Huge penalties and many turnovers doom Bills in bad home loss to Broncos

Russell Wilson might not be all the way back, but he still has a little magic left. And the Buffalo Bills helped Wilson and the Denver Broncos get a huge, weird road win on Monday night.

Wilson made clutch plays in the fourth quarter, and his biggest one was simply throwing the ball straight up in the air downfield to Jerry Jeudy. Against an all-out blitz, Wilson lofted a deep pass that was a bit underthrown, and defensive back Taron Johnson committed a pass interference for a 28-yard gain. The Broncos were in field-goal position after that play.

That put the Broncos in position for the winning kick, which was no easy task after some miscues earlier in the kicking game. And Wil Lutz missed wide right, which seemed to end the game. Somehow, the Bills had 12 men on the field and were penalized. On a night the Bills made multiple mistakes, that was an inexcusable one. Lutz knocked it through on his second chance and the Broncos had a 24-22 win.

The Broncos are a new team. They started the season 1-5 and have won three in a row since then. The defense, which had a horribly embarrassing performance giving up 70 points to the Miami Dolphins early this season, shut out the Bills for most of the first half as part of its shocking transformation. It seemed weird when the Broncos didn't trade anyone at the deadline, but now we see why.

The Bills are going the other way. They made several mistakes to let the Broncos stay in the game, but it still seemed like Buffalo would pull out a win when they took a 22-21 lead on a Josh Allen touchdown run inside of the two-minute warning. But the 2023 Bills are finding ways to lose, and ended the night with a 5-5 record. They deserved to lose on Monday night, and have earned that .500 record.

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson made several key plays on Monday night against Buffalo. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson made several key plays on Monday night against Buffalo. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Bills start with mistakes

The night started ominously for the Bills. On the first play from scrimmage, James Cook was stripped of the ball and the Broncos recovered the fumble. Cook was banished to the bench for a quarter-and-a-half after that, even though it was his first fumble all season and the Bills got shut out while it force-fed Latavius Murray the ball in Cook's absence.

The Bills couldn't do much right. A pass went right through Gabriel Davis' hands and was intercepted. Josh Allen later threw an interception that was all on him in the final minute of the first half, which gifted the Broncos a field goal before halftime.

When the first half ended and the Broncos led 15-8, the boos from the Bills crowd were impossible to ignore.

It could have been worse, too. The Broncos didn't fully cash in on some opportunities. They missed an extra point. They had four possessions start in Bills territory and didn't get a single first down on any of those drives. Everything had gone their way in the first half and they led by only seven points.

But they led at the half, and Bills fans weren't too happy to see their team struggling again. It got a lot worse at the end.

Broncos take 4th quarter lead

The Bills caught a huge break in the third quarter. They went for it on fourth down in their own territory and didn't get it. The Broncos had a big chance to add to their lead, but Buffalo hit Sutton, the ball popped out and spun just inside of the sideline. The Bills recovered. They took the ball downfield and Murray scored a touchdown to tie the game.

But the Bills weren't done making mistakes. They had another turnover when Allen simply dropped the ball before he could hand it to Cook, and the Broncos picked up the fumble. Denver finally got a drive going in the fourth quarter, with Wilson completing three big third-down passes to keep the drive alive, including one to Sutton that looked like it might have been a fumble but he was ruled down and was given a first down.

Under extreme pressure, Wilson flipped a pass out to Javonte Williams right before he got hit, and Williams took it in for a touchdown with 5:06 left. Broncos punter and holder Riley Dixon dropped the extra-point snap but Denver still led 21-15. That lost extra point gave the Bills life.

The Bills caught a huge break after that when Cook fumbled again, but it bounced right back up to him and he never broke stride on a 42-yard gain. Buffalo kept driving inside the 10-yard line, and Allen ran in for a go-ahead touchdown just inside of the two-minute warning.

The Broncos still had a shot. Wilson moved Denver into Bills territory, needing a field goal to win the game. But Wilson took a huge sack with 35 seconds left, completely knocking the Broncos out of field-goal range. But a defensive pass interference put the Broncos in position to win, and the 12 men on the field penalty kept the game alive for Denver.

The Bills came into the season as a Super Bowl favorite. But Super Bowl favorites rarely play as poorly as the Bills did Monday night.