Bills win in Foxboro is best of McDermott era

Buffalo Bills

FOXBORO, Mass. (WROC) — Back in the summer, a 12-point win up in Foxboro in late December might have seemed like no big deal. It probably would have been exactly what was expected before the season from a Bills-Patriots game.

This game was, instead, filled with unexpected stars who created a win that might be a very big deal.

It was an amazing performance by the Bills. Top-to-bottom. Stars to role guys. Coaches to players. And it happened after a week where the Bills went through a myriad of Covid changes. Buffalo’s offense played down five key players and yet did not need to punt once against one of the NFL’s top two or three defenses.

I was blown away by how well the offensive line played. That goes before and after the unfortunate injury to Ike Boettger. Josh Allen had plenty of time on plenty of throws against a Patriots team that is top 10 in quarterback pressures. It wasn’t the Great Wall of China every play, but it doesn’t have to be with Allen. It was still really good on some really big plays.

The 4th down conversion to Isaiah McKenzie for a first quarter touchdown is an excellent example. Allen may not make it all the way to finding Mackenzie without all the time the offensive line gave him. It’s the type of game this O-line has put together much all season, no matter who was on the field. By the way, we may need to have a conversation at some point about Ryan Bates as a longer-term offensive line starter.

McKenzie might be the best individual hero story from this game. Just a month ago, he was benched. Inactive after fumble issues returning kicks. He was only pressed into service on offense because Gabriel Davis and Cole Beasley were on the Covid list. McKenzie responded with, what I think, is the best wide receiver game from a Buffalo Bill this season. Better than anything Stefon Diggs or Emmanuel Sanders have done all year.

It wasn’t just the numbers. Eleven catches for 125 yards and that first-quarter touchdown are impressive enough. McKenzie was throwing his body at balls. Getting every ounce of effort out of that NFL-tiny 5-foot-8, 170-pound frame. The first quarter TD wasn’t his only big catch. He also converted the third down that opened the fourth quarter game-sealing touchdown drive.

Mackenzie is a smiley, happy guy that’s easy to root for. He very likely lost a little of that smile and a little of that happiness after his midseason demotion. It’s a redemption story that probably makes anybody who follows the Bills feel a little warm and fuzzy, but especially everyone in the organization.

It also sure doesn’t hurt that your fifth-best receiver has an 11-catch, buck-25 game in the arsenal.

On the other end of all those throws was Allen with another virtuoso performance. The little flip to Diggs that converted the final third down for the Bills is the play that’ll probably end up on all the highlight shows, but that was just one note in a symphony. He was able to dance and extend plays when the offensive line started to break down just a touch in the second half. His zinger to Diggs that converted a third-and-long for another touchdown was a fastball only a couple other guys could throw.

I really how liked how decisive Allen was in the first half getting the ball underneath to Devin Singletary among others. Holding the ball and looking downfield a bit too long was a bugaboo for Allen earlier in the year. The Bills almost checkdown’d the Patriots to death in the first half. Somewhere, I could imagine Trent Edwards was nodding his head saying, “See?!”.

I’m sure there were a ton of fans with the same reaction watching Sean McDermott push the issue on 4th down right from the start. He actually had the field goal team about halfway out on the field before that first quarter fourth down try. McDermott ran out to the numbers after changing his mind to make sure the offense stayed on the field.

I don’t know how much that play set any tones or sent any messages to his team, but it was the right decision. It was good to see McDermott being aggressive with his offense and pushing the issue because when you have Allen, that’s usually a smart play.

I thought the Bills were going to get their first one-score win of the year for most of the second half. This was the game where it seemed a few of the big breaks were finally going their way. They got the deflected interception and J.C. Jackson dropped what was probably a walk-in pick-six early in the fourth quarter. Even when Jerry Hughes appeared to rough Mac Jones out of bounds while he was actually trying to prevent trouble (a true Christmas miracle), the officials got together and correctly picked up the flag.

That’s not what the Bills do. Not when they’re at their best. They don’t mess around with teams. They bury them. They did it in Kansas City and they did it again in Foxboro.

It’s funny how three nearly perfect hours on one afternoon can wash away just about an entire season’s worth of frustration. The Bills are back on top of the AFC East, two home wins against middling or worse teams away from a second consecutive division championship. They’re going to be home to start the playoffs and, right this second, it feels like the AFC Championship rematch between the Bills and Chiefs at Arrowhead is around the corner. If the Bills play three games like this one in January, not Pat Mahomes or anyone else in the AFC will stop them.

The Bills not only slayed the Belichick Dragon, they did it in the dragon’s own lair. They did it amid a week of intense uncertainty. They gave the upstart Patriots and their rookie quarterback the Heisman and reminded everyone Buffalo still runs the division.

It would have been crazy to think back in the summer, but I think this win at New England is the Bills’ best win of the McDermott era. And it might be the springboard for a whole lot more.

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