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Bills Today: Isaiah McKenzie sparked the offense with career highs despite his injury


1 – Isaiah McKenzie sparked the offense with career highs despite his injury

For a brief second, Isaiah McKenzie's breakout sophomore campaign appeared to be over.

The wideout fell to the turf while returning a punt in the third quarter of Buffalo's Week 15 matchup with the Lions. McKenzie, who went untouched on the play, could not get back to his feet under his own power. He appeared to be in pain as the medical cart took him to the locker room.

Fans were shocked when McKenzie trotted back to the sideline just a few moments later.

The injury, which initially appeared to be quite serious, was just the culmination of three quarters' worth of wear and tear.

"I twisted my ankle on a sweep [before the return]," McKenzie said. "Then on the punt, I cramped up both of my calves pretty badly. I just had to get an IV and get going."

Rarely will you see a carted off player return just minutes after sustaining an injury. If it were up to McKenzie, he wouldn't have been carted off in the first place.

"For me, it was like, embarrassing to get the cart," McKenzie said. "But I couldn't move. So it was like, 'Man, I can't move, I need the cart.' I was telling them not to, but at the same time in my mind, I was like 'I need it.'"

McKenzie's return ultimately benefited the Bills, as he helped the team come out on the winning end of the contest. The 23-year-old established new career highs in receptions and receiving yards in the victory, reeling in six passes for 53 yards.

Though McKenzie's physical toughness was made apparent in his unexpected return, his mental toughness was also put on display. Just minutes after returning, he went out for another punt return. The play that nearly cost him his season was already out of his mind.

"No [fear]," McKenzie said. "I love punt returns. To me, it's my favorite. I know my ankle was hurting and things like that, but I was like, 'I have to catch the ball, I still have to help the team win.' So that's what I did, came out there will full confidence. There was no lack of confidence at all."

2 - Keith Ford was Buffalo's lone survivor at running back

When the Bills rushed the field ahead of their Week 15 matchup with the Lions, Keith Ford stayed near the back of the pack.

He took in the moment, realizing that he was about to achieve a lifelong goal.

"It was more of a soothing sensation," Ford said. "It was more getting my mind right and blocking out the noise, and calming down. Just relaxing. All week, my coaches were like, 'Hey, don't be too high.' I tried to very calmly relax and not get overwhelmed."

After spending the first 14 weeks of his rookie campaign on Buffalo's practice squad, Ford suited up for his first NFL game on Sunday. Injuries to LeSean McCoy and Chis Ivory necessitated his call-up, and it was an injury to substitute starter Marcus Murphy that prompted Ford to see considerable playing time in his debut.

Ford rushed for 46 yards on 14 carries in the victory, leading the team in rushing. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound ballcarrier put his power on display, often putting his head down and fighting for extra yards.

While playing well in his NFL debut was certainly a satisfying experience for Ford, the fact that he helped his team win is what he'll remember most.

"It's just to the point where I'm not doing it for me, I'm not doing it for my parents, nothing. I'm 1/11th," Ford said. "I've got to play my role and do what I have to do to contribute. When your name is called, you've got to be ready. Got to."

3 - 'Zo - Young players are getting it

Buffalo's rookie class was the catalyst to the team's Week 15 win over the Lions.

Josh Allen completed 13 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown. Undrafted free agent Robert Foster was on the receiving end of his quarterback's touchdown pass, a 42-yard score that put him at 108 receiving yards on the day.

Defensively, the consistently sound Tremaine Edmunds was effective yet again, totaling eight tackles. Starting in his fifth career game, the undrafted Levi Wallace made an impact, recording six tackles and one tackle for loss.

It was due in large part to their young players that the Bills left New Era Field with a victory on Sunday. Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander feels as though Buffalo's core is starting to click.

"These guys are getting it," Alexander said. "When you're young, there's a learning curve in trying to figure out how to win games, but we've got a lot of guys that are coming on strong here from Tremaine to Rob [Foster] to Zay [Jones], there's a lot of young guys out there.

"Everybody has gotten a lot better from the beginning of the year. This group has kind have been a little different. They're young, millennials, but I really like their progression of becoming professionals. You can really see it, there's a huge difference between what they looked like as rookies coming into OTAs until now. There's been some ups and downs, but these guys are really starting to understand what it takes to become professionals in this league."

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