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Opinion: Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills may have just played the best game in team history

USA TODAY
USA TODAY
 2022-01-16

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — There was a point in the second quarter of Saturday night’s stunning AFC wild-card game when I started thinking back to January 1991.

That was the year of the Buffalo Bills’ first Super Bowl appearance and to get to Tampa they played two of the most remarkable playoff games we’ve ever seen at the place that was then called Rich Stadium.

First there was the 44-34 victory over the arch-rival Dolphins on a snowy afternoon, Jim Kelly outdueling Dan Marino in an epic shootout. And then, of course, the greatest game any Bills team has ever played, the 51-3 annihilation of the Raiders that sent the Bills to Super Bowl 25.

That’s what Buffalo’s 47-17 steamrolling of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots felt like to me, an utter domination that left the losing team battered and broken.

And while blowing out the Raiders of Al Davis was certainly sweet, blowing out the Evil Empire? Yeah, recency bias aside, that seems better, especially given the history between these two teams, which was so one-sided as the Patriots embarrassed the Bills for nearly two decades.

My, how the tables have turned as Sean McDermott has now beaten Belichick in four of their last five meetings.

On a bitterly cold night , a raucous sellout crowd was so busy cheering it didn’t have time to think about the single-digit temperature. Without question, this was one of the most memorable Bills’ postseason victories in their history.

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Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen celebrates a touchdown pass with center Mitch Morse during the second half against the New England Patriots. Rich Barnes, USA TODAY Sports

I think Kelly and Thurman Thomas, two of the architects of those playoff wins 30 years ago who led the charge before the opening kickoff and whipped the already juiced crowd into a frenzy, would probably agree.

Here are my immediate post-game takeaways:

Josh Allen was a man among boys

The Buffalo quarterback was out of his mind all night. It was as exquisite a performance any Buffalo quarterback has ever put forth, and again, I’m sure Kelly would be nodding his head in agreement.

He took the field seven times in this game, and produced a touchdown every single time. I’m not sure any QB in NFL history has ever done that.

He completed 21 of 25 passes for 308 yards and five touchdowns, ran six times for 66 yards, and didn’t commit a turnover. If we thought his game up in Foxborough the day after Christmas was his best ever, this one beat that.

If you take it back to that game, chew on this unbelievable statistic. Eliminating the two end-of-half possessions at Gillette when the Bills weren’t trying to score, Allen and the Bills scored on 13 of their last 14 possessions against the Pats, including 11 touchdowns. Can you even fathom that? Against a Belichick defense which was one of the stingiest in the NFL this season?

You knew this was going to be Allen’s night on the very first possession. He took off on a 26-yard run, followed it with a 15-yarder, and then threw an eight-yard TD pass to Dawson Knox where he kept the play alive way longer than most QBs would have or could have before throwing a perfect ball that only Knox could catch. Oh, and then Knox made a great catch for the TD.

We didn’t know it then, but the game was as good as over.

Shocking to see a Belichick team so stagnant

There was no question in my mind that the Bills had the better team. Never mind that the regular-season series was split; we know that if the wind hadn’t blown the way it did in the game at Highmark Stadium, the Bills probably would have won that one, too.

What stunned me about this game was just how flat the Patriots came out, and how unprepared they looked.

I mean, they had faced Allen eight times since he came into the league in 2018 and you would have thought this was the first game they’d ever seen him.

He toyed with them in a way we’ve hardly ever seen a quarterback, or a team for that matter, toy with a Belichick team. I’m too far away in the press box, and not watching on TV unless I need to see a replay, but I would have loved to have seen Belichick’s face on some of the plays Allen pulled off.

He had to be tearing his hair out. Remember that time last year when he fired his Microsoft Surface to the ground? Saturday, if he had a Surface, an iPad, an iPhone and a laptop at his disposal, they would all have been in serious trouble.

Devin Singletary, Isaiah McKenzie have made a difference

Give Allen all the props in the world; he played like the superstar he is. But one of the biggest keys for the Bills during the five-game winning streak they are now on has been the emergence of Singletary and McKenzie.

Singletary has never played better than he has in the last month-plus. Now that the offensive line has a solid five-man group since Ryan Bates took over at left guard, Singletary is getting creases to run through, and he has been decisive rather than dancing around behind the line of scrimmage.

He has given the Bills a true threat at running back which he, Zack Moss and Matt Breida had not produced for much of the year. Allen is a huge threat as a runner, but the Bills needed to move the ball on the ground in the traditional way, and now they are.

Since Tampa Bay, the Bills averaged 161.8 yards rushing in their last five regular-season games. Allen had plenty of it, for sure, but Singletary chipped in 375 in those games and averaged 4.68 yards with five TDs. Then he tacked on 81 on 16 carries against the Patriots and scored twice.

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And then there’s McKenzie. He had his breakout game at Foxborough, 11 catches for 125 yards, and Saturday, he once again tormented the Patriots with three rushes for 29 yards and three catches for 45 yards.

Those numbers don’t look awe-inspiring, but here’s why they’re so important: He gives Allen yet another weapon, another dynamic player that defenses have to account for, and that opens things up for Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Emmanuel Sanders and Knox.

“I think we feel good,” Allen said after the game. “There’s some things that we can clean up and work on. But at the end of the day, we moved on, we’re on to the next one and it doesn’t matter what we did today. It’s what we do next week. We’ve got to put our foot forward and be ready for the next one.”

If the Chiefs advance Sunday night, Buffalo at Kansas City is going to be one fun game.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Opinion: Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills may have just played the best game in team history

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