My Buffalo Blues: Week 17 – Evaluating the Bills’ Performance, with Love, on a Weekly Basis

The troops were out in force to celebrate

The Buffalo Bills capped off their excellent 2020 season with another dominant win and extended their win streak to 6-games, tied for the longest active streak in the league with Green Bay. A 10-win Miami Dolphins team rode into Western New York needing a win to make the playoffs, but they left with their playoff dreams shattered by a 56-26 beatdown. There’s no question the Fins are a good team, which only makes the Bills’ performance that much more impressive. However, things didn’t start off ideally for Buffalo. 

Dolphins’ cornerback Byron Jones put an end to the Bills opening drive with a fantastic interception where he jumped the route, tipped the ball, then gained control, and toe-tapped along the sideline. That set the Fins up with a short field for a Jason Sanders field goal. Nonetheless, a turnover and losing the possession lead to start a pivotal division showdown was less than ideal. In fact, the whole first quarter raised a lot of questions as the Miami defense forced quick punts on the Bills’ next two possessions. After 15-minutes, it appeared as though Buffalo was in for a dog fight. However, once the 2nd quarter rolled around, the tide turned quickly. 

Isaiah McKenzie was just clowning at this point with his 84-yard punt return TD

Isaiah McKenzie has been in the league since 2017 but he had his coming-out party against the Dolphins on Sunday. He reminds me of Tyreek Hill and I’ve enjoyed watching him get some more opportunities this season as Brian Daboll’s offense has grown. With Cole Beasley out due to a leg injury, McKenzie found himself with an expanded role and he did not waste the chance. He scored the game’s first touchdown on a 7-yard reception to give the Bills the lead, but he wasn’t done. McKenzie caught a 14-yarder on Buffalo’s next possession to put them up 14-3. Already having a day that doubled his career receiving TDs, Zee_thoven (as he’s known on Instagram) conducted a masterful, 84-yd, punt-return touchdown when the Fins’ ensuing possession stalled. After a scoreless first quarter, he dropped 3-Tds in 10-minutes to put the Bills up 21-3. McKenzie undoubtedly had his best season as a pro, catching 5-TDs, rushing for two more, throwing his first TD pass, and dazzling on his first special teams’ score. Buffalo has a glut of talent at the wide receiver position and it was especially nice to see Isaiah have this kind of performance to close out the season, but he wasn’t the only player to have a big day.

Josh Allen submitted his final argument for the league’s Most Valuable Player, throwing for 224-yards and 3-TDs in the first half and breaking the single-season franchise mark for passing yardage previously held by Drew Bledsoe. Allen finishes the season ranking in the Top-5 in completion percentage, passing yards, passing TDs, and QB rating. Throw in his 8-rushing TDs and he has 45-total on the season. It’s an uphill battle with Aaron Rodgers playing incredible this season, but Allen has definitely solidified himself as #2 in the MVP race.

Stefon Diggs (14) Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins, January 3, 2021 at Bills Stadium.
  Photo by Bill Wippert

Stefon Diggs didn’t score in the season finale, but he did secure 7-catches for 76-yards en route to securing the receiving title with 1,535-yards and the league lead in receptions with 127, good for 6th most all-time. His 8-TDs is a solid number, but 10 shy of Davante Adams’ 18-TDs and only 15th on the year as Allen had a pretty diverse distribution list. Diggs has a strong claim as the league’s best receiver, having had the best year of his career, but it’s a close race with Adams who wasn’t too far behind in yards and catches despite missing two games. 

Rookie WR Gabriel Davis also punctuated his strong rookie season with 107-yards and a TD in the finale. He finished the season with 35-receptions, 599-yards, and 7-TDs which puts him in the Top-10 among rookies in receptions, yards, and TDs. That’s a heck of a rookie season. Zack Moss had a solid rookie campaign as well, rushing for 481-yards and 4-TDs. He only played in 13-games which resulted in 112-carries, but his 4.3-yards/carry was effective. It may be easy to overlook but Moss’ YPC is better than that of Kareem Hunt, Ezekiel Elliot, Kenyan Drake, Josh Jacobs, and Joe Mixon. The playoffs will be a telling time for the young players but, given the chance, the Bills’ rookies have produced. 

Welcome back John Brown as he smoked the defense on this 32-yard score

Going back to game flow, once Buffalo scored the first touchdown it was an avalanche from that point on. McKenzie’s three scores put the Bills up 21-3. Miami managed a field goal before John Brown was welcomed back into the fold with a 32-yard TD. With the score 28-6 at the half, it was all but over and Buffalo was content to pull their starters to start the 3rd quarter. The Fins did score a TD to start the 3rd quarter and cut the lead to 15-pts but, after forcing a Bills’ punt, Josh Norman jumped a Tua Tagovailoa pass and returned it for the TD. Miami would turn the ball over on four consecutive series and five of their last seven, including three picks by Tua. This was a game the Fins needed desperately but the Buffalo defense was overwhelming. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Josh-Norman.jpg
Josh Norman showed his value throughout the season and cashed in with a pick-six in Week 17

There were a lot of matchups with playoff berths at stake and Miami certainly got the worst draw. The Browns barely beat a Pittsburgh team without several starters, but Baltimore, Tennessee, and Indianapolis played teams with a combined W-L record of 9-38-1 (Cincy, Houston, and Jacksonville respectively). The Ravens handled business, but the Titans damn near lost, and the Colts didn’t look amazing against the worst team in football that had nothing to play for. The Bills took a 10-win Miami team who was 5-2 over their previous seven games and dismantled them up and down the field, on both sides of the ball. Of all the matchups with something on the line, Buffalo had the best performance against the best competition in week 17. 

Performance Grade: A+

The win secured the #2 seed and the Titans’ last-second gave the Colts an appointment in Western New York. The first playoff game in Buffalo since 1996 kicks off Wild Card Super Weekend on Saturday morning. I’m not as worried about the Colts as I was six weeks ago. Since that win over Tennessee, their supposedly stellar defense has been giving up more than 26-points/game and they struggled with the Texans twice. I will break down this game in more detail separately, but they’ve shown much more vulnerability down the stretch than the Bills who’ve won their last six in a row by double-digits and, if not for the Hail Murray, would be on a 10-game win streak. 

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