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

Buffalo Bills: Tyler Bass emerges as the difference in win over Jets

Buffalo Bills rookie kicker Tyler Bass accounted for every visitors’ point on Sunday after against the New York Jets.

Tyler Bass’ propensity for the three-pointer on Sunday would have him fitting right with the WNBA’s New York Liberty, they of over 600 attempts from that range during their 22-game trek in the Bradenton bubble.

Bass won’t be hitting the hardwood anytime soon, but his three-pointers still came up big for a New York-based squad on Sunday. The rookie kicker accounted for every point the Buffalo Bills scored in New Jersey, becoming the catalyst behind an 18-10 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. His six successful conversions tied a team-record previously set by team legend Steve Christie, who matched the tally in a 1996 victory…ironically also against the Jets in Jersey.

“It’s amazing,” Bass said of his afternoon, per Jourdon LaBarber & Dante Lasting of “I just couldn’t have done it without the guys up front, couldn’t have done it without (long snapper) Reid (Ferguson), (punter/holder Corey Bojorquez), the coaches for believing in me. But, yeah, it’s a good feeling that we won. That’s most important. I know I got some things to clean up but other than that I was very proud of what happened.”

At the onset of the game, Bass was destined by some to be history rather than making it; entering the contest with a 6-of-9 conversion rate, Bass ended Buffalo’s first drive with a 45-yard miss, a mistake that contributed to an early 10-0 deficit. He would later earn successful attempts from 53 and 48 yards out (the latter coming at the very end of the first half) and later gave Buffalo the lead for good with two more in the third quarter (these from 46 and 37 yards away).

However, doubt began to creep back into the Buffalo fan’s mindset with Bass missed another 37-yard attempt, keeping the affair at a slim two-point lead going into the final stanzas. In the time of trouble, Bass turned to an unusual, yet special, source of motivation…his eye black.

Bass notably wears eye black, an athletic tradition said to reduce glare, under only one of his eyes, something CBS announcers Greg Gumbel and Rich Gannon made note of during the course of the game. Asked about his unusual set up after the game, Bass said it’s a subtle reminder of the 2019 Cure Bowl, his final college game at Georgia Southern.

“It’s just something I do,” he said, per LaBarber and Lasting. “(It) makes me feel more than a kicker at times. (In) my last game of my college career, I had an ‘M.’ That was for my grandma. We were in a little Cure Bowl which was about breast cancer. So, kind of since then I just use it and it kind of gives me a little confidence.”

Called upon twice more in the fourth quarter, Bass was able to convert his later opportunities and help create the final margin. Buffalo’s defense took care of the rest, as a Jerry Hughes interception of Sam Darnold on the final drive put an end to the Jets’ comeback bid.

In the aftermath of the win, which ended Buffalo’s two-game losing streak, quarterback Josh Allen noted that the distress of not reaching the end zone was offset by Bass’ effectiveness.

“We have to find ways to finish in the end zone,” Allen declared, per Adam Unger of WKBW-TV. “A couple of penalties pushed us back and put us in a bad position, and shout out to T-Bass for making all those kicks and getting us the win.”

“It’s not about how many you make, it’s about what you do after you miss,” Bass also noted in Unger’s report. “Anyone can handle stuff when things are easy, just about. When something goes wrong, it’s just about, how do you handle that?”

Bills head coach Sean McDermott was certainly pleased with the way Bass answered that question on Sunday.

“Coming up with three instead of seven, that’s what keeps a team in the game,” McDermott said, per Unger. “I thought special teams, Tyler Bass, I know he had a couple of miscues, but at the end of the day he made some big-time kicks in some big-time moments in the game.”

Bass and the Bills (5-2) return to action on Sunday at home against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that decided the Buffalo Bills’ Sunday fate vs. the NY Jets

It wasn’t pretty, but the Buffalo Bills got back in the win column with a win over their divisional rivals in East Rutherford.

The Buffalo Bills’ latest Sunday endeavor was all about the Bass.

Rookie kicker Tyler Bass booted a team-record six field goals on eight attempts, while their defense allowed only four yards in the second half. The offensive performance left a touchdown to be desired, but the Bills (5-2) were able to earn an 18-10 decision over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Buffalo got back to the win column after consecutive losses. They trailed 10-6 at the halftime break, but shutout the Jets in the latter portion while Bass booted his triples.

