Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie had a big game in Sunday’s 33-21 win over the Patriots in New England.
In fact, it was his biggest yet in his NFL career.
Buffalo was shorthanded with WR’s Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis as well as RB Matt Breida out and needed the 26-year-old to step up.
The 5-8, 173 lb McKenzie did just that, leading all receivers in playing 85.3% of the game’s offensive snaps while going 11-for-12 and 125 yards with one touchdown while averaging 11.4 yards per reception.
His 11 catches tied the most by a Bill this season with Cole Beasley’s 11 against Washington, and his 125-yards were second-most only to WR Stefon Diggs’s 162 against the Jets. His 103 receiving yards in the second half were the most in a half by any Buffalo player this season.
What’s more, his 11 catches, 12 targets, and 125 receiving yards were all career highs for the fifth-year pro out of Georgia.
The slot, a position where Beasley is second in the NFL in catches (63) and is Buffalo’s second-leading receiver this season, is just where McKenzie would haul in seven of his 11 receptions for 89 yards including his touchdown catch.
His impact was significant on third down (where Beasley is the second most frequented target after Diggs) and on fourth down as well, with four catches on four targets for 32 yards and the TD.
He also helped in the absence of Breida, who has averaged 10.3 yards per catch receiving with two touchdowns this season, and who played at RB, WR, and as a kick returner in Week 13 against New England.
McKenzie was averaging 5.4 yards per reception with only seven catches on the season. He’d also never had 70 or more yards receiving in a single game in his career.
However, as noted in our 3 keys to a Buffalo win, the 26-year-old speedster averaged 9.9 yards per reception in 2018, and 9.4 yards per reception in the 2019 and 2020 seasons with five touchdowns last season for Buffalo.
He spent time returning kicks and as a “gadget player” in a number of positions, including running back. He’s even filled in at cornerback in one game as a Bill and thrown a touchdown to QB Josh Allen in another.
In 2021 McKenzie’s played as a return man but was benched for fumbling issues and missed the first meeting with the Patriots.
To say he bounced back in his return to gameplay may be an understatement.
His impact was perhaps no more visible on the day than when he came through in the final seven-plus minutes of the fourth quarter on Sunday for two big back-to-back plays. The first for 17 yards on third down, and the second a sideline catch for 15 yards in which he laid out to make the stretch grab, landing hard on top of the football.
Isaiah McKenzie wasn’t even supposed to get so much playing time today but injuries forced him into the role.
He has 11 catches for 125 yards and a score.pic.twitter.com/ZlCQmQGcxc
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 26, 2021
Those plays were a part of a scoring drive that sealed the win, giving the Bills a 9-6 record along with an 88.7% chance to win the AFC East, per ESPN’s Football Power Index.
As for McKenzie, his selfless mindset was on display after the game.
Putting smiles on people’s faces that believed in you. I’m more happy for them than i am for myself. Thank you
— Isaiah McKenzie (@_IsaiahMcKenzie) December 28, 2021