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Game Balls: Bills’ best of Week 16

The Isaiah McKenzie game

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie had himself a career day against the New England Patriots, this much we already know. While he’s deservedly the team’s player of the game, there were others who played huge key roles for Buffalo’s victory in Foxborough.

McKenzie went plaid last Sunday, catching 11 passes on 12 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown on 4th & GOAL. He did this all against a vaunted Patriots defense while appearing on 85 percent of the offensive snaps. While much of the lead up to the Week 16 rematch centered around weather and COVID-19 discussions, Isaiah McKenzie’s play served up a deafening reverberation within the confines of Gillette Stadium. Sunday’s performance may also serve McKenzie well in the future, as the team may have decisions to make at the slot receiver position for 2022 and beyond. While Cole Beasley’s talent and contributions have been tremendous, he isn’t getting any younger and represents a much higher cost to the Bills over someone with McKenzie’s upside. Needless to say, these next two weeks and the postseason beyond will be huge for Isaiah McKenzie.

Josh Allen. Josh @!#$%^&*@$’in Allen! In Allen’s short NFL career, we’ve here at Buffalo Rumblings have oft discussed his transcendent abilities and performances. He’s already re-written the team’s record books (and re-written some of those re-writes), as well as some within the greater NFL record books. Last Sunday wasn’t his most impressive game from a pure statistical standpoint, but it may have been his most dominant and incredible. That’s quite a statement to make, considering he completed 30 of his 47 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns—AND joined Jim Kelly and Joe Ferguson on the Bills’ list of quarterbacks with 100+ TD passes. Josh Allen is THEE answer to the franchise’s quarterback question. Last Sunday saw Josh Allen playing with conviction, intent on showing the world why he they should have been talking about him in the way many do about Mac Jones. He made at least a half dozen otherworldly throws straight out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the game’s most critical moments—fourth downs at the goal and to decide the game—Allen personified the idea of “franchise quarterback.” The Buffalo Bills will likely go as far as Josh Allen takes them—and that’s about as important a concept as exists for an NFL team.

Aiding Allen was of course the phenomenal (yes, really) play of the offensive line. Much-maligned for most of the 2021 season, Sunday marked perhaps one of the unit’s best outings of the year, despite the wrath injuries and COVID deactivations played. As a whole, they surrendered zero sacks and cleared enough lanes for Devin Singletary and co. to navigate through towards the next level of the defense, all while allowing Josh Allen to find an open receiver time and again.

Of course it’s important to recognize Stefon Diggs’s effort while dealing with multiple injuries. Even when teams key in on Diggs and he’s less than 100 percent, it’s clearly impossible to stop him from making a defense pay.

It would be an oversight to leave out Buffalo’s incredible tandem at safety. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde may never receive the public accolades they so deserve, but both are key to what the Bills have accomplished on defense. On Sunday, Hyde hauled in a pair of interceptions by Mac Jones—the later of which he “stole” from Poyer. Try to find a safety duo more talented and important to their team—or don’t because it doesn’t exist.

Head coach Sean McDermott had recently come under fire for his perceived timid play calling and decisions. Against the Patriots, he abandoned safety like Jack Sparrow confronting Davey Jones’ Locker. Some may argue that playing not to lose earlier this season might have cost the Bills a win or two in the month prior. So when McDermott repeatedly chose to go for it on fourth down, even when a field goal was automatic, it seemed to signal an “a-ha” moment. Zero punts. None executed against a Bill Belichick team for the first time in history.

Buffalo’s pair of key coordinators were on fire Sunday. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll drew up a masterful game plan against a stout New England defense that had previously bottled up much of the team’s offense in early December. Perhaps it’s a more worthy discussion now to say that weather played a major role in that effort. Defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier continued his stellar season calling the defense on Sunday. His unit effectively removed Hunter Henry and Mac Jones from the game, which proved key in countering their idea that the run wasn’t going to be what beat them.

Surely, there are others who deserve mention following such a resounding beatdown, but I’ll leave that up to you in the comments.