“I think for us, figuring out how they were going to attack us, really helped us out,” defender Jerry Hughes said of the halftime shift, per Matt Bove of WBKW-TV. “Working with our coaching staff, everything really just fell perfectly into place in the second half.”

ESM looks back on four big plays, one from each quarter, that shaped Buffalo’s present or future…for better or worse.

1st Quarter: Double Order of Buffalo Swing

Early in the game, the Bills appeared to be channeling the late, great, fictional Admiral Gial Ackbar by silently declaring “It’s a trap…game!”.

Somewhat rejuvenated by the return of franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, the Bills allowed the Jets to infiltrate the red zone, as the green New Jerseyans were 17 yards away from the end zone on their opening drive. It was a process, but the Jets’ early momentum took a massive hit on one play involving two key defenders.

A shared seven-yard sack from AJ Epensa and Trent Murphy stopped the Jets’ aspirations for a red zone touchdown before they ever truly began. Still getting his rhythm back, Darnold could only muster an eight-yard pass to Breshad Perriman and a failed attempt to Denzel Mims, unable to take advantage of five free yards afforded back to them on a Buffalo offsides penalty. The Jets left that drive with a field goal, missing out on a chance to score a touchdown and truly establish early momentum.

2nd Quarter: Diggs with the Bigs

Diggs failed to recapture his early momentum, held to under 50 yards receiving for the second straight game. But the receptions he did make on Sunday…nabbing six for 48 yards…proved that his sense of clutch play was one of the many reasons the Bills traded for the former Minnesota playoff hero.

With the Jets having done the unthinkable in not only scoring a touchdown but also building a two-possession lead at 10-0, the Bills were facing a seven-yard third down at their own 38, sending the Jets’ invisible crowd into a frenzy. Covered by Pierre Desir, who was later called for an illegal contact penalty, Diggs took a short pass from Josh Allen and was able to produce nine yards en route to a vital first down. The penalty was declined, and the Bills would later enjoy the first of Bass’ six field goals on the afternoon.

Diggs would later come up big in the trek to another Bass finisher, earning a 12-yard gain in the third quarter that shrank the Jets’ lead to 10-9.

3rd Quarter: Tyler’s Burden

By the end of Sunday’s affair, Bass had missed nearly as many kicks in his rookie campaign as former specialist staple Steven Hauschka had in each of the last two seasons (having posted matching postings of 22-of-28 in 2018-19). Some even felt that Bass’ job could’ve been on the line prior to Sunday’s proceedings, but it’ll be hard to do that when he just tied a team record also held by 1990s hero Steve Christie.

Bass did miss two more field goals on the afternoon, but he managed to permanently give Buffalo the lead with a 37-yard boot after he failed to tighten things up at the end of the half.

Bass later remarked that it was the words of head coach Sean McDermott that kept his hopes up during a very trying process.

“Coach always talks about character,” Bass said, per Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News. “It’s really not about how many you make. It’s about what you do after a miss, after something goes wrong. Anyone can handle stuff when things are easy. It’s just about when something goes wrong, how do you handle that? You don’t let it define you. You just trust everything you’ve done in practice that week.”

4th Quarter: Coming Up Hughes

The Bills saw several players come up big in Sunday’s victory. On offense, Cole Beasly earned new career-bests (11 receptions, 112 yards) while Tyler Kroft (6 receptions, 84 yards) stood up for a depleted tight end group. Defensively, however, the usual suspects rose to the occasion, particularly on the final drive of the game.

Despite sheer domination in the second half, the Jets’ offense still had a chance to send the game into overtime by getting the ball back with a mere eight-point deficit. But the defense shut down any hope of a comeback through a vital effort from Hughes.

Still seeking the proper respect one of the most consistent names in the league should garner, Hughes opened the drive by swarming the backfield and sacking Darnold. A dangerous hit from Micah Hyde on Breshad Perriman gave the Jets 15 free yards, but more Hughes pressure forced Darnold into a desperate interception, one that commenced the Buffalo celebration. The interception was made possible by a deflection from Quinton Jefferson.

“What are the odds that you have a ball floating around in the D-line territory?” Hughes said with a smile of his big moment, per Jason Wolf of The Buffalo News. “So why not grab it, run around with it, try to score? Let’s have some fun. But certainly, got to get down so we can end that game.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags