1. Josh Allen puts up MVP-like performance
He's been putting up strong performances all season long, but Josh Allen's performance Saturday served as the perfect exclamation point in Buffalo's AFC East division-clinching victory over the Denver Broncos.
Buffalo's opening possession proved to be a foreshadowing of how the game would unfold as Allen went 9-for-12 passing for 49 yards on the 13-play, 59-yard scoring drive.
Facing a Broncos defense that was short at the cornerback position almost seemed unfair as the Bills quarterback and the league's third-ranked passing offense dismantled Denver's secondary.
Allen's day finished with him completing 70 percent of his passes as he went 28-40 for 359 yards and two touchdowns with a rating of 114.5. It was Allen's seventh game this season with a passer rating of 100 or better, setting a new team record for most in a season. He also ran for two more touchdowns on the day to give him 39 total touchdowns on the season.
His two rushing scores gave him 25 in his career to tie Jack Kemp for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in franchise history.
Allen's 359 yards passing also lifted him to exactly 4,000 passing yards on the season, making him just the second quarterback in team annals to throw for 4,000 yards. He needs just 360 more passing yards to pass Drew Bledsoe's all-time mark of 4,359 set back in 2002.
Looking in complete command, Saturday marked Allen's seventh 300-yard passing day this season, which ties Bledsoe's seven-game record also set in 2002.For Allen's teammates, his consistency in the passing game has come to be expected. Cole Beasley admits it might be wrong, but it's hard to be impressed when Allen's exploits have become the norm.
"It's hard to even be impressed now. It's more expected," Beasley said. "He's been doing it all year now. He's been dropping some dimes, man."
Allen has become the trigger man for an offense that has matured from a unit that learned to play confidently early in the season, to a group that now appears to be on a seek and destroy mission.
"Coach Daboll is a big believer in our job as an offense is to put up points and score in the red zone," said Allen of Buffalo's offensive coordinator. "He's going to be aggressive. He's not going to avoid what we do and our identity as a team. We understand what it is and we're not going to shy away from it."
That was evident when Buffalo's passing attack still had the pedal pushed to the floor in the early stages of the third quarter, ultimately outscoring Denver 17-0 in that frame and 27-6 in the second half.
"It takes a lot of trust for him to call the plays and our guys have been doing a good job of going out there and executing," Allen said. "It feels good to be in those situations where he says we're going to continue to do what we do. You see the positive results and it starts with the five guys up front and making good decision and letting our guys make plays after the catch."
But everything flows through Allen's decision-making, and his football smarts combined with his rare athleticism and talent could very quickly put him in serious consideration for NFL MVP.
2. Diggs and Beasley go double 100
Facing a secondary short on cornerbacks, Buffalo's vaunted receiving corps had to have visions of multiple receptions and touchdowns dancing in their heads.
It didn't take long for Josh Allen to unleash the multitude of weapons he has at his disposal in the passing game to demoralize a beleaguered Broncos defense.
His primary players all season, Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, caught eight of his first 13 completions on the team's first two scoring drives.
"Our guys have been doing a good job of getting open and it's my job to give them a chance to go catch the ball," said Allen plainly. "They've been doing a real good job of that. That's the quarterback's job."
But Saturday looked like a passing clinic. By halftime Diggs had already had a stat line some NFL receivers would take for a full game with seven receptions for 67 yards.
Beasley didn't have quite the same production in the first half, but things picked up over the final two quarters.
Though neither Beasley nor Diggs had a touchdown catch, they did each post 100-yard receiving days. Diggs posted a season-high 11 receptions for 147 yards, his sixth 100-yard day of the regular season.
He also set the team record for most receptions in a single season breaking the tie he had with Eric Moulds' previous record of 100 in 2002 entering Saturday's game. Diggs got to 111 catches on the season by posting his third straight game of 10 or more receptions, making him the eighth player in league history to do so.
Beasley also hit the century mark with 112 yards on eight receptions, the fifth time he's done so in 2020.
Proof of how confident Allen felt in targeting his top two receivers came in the third quarter when he asked quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey if they could take a deep shot down the sideline to Diggs on the first play of the second drive in the third quarter.
"I went to (QB Coach Ken) Dorsey, and I said, 'This is the play I want to get called,'" said Allen. "And Daboll gave me the opportunity to do it. He trusts me in those situations. If it's not there to find my outlets down underneath. But it's one of those plays we kind of got them with a quick count and our guys outran theirs and I gave him the chance to go catch the ball. And that's what he did."
Fifty-five yards later Diggs had Buffalo's offense set up for 1st-and-10 at the Denver 13-yard line.
Even though the Bills did not score on that drive, they did cash in with points on seven of their 10 possessions in the game.
Buffalo's slot receiver marveled at how surgeon-like Allen was in cutting up the Denver defense.
"There was one throw he threw to me that was just, I mean he just fired it," Beasley said. "He put it in the only place he could've and he gave me a chance to make the play. And then the long ball to Stef, I mean that guy has just been zoned in this year. I'm just happy he's my quarterback and I'm happy that I get to go out there and I have him slinging it to me. It gives you confidence as a receiver with him back there."
But that confidence stems from Allen's trust in his wideouts being in the right place at the right time and even improvising when a play breaks down.
"We believe in our receivers and what they're capable of doing," Allen said. "I don't think there's a group out there that can consistently match up with our guys. It speaks volumes of how hard our guys work and how talented they are and how hungry they are. They can get the ball at any moment in the game and you see them run their tails off. Even if it's a clear out go. They keep the play alive and find ways to get incorporated in the passing game and the scramble rules. That's what I love about our guys - they're never out of a play."
And it's that mutual trust that has made Buffalo's offense a very, very dangerous one to defend.
"Once you start winning games and doing it consistently, you go out there and play with confidence," Beasley said. "I've got all the confidence in the world in this team and the guys on this team and I know they do as well. So, when we step on that field we expect to beat the team across from us."
Scroll through to see photos of all the action as the Bills take on the Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High, presented by Imagine Staffing.
3. Defense locks it down
To say the defense has improved since midseason might be the biggest understatement in a truly impressive season by this Bills squad. Leslie Frazier and his defensive staff have transformed a unit that was inconsistent up front and unsettled by injuries on the back end to a group that has become flat out menacing.
All-Pro CB Tre'Davious White believed the identity of Buffalo's defense this season would be one that takes the ball away and hands extra possessions to their high-powered offense. They were that and more on Saturday in Denver.
The Bills sacked Drew Lock three times, hit him on four other drop backs, knocked down seven of his pass attempts and had five tackles for loss.
The defense also turned the game into a rout when White came on a blitz and sacked Lock as he tried to escape the pocket, stripping the ball in the process. Jerry Hughes scooped it up and bobbed and weaved his way to the end zone for a 21-yard fumble return touchdown.
"The coaches put together a great game plan throughout the week. We all felt confident in our assignments and what we were doing and how Denver was going to try and attack us," said Jordan Poyer. "I thought we handled their play action game. Early on they had a couple runs, but we were able to (inaudible) and shut that down. Obviously, when they were playing from behind towards the end of the game, we were able to get off the field -- had some key takeaways -- Jerry had a big touchdown. Just made plays that were able to change that game around."
"Apparently Tre' has been watching some of our D-line film we always talk about getting the ball away from the quarterback with that tomahawk chop," said Hughes of White's strip sack. "Tre's was perfect man. It was textbook so I figured if he made all that work, the least I could do is go ahead and put an exclamation point on it and get us six points."
The score put the Bills up 35-13, and Buffalo cruised from there winning convincingly 48-19.
But don't think for a second the Bills defense feels there aren't more improvements to be made.
"Back in August and September, we said we wanted to be playing our best football come November and December," said Micah Hyde. "I think we're doing that. We're playing good football right now and the crazy thing is we can get better. We made a lot of mistakes on the defensive side, gave up that long drive at the end of the first half so we can always get better. That's the good thing."