The Buffalo Bills hadn’t won on Monday Night Football since 1999. Nineteen-ninety-nine! That streak is over, after the Bills confidently returned to relevancy with a 34-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers. The Bills’ defense stood strong when it mattered, and the offense was surgical in stringing together scoring drives, as the Bills put together a lead that couldn’t be surmounted.
The MNF game, which had been billed as a matchup of two physical, fundamentals-driven teams, sure started off that way. Buffalo’s first drive went 11 plays, 74 yards. San Francisco’s was 13 plays, 97 yards. Both drives ended on 4th-and-goal, with defenses standing strong to shut down any score.
Things opened up in a hurry on Buffalo’s second drive, when Zack Moss and Josh Allen messed up a routine handoff. The fumbled ball bounced right to the 49ers, who returned to offense as the Bills’ defense came back onto the field for another goal line stand. This time they couldn’t hold, and the 49ers took a 7-0 lead on Brandon Aiyuk’s touchdown catch.
From this point, the Bills tightened up their focus. Josh Allen drove the offense 77 yards in five plays, finishing with a pinpoint strike to Cole Beasley on a hitch pattern for the touchdown. The defense forced a punt after four plays by the 49ers’ offense. Buffalo continued the trend by marching down the field—14 plays, 69 yards—and scoring another touchdown to Dawson Knox. The 49ers took over from there but punted again, and Buffalo strung together a field goal drive before halftime.
With a 17-7 halftime lead, the Bills’ defense showed a little bit of vulnerability in the dreaded third quarter. San Francisco moved 48 yards in eight plays and scored a field goal. The Bills had the right response, scoring a touchdown on another long drive, courtesy of a well-schemed pass play to a wide-open Isaiah McKenzie.
Now trailing 24-10, the 49ers were clearly in pass mode, and the Bills capitalized with an opportunistic play. Micah Hyde picked off Nick Mullens, and nearly brought the ball all the way to the end zone on his return. The Bills were only able to turn that into a field goal, but a 27-10 lead still meant three scores on the scoreboard.
From there the two teams traded touchdowns—Kyle Juszcyzk outleveraging the Bills’ D to the end zone, and Allen finding a wide-open Gabriel Davis after another methodical drive—leaving the score 34-17 with just under ten minutes remaining in the game.
The 49ers appeared to be stringing together a comeback drive, but it was shut down by Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White. Hyde made a phenomenal goal line tackle on third down. Forced into a fourth down, the 49ers tried a pass play, but White preserved a clean sheet with an interception.
The 49ers were able to score another touchdown before time expired, but their onside kick attempt failed, and the Bills kneeled out the remaining clock.
Now with nine wins and three losses, the Bills made great progress towards locking up the AFC East. Their magic number is Three—wins by the Bills and losses by the Miami Dolphins. One more loss by the New England Patriots will also end their divisional hopes.
Next game for Buffalo? The Pittsburgh Steelers, coming off their first loss of the season. Will they fight back for another win, or start to swoon? The Bills would like to see them taken down.
Various players suffered minor injuries during the game, but returned to keep playing through the rest of the night.
Devin Singletary seemed to have a cramp on the first series, but returned to be the workhorse of the game.
Zack Moss had his own injury, and spent a large chunk of the game sidelined, but it seemed that the Bills benched him for a crucial fumble on the team’s second drive, rather than for injury management.
Jon Feliciano also briefly left with an injury—but he was back on the field before long.
- Brian Winters was benched in the first quarter. Jon Feliciano took over at right guard, and the Bills brought back Ike Boettger at left guard.
- The game was billed as a physical battle, and the first quarter lived up to that billing. Both teams had ten-plus play drives to start the game, and both teams saw their drives end on 4th-and-goal defensive stops.
- First half MVP? Cole Beasley. He set a new career high in receiving yards in a game just through the first two quarters. He petered off in the second half, but was a major part of Buffalo’s ten-point halftime lead.
- Second-half MVP? Can we say Micah Hyde? He had an interception, and his goal line tackle set up Tre’Davious White’s interception. It’s a big reason the Bills still had a 17-point lead through most of the fourth quarter.
- The first Bills punt of the night? Three minutes and forty-four seconds remaining in the game. Seriously.
- It was a phenomenal day for Josh Allen tonight. 32 of 40, 375 passing yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions. He was absolutely locked in from start to finish.
- All deserved credit goes to Buffalo’s offensive line, too. Allen was barely touched tonight. He took a single sack. He was so comfortable making throws because he had time in the pocket.
- Stefon Diggs crossed the 1,000 yard mark tonight, after a nine-catch, 92-yard performance.
- Gabriel Davis had another solid day in relief of John Brown—three catches, 68 yards, and a touchdown.
- After Zack Moss’s fumble, the Bills had a clear running back preference. Devin Singletary had 21 touches tonight, while Moss had four.
- That said, Singletary only turned those into 88 yards.
- Fantastic day for Hyde, who led the team in tackles and had the aforementioned interception.
- Buffalo’s dominance tonight can be summed up in the possession stats: 35 minutes for Buffalo, 25 for San Francisco. The Bills just did not give up the ball once they had it.