James Cook’s receiving uptick, defensive line’s pressure on Mahomes key in Bills’ nail-biting win over Chiefs - BuffaloBills.com
The Bills’ second-year running back left his mark in Kansas City.
James Cook’s sophomore season explosion has him in the conversation for one of the most dynamic players in the league, particularly over the last month of play. The Bills running back has soared in recent weeks, racking up 100+ scrimmage yards in four consecutive games.
In Buffalo’s 20-17 win over the Chiefs, Cook was a do-it-all back totaling 141 scrimmage yards and a touchdown.
In the three games since Joe Brady took over has interim offensive coordinator, Cook has been a staple in the team’s passing game. He has 14 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns since Week 11 against the Jets. Brady said it’s been a focus for him to get Cook and the rest of the Buffalo running back group involved in the pass game.
“I think utilizing those running backs, just helps. It opens up paths for the receivers and the tight ends where we’re not necessarily one dimensional and predictable about where the ball is going,” Brady explained.
Josh Allen had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeting Cook on Sunday and it was also the first time in Cook’s career that he recorded over 75 receiving yards in a game. Brady shared that he was encouraged by the way Cook responded during the bye week after he dropped a touchdown pass against the Eagles.
“I was proud of the way that Jimbo responded. Last week, he had a similar situation. And when he dropped it — and I said last week I had full faith and I still do — and the work that he put in last week. We repped through those plays and Josh trusted them and he made a big play,” Brady said.
Chiefs vs. Bills score: Buffalo keeps playoff hopes alive, upsets Patrick Mahomes in wild finish at Arrowhead - Tyler Sullivan, CBS Sports
Buffalo pulled of an upset to remain in the playoff hunt.
This game between these two AFC rivals came down to the final possession. After a Harrison Butker 27-yard field goal knotted the game at 17 at the start of the fourth quarter, this contest was determined on the final two drives. Buffalo marched 48 yards into field goal range where Tyler Bass booted a 39-yarder to give the Bills the go-ahead lead with under two minutes remaining. Meanwhile, the defense held up its end of the bargain as it kept Patrick Mahomes and the K.C. offense at bay, forcing a turnover on downs and the win.
The Bills got off to a strong start in this game on both sides of the ball. A.J. Epenesa forced a Mahomes turnover on the opening drive and the offense was eventually able to go on a 14-0 run in the first half. Overall, Buffalo couldn’t get much production from Stefon Diggs (four catches for 24 yards) and Gabe Davis (zero catches), which meant Josh Allen had to find different outlets on offense. James Cook proved to be an early option as he caught all five of his first-half targets for 83 yards and a touchdown, helping Buffalo build its lead.
While the offense settled down as this game went along, the defensive pressure from the Bills ramped up. The offense sort of melted down on its fourth drive of the second half. After Allen converted a third-and-9 on a pass to Latavius Murray, back-to-back offensive holding penalties and a third-down sack created a demoralizing fourth-and-38 situation from the Buffalo 19-yard line. Instead of the Chiefs being able to use that stop to create more momentum in their comeback hope, the Bills defense forced a quick three-and-out that saw Mahomes on the field for less than a minute. The ensuing Buffalo drive proved to be the game-winning field goal.
Buffalo Bills CB Taron Johnson Reacts to Key Defense vs. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs - Anthony Licciardi, Sports Illustrated
Takeaways by the Bills proved critical in keeping the Chiefs’ offense in check.
The Buffalo Bills went into Kansas City and came away with what feels like a season-saving 20-17 win. Buffalo won thanks to some clutch moments from quarterback Josh Allen and the most important game of running back James Cook’s career, but holding Patrick Mahomes to three scores in 10 drives is a testament to how well the defense played.
Two turnovers made the difference on Sunday. Defensive lineman A.J. Epensea caught a tipped pass to end the Chiefs’ first drive, and nickel corner Taron Johnson recovered a key fumble late in the third quarter.
Johnson has made a name for himself for his ability to make plays when they’re needed most. He did so again on Sunday and reacted to his defense’s performance after the Week 14 win.
“You gotta take the ball away against Kansas City, they’re a really good team, obviously got one of the best quarterbacks in the league,” Johnson said. “So, just making sure when we have opportunities to take the ball away, we do it.”
The Bills won by a single possession and won the turnover battle by the same amount. In a rivalry that has gotten used to fireworks, both quarterbacks posted negative expected points and completion percentage over expected marks.
The victory puts Buffalo at 7-6 and firmly in the conversation for a playoff spot in the AFC. With as much high-level talent that exists on the roster, the Bills can rest assured nobody wants to play them come January.
“I feel like we’re resilient,” Johnson said. “That’s a big thing that we need to carry throughout the rest of the season.”
Still alive in the playoff hunt, Cook knows the season isn’t over just yet.
“He was awesome,” QB Josh Allen said in his postgame press conference. “He’s been working hard and probably had his best week of practice this week and getting more comfortable with him catching passes out of the backfield. He had a lot of opportunities and took advantage. I thought he ran the ball well.”
“Jimbo was doing a lot today,” TE Dalton Kincaid said to the press. “It was awesome to see him, and he runs hard. Every time he runs the ball, he’s running 100 miles per hour. So, he’s special anytime he gets the opportunity to do something. … (He) just adds another level that the defense has to cover. I think he’s a great receiving threat.”
Cook also was humble while keeping things simple when asked about his performance.
“Just getting open, and Josh finding me and making a play,” Cook said to the press. “That’s about it.”
The bounce-back score against KC also came by way of the team’s preparation during the bye week.
“We ran this play all week at practice, so the safety moves over,” Cook noted. “It was smooth, same way,” he added. “It kind of gave me flashbacks, ‘cause it happened the same exact way in practice. So, it was good on our part.”
With the Bills playoff hopes alive, he knows what lies ahead of them
“We got something we’re playing for,” Cook said. ” So, keep going, and keep going 1-0.”