The Bills typically only travel to the desert once every four years at most, so it had to feel strange to find themselves in Glendale, Arizona, for a second time in the strangest of years, 2020.
It had to be haunting, too, considering the fashion in which Buffalo exited State Farm Stadium earlier this season: on the losing end of a Hail Mary.
You could have called it a Hail Murray, but Kyler Murray was nowhere to be found in Arizona on Monday night, because although this game was played in the home of the Cardinals, it was the transplanted San Francisco 49ers who called the Giant Toaster home for this one. That was good news for the Bills, who reacquainted themselves with something that is not at all weird for them this season: winning.
Neither are stellar performances from Josh Allen, who compiled a dynamite one Monday night, completing 32 of 40 passes for 375 yards, four touchdowns and a 139.1 passer rating in a 34-24 win over the 49ers. Allen connected with seven different targets, teaming with Cole Beasley to reach the 130-yard mark on top of a touchdown, and found Stefon Diggs 10 times for 92 yards, all the while locating, firing and hitting his targets all over the field for the majority of the night. If we were to compare opposing quarterbacks, it wasn't all that close, with Allen outplaying San Francisco backup Nick Mullens in TD-INT ratio (4-0 to 3-2), passing yards and passer rating (Mullens finished at a respectable 95.7).
This wasn't a case of a quarterback duel, though, but an offense that seems to be perfectly comfortable and in rhythm with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll calling the shots and Allen executing his orders. It was on full display in one third-quarter sequence, when Daboll flooded the left third of the field with Isaiah McKenzie going in pre-snap motion and then taking off on a wheel route toward the front left pylon, tight end Dawson Knox following behind him into the flat, Diggs running a drag across the field from right to left, and rookie Gabe Davis running from the left toward the deep middle of the field. The combination of routes confused San Francisco's man coverage and made for an easy score thanks to Allen's perfectly placed pass to McKenzie.
That type of synergy has these Bills firing on all cylinders with the division title in sight.
"I really appreciate the way he played the game," Bills coach Sean McDermott said of Allen, via 13 WHAM's Mike Catalana. "He was patient when he needed to be and took some shots. I though Coach Daboll called a great game."
Buffalo's latest win achieved something the team hasn't done often in the last 20 years: Win on Monday night. The Bills are just 2-8 on Monday night since 2000, scoring their second win on the big stage in the last seven seasons, and one that seems more impressive than usual. San Francisco has been bitten especially hard by the injury bug this season, but still brings with it a scrappy defense that gives up little room up front and flummoxes even some of the league's best passers. Not Allen, though, who teammate Dion Dawkins said is "built for the big moments."
"That's our quarterback. He's a baller," Bills safety Jordan Poyer said, via the Associated Press. "I don't know what answer you want me to say. It's no surprise to us what he does every week. I'm happy he's on our team."
So too are Bills fans, who enjoyed their team exorcising their newfound desert demon with the win in the same place that housed one of the league's most improbable finishes in recent memory just weeks ago.
"It was great to come back here and finish what we started and finish it the right way," McDermott said, via USA Today's Bradley Gelber. "Took a lot of mental toughness from our guys to not even flinch when they heard we had to come back."
At 9-3, the Bills are in prime position to win the AFC East by taking care of their own business. Miami is hot on their heels at 8-4, but the Bills can send the Dolphins to a wild card berth consolation as their best postseason hope if they wrap up a season sweep of Miami in Week 17. And until then, all the Bills have to do is keep playing at this level and stacking wins.
On Monday night, that was no issue for Allen, who continues to improve and is carrying the Bills to greater heights.