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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills vs. Dolphins | Week 17

Josh Allen (17) celebrates the touchdown with John Brown (15). Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins at Bills Stadium on January 3, 2021. Photo by Craig Melvin
Josh Allen (17) celebrates the touchdown with John Brown (15). Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins at Bills Stadium on January 3, 2021. Photo by Craig Melvin

1. The Bills handle business, nail down No. 2 seed

The Bills still had something to play for in their regular season finale against the Dolphins, namely the number two seed in the AFC playoffs.

A victory would ensure Buffalo the two seed and at least two home playoff games provided they advanced to the Divisional Round.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott clearly felt the team had something to play for as most of his starters played the entire first half.

"I just felt like it was right we wanted to get some guys some opportunities and do what we've been doing," said McDermott. "Honestly, I feel like we knew we were going against a good Dolphins team and I wanted to put another good week of work in and that's really it."

Buffalo was assured the No. 2 seed even before their game with Miami was over. That's because the Cleveland Browns hung on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-22. Pittsburgh was unsuccessful on a two-point conversion after pulling to within two points with under two minutes to play, but their two-point conversion attempt failed. Cleveland then recovered the ensuing onsides kick and killed the clock.

The Steelers loss gave Buffalo the No. 2 seed regardless of the outcome of their own game against the Dolphins. But the Bills had their own game well in hand long before the clock expired in Cleveland. And for a head coach like McDermott, who is all about earning the right to win, that message held true for his team this week.

"The players did a good job of being focused this week," he said. "Miami was on a longer week. They played last Saturday and we played Monday night so we were on a shorter week. They did a good job of getting themselves some rest this week and getting ready to play, which is not easy to do. But I thought they showed their ability to get their focus back and reset after Monday night."

McDermott's players said his message this week for the game was simple.

"Just go out there and get to work on some things," said Micah Hyde. "When you're out on the football field the last thing you're thinking about is getting hurt. I think when you're out there thinking about getting hurt, that's when it happens. So everybody was out there playing fast and having fun and you saw the results."

2. Josh Allen sets three more single-season passing marks

Last week Josh Allen set the single-season record for most passing touchdowns in a season surpassing Jim Kelly's record of 33 set in 1991. On Sunday Buffalo's QB set the record for most passing yards in a single season in team history.

Allen's pass to Devin Singletary early in the second quarter on the team's first touchdown drive pushed him past Drew Bledsoe's record 4,359 passing yards set back in 2002.

The offensive co-captain also set the franchise single-season mark for passer rating with a figure of 107.2 surpassing the previous high held by Jim Kelly (101.2 in 1990), and the franchise mark for completion percentage with a rate of 69.2 percent.

Allen, who only played in the first half in an effort to stay healthy for the playoffs, finished his day 18-25 passing for 227 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. It gives Allen season totals of 4,547 passing yards and 37 passing touchdowns. His total touchdown count on the year is 46.

The third-year quarterback has said from the beginning he doesn't put much stock in individual stats and records, but there was one mark he was proud of from this season.

"There was one that I valued more than any other that didn't get accomplished it was the touchdowns to 13 different players," said Allen. "We were at 13 and I wish we could have got one more for the record. So that would have been really cool to have. Obviously we tied it.

"That just shows the guys that are capable of coming in here and scoring touchdowns. It doesn't matter who. It could be a left tackle, could be a right tackle. It could be any tight end, or running back or receiver. That one is really cool just knowing that we're able to get everybody involved."

With his 2020 regular season now in the books, Allen is also the first player in NFL history with at least 4,500 yards passing, 35 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns in a single season.

3. McKenzie blows up first half

On a day where the Bills would be without their primary slot receiver, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie picked up the slack in a big way. McKenzie was responsible for each of Buffalo's first three touchdowns in their regular season finale against the Dolphins.

"Oh man, he was awesome," said Josh Allen. "Just guys stepping up with Cole going down and you see the things that he can do. He's fast and he's a smart player when he's on the field. He can fly as a punt returner. He can take the top off any defense. He's just one of those guys you love to see succeed. Such a team guy, guys love him in the locker room and he made the most of his opportunity."

McKenzie's first scoring play came on an inside-out route where Allen found him breaking outside from the right hash to the right pylon along the goal line for a seven-yard touchdown reception.

On Buffalo's ensuing possession, Allen again found McKenzie for a 14-yard score with Allen throwing a lofted ball for McKenzie to run under for his second touchdown after the Dolphins had jumped offsides.

"We got them to jump offsides and it's a free play," said Allen. "So, whether I throw an interception or take a sack, getting that free play allows our guys to get open. They understand when the ball is snapped in that situation they've got free leeway to go get open. That's all I tell him to do is get open. He did a good job of creating separation and finished the job."

McKenzie put a bow on his stellar first half with an electrifying 84-yard punt return for a score.

"I saw the hole and I just hit it," McKenzie said. "I learned that from 'Dre (Andre Roberts). 'Dre just hits it so I'm just going to hit it. And that's what I did."

His three scoring plays helped Buffalo turn an early 3-0 deficit into a 21-3 advantage, scoring all three of his touchdowns in the span of 11 minutes in the second quarter.

It effectively blew the game open and Miami never recovered as Buffalo's defense clamped down forcing three interceptions, all of which were turned into touchdowns.

"He's a winner," said McDermott of McKenzie. "You track his story and the guy is just extremely tough, mentally tough, and he's continued to show that when the deck is stacked against him he finds a way to get it done and that that really came through in training camp. I think that's part of the reason why the guys love him so much is because he brings so much of that mentality to our team."

According to ESPN Stats and Info, McKenzie is just the second player in league history to score two touchdowns on offense and one on a return in a half.

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