FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (WROC) — Before the Bills’ Thanksgiving game against the Saints, Isaiah McKenzie was a little down in warmups. He had just been demoted, was going to be inactive, and was not at all his usual smiling, laughing, and joking self. Earlier in the day, he had tweeted that you had seen the last of him that season.
McKenzie rebounded with a vengeance just one holiday later with an eleven-catch, 125-yard performance with a touchdown in the Bills 33-21 win over the Patriots.
It wasn’t just the numbers that impressed it, was the important spots that McKenzie made some of his best plays. It was the kind of redemptive performance that made many in this organization feel a little bit warm and fuzzy.
“Means a lot to him but I think it means a lot to everybody on his team. A guy like that who’s had his ups and downs throughout the year,” said Josh Allen. “Loses the returning position, is sat for a couple of games and, comes out and he was unbelievable today.”
“That was my first time sitting down in a while and I just had to take heave and think to myself what can I do better,” said McKenzie. “I just show up to practice every day, get my teammates better and do whatever I’ve got to do to make myself and my teammates better. All my coaches believed in me, Josh believed in me, threw me the ball, and I made plays. That’s all I wanted to do to help this team win.”
“He’s a stormtrooper,” said left tackle Dion Dawkins. “He shows his personality on and off the field. I am extremely thankful to have a guy like that as a teammate, as the whole locker room is.”
McKenzie shined with Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis on the COVID list, leading to an increase in playing time. He made critical catches— the first touchdown of the game, a key third down conversion on their final touchdown drive, and many others en route to his biggest receiving performance of his career.
“Everybody told me to just keep my head up, stay confident, and when you get your opportunity just take advantage of it,” said McKenzie. “It was my turn and I had to just step up for my team.”
“He’s passionate about what he does and how he does things,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “So it’s a great testament to him the way he’s worked to get himself back to get in this position to have this opportunity. When given the opportunity, he stepped up. I think that’s a lesson for our entire team.”
“Just an absolutely phenomenal day for him and I’m so happy for him,” added Allen. “I can’t express that enough.”
McKenzie said that both Beasley and Davis, while on the Covid list, did their best to help out the team from home on the phone even though both could not be with the Bills as they got ready for the Patriots. But this game was about McKenzie and the way he stepped up in a big spot.
He talked at length about what he learned during his demotion, but summarized the experience by saying that he learned from it and never wants to go back. If he keeps performing as he did on Sunday, he may never get close to the bench again.