter: Let’s Hear For the Poyer

The opening frame was a statement for Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense. It was a showing that saw them drastically outplay Seattle, torching the defense for 117 yards over their first two possessions en route to a 14-0 lead. But Seattle has built up their past-decade dominance through adapting to tough situations. Sure enough, Wilson guided the Seahawks to Buffalo’s five-yard-line, facing a single-yard fourth down five yards away from paydirt. It was at that point many expected Seattle to score and restore some semblance of sanity to the proceedings. Alas for The Emerald City, Poyer had other plans.

With Wilson working on his deadly rollout, Poyer started off by keeping an eye on Travis Homer. But the strong Buffalo pass rush forced Wilson to scramble. In slight desperation, he flung a pass that went over the head of Homer and into the waiting arms of Poyer, setting Western New York into hysterics. The Bills would take advantage of the mistake and build their lead back up to 17-0.

It’s perhaps a shame we won’t be having the Pro Bowl this season, as Poyer seems well on his way to making his first. Alas for the NFL’s all-star game, it appears he has his sights set on a bigger bowl of sorts.

2nd Quarter: All-in for Allen

The foreboding sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop has been far too commonplace in 2020. Certainly, the heads of Bills fans across the area were waiting to wake up, thrust away from the dream of owning a three-possession lead on a team many envision topping the NFC at the end of the year. Such leads are entirely erasable in today’s NFL, and Seattle seemed poised to finally do so after scoring a touchdown after the aforementioned Tyler Bass field goal.

It was gut-check time for Buffalo, a team teetering on the cusp of the NFL’s elite. In years past, a collapse may have followed, one that would’ve kept the Bills’ doubters plenty of material. Instead, they embarked on a 75-yard drive that featured the face of their franchise taking another big step on the glory. Josh Allen went 5-for-5 on the next drive, capping things off with a four-yard scoring pass to Gabriel Davis.

It’s been an emotional week for Allen, who lost his grandmother Patricia shortly before the Seattle effort. But Bills fans have come through for their franchise quarterback, donating over $200,000 to a children’s hospital in her honor. Allen seems more than happy to return the love, giving the vocal Bills’ fanbase a reason to hope and believe in a cursed year.

3rd Quarter: Playing the Neal

The Bills’ defense had their own gut check in the latter stages of the third quarter. Their lead was back down to 27-17 and Seattle was driving, inching toward another sense of football normalcy. Buffalo had already shot themselves in the foot earlier in the drive, as Jerry Hughes’ roughing the passer call situated the Seahawks inside their opponent’s 30.

But the Bills held strong with a big stand, as the touchdown threat ended when Wilson’s pass on third-and-seven failed to reach Tyler Lockett in the end zone. Wilson was forced into a desperation heave by secondary pressure from Siran Neal, who came off the edge to push Wilson into a crowded pocket, leading to his inaccurate throw and the Seahawks’ second field goal of the day. It was the last time that Buffalo would truly have to sweat things out; the Bills’ offense would score another touchdown on their next possession, this one being a one-yard rush from Zack Moss, to put them ahead by multiple possessions for good.

4th Quarter: What Can Brown Do For You?

Sunday’s tilt was a game of gut checks, of proving oneself, of impressing the NFL community at large…sending a theme here? But noting such occurrences only strengthens the case that the Bills are one of the NFL’s most dangerous, most elite teams to be reckoned with. They had one more hoops to jump through after the aforementioned Jason Myers field goal, as a six-yard rushing loss had them situated at a 16-yard third down at the fringe of field goal territory.

The ensuing playcall was curious…an Allen screen to John Brown just behinf the line of scrimmage. But the Bills would go on to continue what they’ve done best: prove doubters wrong through team efforts.

Brown’s speed and elusiveness was just one factor behind the play’s success. Strong blocking ahead from Daryl Williams and Ike Boettger helped clear the way, and receiver Cole Beasley even managed to delay a Seattle defender from stopping Brown short. The struggling veteran Brown, seeking some 2020 traction after earning a career-best 1,060 yards last season, was stopped two yards short of the goal line, but the Bills settled the matter shortly after with another minuscule scoring run from Moss.

The defensive effort perhaps left something to be desired, giving up 34 points, but each of the Bills’ gamechanging plays were a team built on resiliency, strength, and collaborative endeavors. It led to what could bar none be the franchise’s biggest, loudest win over the past decade-plus.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags