There was no need to worry about any late-game miracles Monday night at State Farm Stadium for the Buffalo Bills.
Thanks to yet another outstanding performance by Josh Allen, the Bills returned to the scene of one of the worst regular-season losses the franchise has ever endured – the Hail Murray collapse against the Cardinals – and made amends in a big, big way.
The opponent wasn’t the Cardinals, of course. Instead, it was the COVID-19 vagabond San Francisco 49ers, and the defending NFC champions had no answers for Allen and the revived Bills offense during a 34-24 Buffalo victory.
Winning for the ninth time in 12 games – and for the first time on Monday Night Football since 1999 when Doug Flutie was the quarterback – the Bills maintained their one-game lead over the Miami Dolphins in the race for the AFC East division crown. And as of right now, which means nothing with four games still remaining, they hold the third overall seed in the AFC playoff bracket.
Allen was sublime as he executed a brilliantly concocted game plan by offensive coordinator and completed 32 of 40 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns, one each to Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, Isaiah McKenzie and Gabriel Davis, and didn’t commit a turnover.
The 49ers, who entered the game ranked fourth in the NFL in pass defense with an average yield of just 206.5 yards per game, were torched by Allen and his stable of receivers. Allen had 236 yards by halftime alone, and Beasley already had a career-high 113 yards by the break.
It was such a clinic that at one point, the Bills scored on six consecutive possessions and they punted just once in the game.
Thigot off to a rather crazy start as each offense rolled right down the field on its first possession, only to fail on fourth-and-goal plays from the 1-yard-line.
The Bills were set up to take the lead, but Allen threw behind Lee Smith in the end zone after what looked like his first option, a tackle eligible throw to Ryan Bates, was snuffed out by the 49ers.
The 49ers took over and it looked like they’d be punting from their end zone, but a terrible 25-yard pass interference call on Levi Wallace bailed out the 49ers and gave them a first down. From there, they blew through the Bills defense until they got to the 2 from where three straight plays failed, the last one, a run by Jeff Wilson that was blown up by Tremaine Edmunds.
According to the Bills PR staff, the 49ers’ 97-yard drive tied for the longest non-scoring drive in the NFL since 2006. However, the excitement was short-lived because on the very next play Zack Moss fumbled and Fred Warner recovered for San Francisco at the 3. Three plays later, Brandon Aiyuk beat Wallace on a quick slant and reeled in Nick Mullens’ TD pass.
For the rest of the half, it was all Buffalo. Allen answered that score with a five-play, 77-yard drive that was highlighted by a 35-yard throw to Beasley and then a five-yard TD pass to the slippery slot receiver.
After a 49ers punt, Allen used 14 plays before throwing a four-yard touchdown pass to Knox to put the Bills up 14-7. And after another defensive stop, Buffalo took possession at its own 10 with 1:05 to go and Allen masterfully worked into position for Tyler Bass’ 37-yard field goal to close the half.
The big plays were back-to-back-to-back throws of 18 yards to Stefon Diggs, 20 yards to Beasley and 18 yards to Davis that took the clock down to four seconds.
San Francisco came out firing in the third quarter, but a nice drive died when Bills edge rusher Daryl Johnson dumped Tevin Coleman for a nine-yard loss and the 49ers had to settle for Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal.
That mattered little to the Bills who went on another superb scoring drive, their fourth in a row, this one 75 yards in 11 plays, the last a perfectly floated 23-yard pass to McKenzie for a 24-10 lead. McKenzie had come in motion full speed and that running start allowed him to blow right past the 49ers secondary down the left sideline.
Two plays after the kickoff, Micah Hyde picked off a deflected Mullens pass and returned it 33 yards to the 5, but the Bills committed two penalties and had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Bass with 3:09 left in the third.
The 49ers drove right down to Mullen’s six-yard TD pass to Kyle Juszczyk, but undaunted, Allen simply went back to picking the 49ers apart before hitting Davis who was wide open from 28 yards out to make it 34-17.
San Francisco went right back downfield, but here’s where the Bills finally put the game away. On a third-and-goal from the 1, Tre’Davious White picked off Mullens, and that enabled Bills fans back home to officially relax and put aside any nightmares of another miserable finish in Arizona.