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Buffalo Bills 38, Pittsburgh Steelers 3: Rapid recap and notes

That was a fun time

Always trust Las Vegas. The gambling backrooms held a betting line firm at 14 points in favor of the Buffalo Bills, despite a slew of starters and key players expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bills covered that spread by the halfway point of the second quarter and didn’t look back, eviscerating the Steelers in a 38-3 blowout win that was settled before halftime.

It was a gusty day down in Highmark Stadium, with Pittsburgh missing two field goal attempts into wayward breezes, but quarterback Josh Allen read the winds like a pro golfer all afternoon. He used just about every throw in his arsenal, throwing touchdown passes of 15 yards, 24 yards, 62 yards, and 98 yards (the last one aided by a healthy dose of wide receiver Gabe Davis running after the catch). He almost had a one-yard shovel pass for a fifth touchdown, but the receiver fumbled it inches shy of the end zone.

All in all, Allen was 20-of-31 for a whopping 424 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. He added five carries for 42 yards, setting personal yardage records before he sat out almost the entire fourth quarter. His 466 total yards of offense is a franchise record, though Drew Bledsoe owns the passing record at 463.

It was a great return for Davis, who sleepwalked through the past two games while he rehabbed an ankle injury on the job. He caught two passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns before halftime, ripping the top off of the Steelers’ defense while the game was still fresh. Rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir had a coming-out party, grabbing three passes for 75 yards and the first TD of his career. Rookie running back James Cook also found his first NFL touchdown with a slashing 24-yard run in the fourth quarter. All-in-all, the offense had an A-plus day.

Defensively, the Bills turned in their customary shutdown performance, even missing linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde in the lineup (along with rookie cornerback Christian Benford). Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett drove his teammates down the field and avoided catastrophe in his start against the Bills, but Pittsburgh couldn’t punch it into the end zone even once.

This was the ideal setup for the Bills ahead of their blockbuster matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. They blew out their opponent, avoided major injuries, rested their starters and gave time to their backups. Plus, they sealed the win without needing their numerous injured starters.

At 4-1, the Bills will benefit from a Miami Dolphins loss and vault back into first place in the AFC East. Up next: a major obstacle in quarterback Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid.

Injury report

  • DT Jordan Phillips re-injured his hamstring in the second quarter of his return after a couple weeks missed from the injury.

Quick hits

  • You won’t see a wild opening like this game featured more than a few times in your life. From a muffed kickoff, to a 98-yard touchdown, to another muffed kickoff leading to a turnover, to a blocked field goal attempt, this game had no shortage of fireworks in the opening minutes.
  • You think Gabe Davis is feeling healthy again? Two catches for 160 yards and two TDs... before halftime.
  • In his “revenge” game, cornerback Levi Wallace made an emphatic statement about his talent with a leaping end zone interception against his former team. Since the Bills won the game, it’s okay to spend a few seconds feeling happy for the cornerback. Here’s hoping his concussion is nothing serious.
  • Third-year receiver Isaiah Hodgins made it onto the roster for the second game of his career today, due to the decimated receiving corps on the Bills’ roster. Congrats to Hodgins, who caught his first career pass in the second quarter. He finished with four catches for 41 yards.
  • With Edmunds inactive today, we were wondering who would start in his place—veteran linebacker Tyrel Dodson or third-round rookie linebacker Terrel Bernard. Dodson was the guy. He led the team with 11 tackles, and notched one sack and one tackle for a loss.
  • Explosive plays were on the menu in Buffalo’s matchup against Pittsburgh’s aggressive defensive scheme, missing some teeth without T.J. Watt. The team had nine plays that gained at least 20 yards, and averaged 10.7 yards per play—and that’s including the time when they went into clock-killing mode.
  • Rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam finished with an up-and-down day. Elam notched his first career interception, but gave up a pass interference penalty. He was also the nearest defender for most of rookie wide receiver George Pickens’s six catches for 83 yards.
  • Nothing personal, Sam Martin: the Buffalo Bills weren’t booing you when you punted in the fourth quarter. They just wanted to finish one more game without kicking the ball away to the other team. Close, but no cigar.

Next week

A 4:25 PM Eastern showdown with their nemesis, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs, currently 3-1, will be playing on Monday Night Football against the Las Vegas Raiders before hosting the Bills on Sunday.