Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (99) tries to block San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) during Monday Night Football on Dec 7, 2020 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale AZ (AP News photo)
By Joe Hawkes
Josh Allen was sizzling in the desert, throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns on 32 of 40 pass attempts as the Buffalo Bills cruise to a 34-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Glendale, Ariz. at State Farm Stadium on Monday night to cap off Week 13.
At 9-3, the Buffalo Bills remain in sole possession of first place in the AFC East and clinched back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1998-99. The Bills are looking to capture their first division title since 1995.
Buffalo is one game ahead of the Miami Dolphins (8-4) with four games to play for both teams.
Allen completed passes to eight different receivers, throwing touchdown passes to Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, Isaiah McKenzie and Gabriel Davis. Beasley and Stefon Diggs were Allen’s preferred targets on the night.
The duo combined for 22 targets, garnering 11 apiece.
Beasley was a tough cover for the 49ers defense in the first half, hauling in seven catches for 113 yards including a 5-yard TD on a curl route to tie the game at 7-7 following an early TD from San Francisco. Buffalo scored 17 unanswered points to lead 17-7 at halftime.
San Francisco had the injury bug bite them hard recently at their slot cornerback position and struggled to cover Beasley, who finished with a career-high nine catches for 130 yards and a TD.
Diggs registered 10 catches for 92 yards, doing most of his damage in the second half.
Buffalo’s offense harpooned the 49ers defense, exploding for 449 yards and 31 first downs. The Bills had 20 first downs alone before halftime and were efficient on offense, scoring points on five-straight drives through the second quarter and into the third quarter.
Buffalo took care of the football, dominating the time of possession: 35 minutes to 25 minutes.
In the same token, the 49ers had just nine first downs in the first half and struggled tremendously on offense for the majority of the game. The 49ers finished with 24 first downs and 402 yards of total offense that came mainly in the second half with the game decided.
San Francisco (5-7) lost a game in its temporary home of in Arizona. The 49ers will remain in Glendale for at least the next three weeks after Santa Clara County issued strict protocols that forced the team to find a temporary home.
It was the fourth game this season that Allen has thrown for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns, which set a franchise record according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly (1991) and Drew Bledsoe (2002) each did it three times for the Bills.
In the first quarter, both teams traded goal-line stands.
Buffalo opened the game with a 74-yard that was stopped at the 49ers’ 1-yard line after Allen’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the back of the end zone. San Francisco followed up with a 97-yard drive of their own that stopped at the Buffalo 2-yard line, but Jeff Wilson Jr. was stuffed for no gain on fourth down.
But the 49ers got the ball back in excellent field position following a fumble by Allen and the 49ers took advantage. Nick Mullens found rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the middle of the field for a 2-yard TD to take an early 7-0 lead.
Mullens finished 26 of 39 passing for 316 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Aiyuk had five catches for 95 yards and TD.
A week after recording a career-high 11 catches and 133 yards, wide receiver Deebo Samuel finished with a team-leading six catches for 73 yards all in the second half. Buffalo’s defense shutdown Samuel in the first half, holding the dynamic play-maker to just one target.
Wilson Jr. led the 49ers with 47 yards rushing on seven carries, while Raheem Mostert chipped in with 42 yards on nine carries.
The 49ers will stay in Arizona to host the Washington Football Team Sunday, while the Buffalo Bills will be featured in primetime once again when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night.