The Bills Mafia invaded Smashville on Sunday and witnessed a titanic, ice-breaking win by their beloved Bills. The victory separated Buffalo from Tennessee in the premature playoff race, and steered the Bills to a 4-1 record; now tied for second in the AFC.
Improbable hero Duke Williams came out of obscurity and off the practice squad to the delight of his legion of sycophants, immediately caught a one-yard pass and then dragged his Titan defender five more before being wrestled down. It was tough, if not impossible, to keep the determined young man down all day as he later snatched a short, sharp laser from Josh Allen in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Fellow wide receiver John Brown set the tone early with five first-half catches on five targets for 75 yards. Cole Beasley provides constant comfort. Isaiah McKenzie took a shovel pass and whacked Tennessee in the head with it on a nifty, shifty, 46-yard jet-sweep.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll followed that sneaky setup with a cunning variation to Andre Roberts, an uncommon but potent use of two players simultaneously running reverses to the same side.
Daboll called a steady, solid game, excluding a pass-happy late fourth-quarter drive that did nothing for the team except incense a lot of Bills fans in the stands and in front of TVs. Daboll made up for it by quickly coming to his senses on the next series.
Allen apparently had some sense knocked into him by the cheap shot during the game against the Patriots as he played his smartest, most efficient and effective game of his young career. Allen has now won the last five games he has started and finished, six of his last seven, and is 8-1 in his career when he throws one or less interceptions.
Even the pick Sunday, which immediately stopped a million or two hearts across the country, parts of Canada and beyond, looked to be T.J. Yeldon’s hiccup as much as Allen’s. Yeldon stopped his forward progress twice, including right before the pass got to him.
Allen completed 70-plus% of his throws and tossed two touchdowns to, you guessed it, Lee Smith and Duke Williams. OK, so no one guessed it.
The Bills’ makeshift offensive line, already short an essential cog in Ty Nsekhe, endured injuries to center Mitch Morse, and later, right tackle Cody Ford, and yet looked best in its final drive, man-to-manhandling the Titans' front four to secure the win. Journeyman Ryan Bates, who is able to play all five OL positions, filled in at RT and held his own instead of any Titans.
In the run game, Frank Gore was stymied early and often, and yet a stud late in the clutch. The Bills' four-minute offense closed out the game with three consecutive first-down runs of 11, 11 and 19 yards; one by Yeldon and the last two by Gore.
For his part, Allen didn’t bother telling his linemen or backs that he was not going to hand off on a called running play to ultimately ice the game, keeping it himself on a bootleg and getting the final first down.
The defense is very good, getting scary good, and scarier for opponents, smothering the Titans for three consecutive hours in the intermittent rain. The Titans had a stretch of series go three-and-out. That is not even bending let alone breaking.
Levi Wallace is doing his best Tre'Davious White imitation and knocks down passes like a giant fly-swatter. Forget having a shutdown cornerback or two, the Bills might field the team’s first Shutdown Secondary. Even Siran Neal and backup Kevin Johnson didn’t miss a step, assignment or Tennessee receiver.
Harrison Phillips gets injured and IR’d, so Jordan Phillips steps in and gets three sacks in one half, which hasn’t happened since Mario Williams.
AARP All-Pro Lorenzo Alexander did a spin move most 20-somethings cannot do for a signature sacking of flustered Marcus Mariota. Even Zo’s horse-collar tackle and penalty made a lot of horse sense as it likely prevented a long TD run by Derrick Henry, the only Titan who looked capable of beating the Bills besides their kicker.
Bookend linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano continued their textbook play, outside of a few Henry jaunts that ultimately did not do damage.
Thanks to the feeble leg of since-waived PK Cairo Santos, combined with the unconscionable buffoonery of Titan Mike Vrabel to go for a field goal on fourth-and-4, down by seven, with 6:35 to go after your kicker missed three in a row, the Bills’ defense only gave up seven total points. The D has yet to give up more than 17 this season.
Now with three straight home games sandwiched around a bye, two of which are against the clueless Dolphins and headless Redskins (the team fired head coach Jay Gruden on Monday morning), tens of thousands of Bills fans can sit back and reminisce of the Music City invasion and the team's titanic win over Tennessee, 20 years after the bad taste of Homerun Throw-up.
Pete Rosen is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, lifetime Buffalo fan, and may be found blathering daily at twobillsdrive.com.