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The Buffalo Bills kept their playoff hopes alive as they beat the Kansas City Chiefs 20-17 on Sunday to improve to 7-6; Buffalo face the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins down a tense home stretch
Last Updated: 11/12/23 3:22pm
With Josh Allen and the realm of free-reined carnage in which he operates, the Buffalo Bills always have a chance and the NFL is always a far better place.
Season on the line and the weight of western New York counting on its farm-boy hero to strap on the cape once again, Allen delivered as Allen delivers best. Cue unadulterated chaos in another duel with Patrick Mahomes, whose frustration after weeks of Kansas City Chiefs inadequacy finally, and understandably, boiled over into helmet-tossing fury at the conclusion of another classic between the league’s two best quarterbacks.
Allen came for a street fight. He and the Bills had to. At 6-6, defeat would have dropped them dangerously close to down-and-out territory in the playoff race with games to come against the purring Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins over the final four weeks.
For now, they remain alive. For now, they remain a beacon of the Forrest Gump chocolate box 2023 season, where the mighty have stuttered, where mediocrity has entered the postseason hunt (looking at you, NFC South), where injuries have ravaged the league and where – beyond Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers – battling through the fog to identify the to-be-trusted contenders is a tall order.
Buffalo are now one of six teams sitting on 7-6 in the AFC alongside the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals. They are the best of the lot, by some margin. Four of the six, not including the Bills, must also play one of the other teams on 7-6. Having been playing catch-up most of the year, the Bills sense an opportunity to turn the campaign on its head.
Allen took current ownership of the prize for ‘most 2023 NFL season play’ on Sunday. In peak dare-to-be-stylishly-reckless Allen fashion, the Bills quarterback scrambled to his left on third-and-nine with 11 minutes to play before swivelling his hips, back-peddling on the sideline and floating a pass over onrushing defenders to Latavius Murray while being shoved out of bounds. A pass drenched in game-changing turnover potential somehow found its way to Buffalo’s veteran running back, who sought to match his teammate’s embrace of chaos by coughing up a fumble that the Bills would eventually manage to shove out of bounds in order to retain possession. According to Next Gen Stats, it marked the closest distance to the sideline of any pass completion since 2018.
It was breathless Bills football in all its glory and an example of the desperate, clawing, on-the-edge philosophy they will re-adopt in their late bid to reach the postseason.
Victory at Arrowhead had arrived at the end of a turbulent week in which it was reported McDermott had referenced 9/11 hijackers as an example of a team coming together during training camp in 2019, the Bills head coach apologising for his remarks later on the same day. An investigation meanwhile remains ongoing following allegations of domestic violence against edge rusher Von Miller, who featured against the Chiefs.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a group, I really couldn’t at this point in the regular season,” said Bills head coach McDermott. “To a person, they didn’t flinch. They were focused, they supported one another, and they supported me. And I don’t take that for granted at all. I’m just super proud of those guys and just a super resilient group.”
Allen takes ‘hero ball’ to a new dimension. There was his cliff-hanging toss to Murray, there was his spectacular skewed side-arm pass around a defender’s waist to Dalton Kincaid while slaloming to his right, there was his naïve effort to force a pass when he extended the play before tossing a ‘gimme’ interception to Chamarri Conner, there was his pressure-defying 25-yard strike to Deonte Harty while resisting temptation to escape a tight pocket to move the chains on third-and-five with five minutes left.
His proclivity for the extreme comes with both the caveat of jeopardy but so too the reward of genius. It is the root of Buffalo’s rise, and now the component keeping them in the race.
To stare unfavourable circumstances in the face and clobber them in response is what he seems to do best. NFL defensive coordinators have rallied in recent years to revert to invite-the-run two-high safety coverages with the sole purpose of limiting the chunk play threat against the likes of Allen and forcing him to lean on short passes in order to build drives; Allen has since continued to take shots downfield, disheartening defensive designs with success while also giving up cheap turnovers. Aggressive is the only way he and the Bills know how, as much having seemingly returned to the forefront in weeks gone by.
Ken Dorsey, whether rightly or wrongly, took the fall for Buffalo’s poor record in spite of their upper-tier rankings as he was fired as offensive coordinator and replaced by promoted quarterbacks coach Joe Brady. The response has been a greater license for Allen to use his legs as a threat on the ground – in turn luring defenses downhill – while repurposing pre-snap motion to disguise the Bills’ favoured vertical routes and enhancing the role of running back James Cook, who had 15 touches for 141 yards and a touchdown from scrimmage against the Chiefs.
Cook’s multi-purpose attributes always featured as part of the sell coming out of college, and in the last three weeks alone he has 14 catches for 169 receiving yards and two scores as Brady turns towards him more regularly in the passing game. Dawson Knox’s return from injury meanwhile re-establishes the two tight end-set vision for the Bills alongside rookie Kincaid, the design of which is to veil Buffalo’s run or pass intentions as a means of both unleashing Cook and opening up the field for their quarterback.
It wouldn’t quite feel like Bills football though unless Brady too was privy to some drama, his decision to move away from the run to chew down the clock while setting up Bass’ decisive field goal in the final two minutes the epitome of asking for trouble. So be it.
The Bills offense ranks fifth in total yards, fifth in passing, 10th in rushing, fifth in scoring, fourth in EPA/play and third in success rate. Allen has thrown a second-most 25 touchdowns – albeit to a tied-first 14 interceptions – and is fourth in quarterback EPA+CPOE composite (an advanced metric on quarterback play-by-play value and efficiency). They and he, though, are still imperfect. Allen’s approach remains prone to turnovers, production from their receiving group fluctuates erratically, the Bills allowed far too much pressure against Steve Spagnuolo’s Chiefs defense and there remains the prospect of having to win all four of their remaining games. With Allen, they believe.
He was magical as he accounted for 420 yards and four total touchdowns as the best MVP-looking player on the field in Buffalo’s recent overtime defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles. Sunday was less vintage, more frenzied, but yet further indication of his willingness to put the Bills on his back.
“This week wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for Coach McDermott,” Allen said. “You can question a lot of things about coaching style, you can question a lot of things about my decision-making, you can question a lot of things about this team, but to question his character and who he is as a man, he’s one of the better humans on this planet, with how he carries himself, and we saw it for what it is.”
As uncertainty reigns across the league, the Bills have never needed their quarterback more. The cape isn’t coming off again for the rest of the season.
Source : Sky Sports