Bills Win Third Straight Divisional Title; Prepare For Game of the Year
It was a Merry Christmas for us Buffalo Bills fans, as we watched our team win the AFC East for the third year in a row after defeating the Chicago Bears Saturday afternoon, 35-13. It wasn’t the prettiest, weather wise or football wise. But, for the 12th time this season and sixth week in a row, the Bills got the job done.
The Buffalo Bills found themselves trailing 10-6 to the Bears at halftime after a handful of miscues, but pulled it together, outscoring Chicago 29-3 in the second half.
Buffalo’s run game was critical to their second half turnaround. They finished the day with 254 rushing yards on 31 attempts (8.2 yards/carry) and three TDs. RB Devin Singletary led the team with 12 rushes for 106 yards (8.8 yds/carry) and a TD. RB James Cook had 11 rushes for 99 yards (9.9 yds/carry) and a TD. And QB Josh Allen finished with six rushes for 41 yards (6.8 yds/carry) and a TD.
The Bills averaged just under 10 yards per carry in the first half. The problem was, Singletary and Cook only had seven rushes in the cold and windy conditions. As you can tell, I was pretty frustrated. (Pardon my French, especially on Christmas Eve.)
Luckily, the Bills must’ve seen my tweet during halftime and made the correct adjustments, leading them to a 12-3 record, AFC East title, and maintaining control of the one-seed in the AFC.
What They Said
The players and coaches were all smiles after they thawed out, but still know that this is only a fraction of what they want to do this season. Their first goals of clinching a playoff berth and winning the division have been accomplished. Now, they are looking to earn the #1 seed and make the AFC playoffs run through Buffalo. (And then, obviously, they want to win the conference and Super Bowl.)
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that this was a great win for the team and organization, but knows they left a lot of meat on the bone.
“Good to win, really happy for the organization… three AFC East championships in a row and that’s hard to do… it’s hard to get one let alone three in a row. So I’m just very grateful for the effort and [for] our fans also that showed up today.”McDermott on the win
McDermott said that his team played better complimentary football in the second half, which lifted them to victory.
“Better complimentary football, and it really all started by the offense coming out and getting into a rhythm, executing at a higher level than we were in the first half… I think that one-two punch with the run game combined with the pass game is just better complimentary that way.”McDermott on what changed in the second half
Josh Allen spoke along the same lines as McDermott. He said that winning their third straight divisional title is great, but they have bigger goals in front of them.
“Found a way to get it done. They’re not all pretty and we can say that we didn’t play great. But, at the end of the day, we had over 400 yards of offense, I thought our run game did well… [and our] defense played pretty well.”Allen on the win
Allen didn’t use the weather as an excuse, but acknowledged that it was definitely a factor with the sub zero wind chills and huge wind gusts.
“Given the conditions that we played in too, it’s no excuse. But, typically, when you get wind and the gust, that’s probably the hardest part to play in is the gust because you don’t know when it’s going to flare up, you don’t know what direction it’s going to go…”Allen on the wind
Allen, who passed Dan Marino for the most total TDs in a player’s first five seasons (174), threw two TD passes and ran for one more after completing 15 of 26 passes for just 172 yards. He also threw two INTs – one where he made a bad decision to throw it to WR Isaiah McKenzie in double coverage, and another where the elements played a factor.
“Obviously that first interception wasn’t a great decision. And then the second one, the wind just was kind of right in the face and I didn’t get the nose of the ball down, it just kind of sailed… I can live with the second one. The first one [was] just a bad decision. I gotta find a way to get it to our check down there and move on and live to fight another day.”Allen on his INTs
Speaking of the weather, TE Dawson Knox, who finished with 38 yards and a TD on three receptions, said it was so cold that the field felt like concrete whenever he got tackled. RB Devin Singletary agreed and said that it was hard to cut on the frozen grass, but credited his offensive line for paving so many holes that he didn’t even have to make that many cuts. FS Jordan Poyer said that it might’ve been the coldest game he’s ever played in.
“The equipment guys did a great job getting us ready to play, getting us the right cleats, the right equipment… then it just came down to us having the right mindset, going out there and understanding what we had to do and executing it.”Poyer on playing in the cold
The Bills were forced to spend Christmas Eve in Chicago however, as the Buffalo airport was shut down due to the tragic storm. So, they made the most of it with some team bonding in the Windy City.
The Bills then flew into Rochester safely on Christmas Day, making it home by mid-afternoon to spend the rest of the special day with their families. And even though it was Christmas and even though they were in Rochester, Bills Mafia STILL welcomed them back.
Once they got back to Buffalo, getting their vehicles out of the player’s parking lot was a different story.
Now, the Buffalo Bills prepare for the game of the year in Cincinnati, as they take on the Bengals (11-4) next Monday night at 8:15. Two more wins for the Bills guarantees them home field advantage in the playoffs. A Bills loss would give them the same record as Cincinnati (12-4) and all but allow Kansas City (12-3) to leapfrog them. A loss would also give Cincinnati the tiebreaker over Buffalo AND Kansas City; so, even if they all finish with the same record, the Bengals would get the home field advantage. (Cincinnati plays Baltimore Week 18, Kansas City plays in Las Vegas after hosting the Denver Broncos this week.) So, if the Bills drop this game, their chances of winning the #1 seed would be very slim.
The Bengals have been on a tear lately, winning seven in a row and nine out of their last 10 after starting just 2-3. They have the seventh-best total offense in the NFL, averaging over 367 yards of total offense a game. They are sixth in passing (269.2 yards/game), 26th in rushing (98.2 yards/game), and sixth in scoring (26.1 points/game).
QB Joe Burrow is having another great season. He’s thrown for 4,260 yards and 34 TDs (and 12 INTs), completing 69% of his passes. RB Joe Mixon is having another solid season as well, running for 787 yards and 6 TDs in 13 games. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s top WRs (Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd) have totaled 205 receptions, 2,693 yards, and 20 TDs. (Higgins leads them with 1,022 yards, but Chase has played in four less games due to injury.)
As for the Bills, Josh Allen has completed 63.4% of his passes for 4,029 yards and 32 TDs (13 INTs). He also has 746 yards and 7 TDs on the ground. Devin Singletary is Buffalo’s leading rusher with 790 yards and 5 TDs on 170 carries. And Stefon Diggs is the leading receiver with 1,325 yards and 10 TDs on 101 receptions.
Should be a pretty fun week of football.
*All player quotes come from the postgame press conferences (via the Buffalo Bills YouTube channel).
Featured Image: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP