ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — There was no holding back Shaq Lawson on the field.
And there was certainly no way to stop the ever-talkative Buffalo Bills defensive end from expressing his excitement following a convincing 20-3 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Lawson had two of Buffalo’s four sacks and the Bills improved to 8-3 to match their best record through 11 games since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly’s final season in 1996.
“Eight and three? That feels good to me,” Lawson said. “I ain’t never been 8-3 in the NFL.”
A vast majority of the fourth-year player’s teammates could say the same thing.
For a franchise that began the 2000s bumbling through a 17-year postseason drought, the new-look Bills suddenly have a shot to make the playoffs for the second time in three years.
And they’re doing so by delivering on the methodical plan to rebuild through youth put into place following the arrival of general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott in 2017.
Signs of the Bills acquiring an identity continue to be evident on both sides of the ball.
A defense that returned 10 starters limited the Broncos to 134 yards and nine first downs while forcing eight punts. Denver’s lone score came on Brandon McManus’ 45-yard field goal that cut Buffalo’s lead to 13-3 early in the third quarter.
The game-turning play came near the end of the first half, when cornerback Tre’Davious White snuffed out a touchdown threat by intercepting Brandon Allen’s pass intended for Courtland Sutton at the Buffalo 8.
And the Josh Allen-led offense, featuring nine new starters, is showing signs of having found a rhythm since coordinator Brian Daboll introduced a hurry-up element to its attack in a 37-20 win at Miami a week earlier.
After wearing down the Broncos with 12- and 17-play field-goal drives to open the game, Allen hit Cole Beasley for an 18-yard touchdown pass on Buffalo’s first drive of the second half. He then sealed it by completing a 34-yard touchdown pass to a diving John Brown.
“I think we started hitting our stride at the right time. We just have to keep rolling,” Beasley said. “We’ve been doing it in practice, and I think Josh is a lot more comfortable doing it that way.”
Allen finished 15 of 25 for 185 yards with an interception. He oversaw a unit that finished with 424 yards for a second consecutive week. And Buffalo’s running game found its stride with 244 yards rushing — it’s best outing since Week 16 of 2016.
Rookie Devin Singletary had his first 100-yard game with 106 yards rushing.
Frank Gore added 65 yards rushing to up his total to 15,289 and move ahead of boyhood idol Barry Sanders into third on the NFL career list. The 15-year veteran also increased his total to 19,154 yards from scrimmage to pass Marshall Faulk for fourth on the list.
It was demoralizing outing for the Broncos, who dropped to 3-8 under first-year coach Vic Fangio, and second time in three years.
“We just got whipped today,” linebacker Von Miller said. “Nothing surprised us. We just got beat.”
And it might be time for Fangio to look to the future after Brandon Allen went 3 of 14 for 4 yards in the second half and finished 10 of 25 for 82 yards passing with an interception.
Allen dropped to 1-2 in three starts after Joe Flacco sustained a season-ending neck injury. And Allen's replacement is already waiting in the wings.
Rookie second-round draft pick Drew Lock has spent the past two weeks practicing since being sidelined in August by an injury to his right thumb.
Fangio said he’s not given any thought about making a switch. The clock, however, is ticking. Lock would remain on IR the rest of the season if he’s not activated by Dec. 3.
Allen, meanwhile, said, the decision’s not his to make.
“Obviously, I want to play,” he said. “I want to be part of the solution.”
Broncos: Host Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 1.
AROUND THE NFL MONDAY
The New Orleans Saints have put themselves in position to clinch the NFC South title as early as next week after escaping with a victory over the second-place Carolina Panthers. The Saints coughed up a 31-18 lead before Will Lutz drilled a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give New Orleans a 34-31 victory over the Panthers. Drew Brees completed 30 of 39 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He led New Orleans from its own 14-yard line with 1:51 left to the Carolina 15 with 3 seconds remaining to set up the winning kick. Lutz became the hero two minutes after Joey Slye missed a 28-yard field goal attempt for Carolina. Slye also missed an extra point in the third quarter. Michael Thomas had 10 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown for the 9-2 Saints, including receptions of 14 and 24 yards on the game-winning drive. Allen passed for 256 yards and three TDs for Carolina, which fell four games behind the Saints with five to play.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw two long touchdown passes and the 49ers began a difficult three-game stretch of division-leading opponents by blasting the Packers, 37-8. Garoppolo connected on a 42-yard touchdown strike to Deebo Samuel in the second quarter and a 61-yarder to George Kittle in the third to help San Francisco improve to 10-1. Aaron Rodgers lost a fumble on the opening drive, was sacked five times and was held to 104 yards passing as Green Bay fell to 8-3.
The Patriots became the first team to hold Dallas without a touchdown this season as New England picked up a 13-9 win over the Cowboys to improve to 10-1. Tom Brady finished 17 of 37 for 190 yards and a TD, with Julian Edelman grabbing eight passes for 93 yards. Ezekiel Elliott rushed 21 times or 86 yards, but the 6-4 Cowboys were just 2 of 13 on third down.
Rashaad Penny ran for a career-best 129 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown that helped the Seahawks knock off the Eagles, 17-9. Russell Wilson was 13 of 25 for 200 yards, one TD and one pick as Seattle improved to 9-2 overall and 6-0 on the road. Carson Wentz was 33 of 45 for 256 yards and a TD, but he also had two interceptions and lost two fumbles as Philadelphia dropped to 5-6.
The Titans scored four touchdowns over six offensive plays in the third quarter to turn a close game into an eventual 42-20 romp over the Jaguars. Derrick Henry had two scoring runs just 16 seconds apart for the 6-5 Titans, and rookie receiver A.J. Brown capped the scoring spurt with a 65-yard TD catch that made it 35-3 with 6:57 left in the third quarter. Ryan Tannehill ran for two TDs and threw two TDs to improve to 4-1 as Tennessee’s starter.
The Raiders’ three-game winning streak is over after Sam Darnold passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in the Jets’ 34-3 rout of Oakland. Darnold was 20 of 29 for 315 yards, including TDs to Robby Anderson and Ryan Griffin as the 4-7 Jets earned their third straight win. Derek Carr was pulled late in the third quarter before the 6-5 Raiders ended a three-game winning streak and fell one game behind the AFC West-leading Chiefs.
Devlin “Duck” Hodges took over for struggling Mason Rudolph and threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to James Washington that carried the Steelers to a 16-10 victory over the winless Bengals. Rookie Benny Snell Jr. returned from a knee injury and ran for 98 yards for the 6-5 Steelers. Tyler Boyd made a catch and was stripped by Devin Bush at the Steelers 8-yard line in the fourth quarter, preserving the lead and helping Cincinnati fall to 0-11.
Jarvis Landry had 10 receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns against his former team in leading the Browns to their third straight win, 41-24 over the Dolphins. Baker Mayfield had 327 yards passing and hit a TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr. Joe Schobert had two interceptions as the Browns moved back into the AFC playoff picture at 5-6.
Allen Robinson scored a TD and had a season-high 131 yards receiving as the Bears won for the second time in three games, 19-14 over the Giants. Khalil Mack had a strip-sack deep in New York territory to set up Mitchell Trubisky’s two-yard touchdown run that put Chicago ahead 19-7. Trubisky threw for a season-high 278 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions as the 5-6 Bears dealt the 2-9 Giants their seventh consecutive loss.
Defensive lineman Vita Vea turned receiver to haul in his first career touchdown in the Buccaneers’ 35-22 victory against the Falcons. Jameis Winston shook off two more interceptions to post his sixth straight 300-yard passing game, completing 18 of 28 for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Godwin had two scoring receptions to help the 4-7 Bucs win for just the second time in their last seven games.
Quinton Dunbar intercepted Jeff Driskel in the final minute before Dustin Hopkins hit a tiebreaking, 39-yard field goal with 16 seconds left to push the Redskins past the Lions, 19-16. Rookie Dwayne Haskins finished 13 of 29 for 156 yards and an interception in his first NFL win as Washington ended a four-game skid and moved to 2-9. Driskel was picked off three times as the Lions lost their fourth in a row and fell to 3-7-1.