FOXBOROUGH – (WIVB) – Isaiah McKenzie has been known as the Bills “gadget guy” but in the biggest game of the year he was much more than that, in fact he was their leading receiver in a 33-21 win over the Patriots that gave Buffalo the lead in the AFC East.

“I just felt like I had to step up for my team,” McKenzie said after the game.

And boy did he ever. It was a career game for McKenzie as he ended with 11 catches for 125 yards, both new career-highs, and a touchdown.

“I’m so happy for him, I’ve got all the faith in the world in him and for him to come out and play this way, the day after Christmas, it means a lot to him but I think it means a lot to everybody on this team,” Josh Allen said in his postgame press conference.

The Bills always preach that “next man up” mentality and while it sounds cliche, it was much needed in this game with wide receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis out for the game on the NFL’s Covid-19 list.

“With them being out I just had to step up and all my coaches believed in me, Josh believed in me, threw me the ball and I made plays and that’s all I wanted to do to help the team win,” McKenzie explained.

McKenzie hasn’t been involved much in the offense this season, rather won the primary return job at the start of the season after the Bills lost Pro Bowl return man Andre Roberts.

But McKenzie spent some time on the sideline as he was a healthy scratch in back-to-back games. He was inactive for the Thanksgiving night game in New Orleans then the following week in the first meeting against the Patriots on Monday night football, something he called a “learning experience”.

“That was my first time sitting down in a while and I just had to take it even just think to myself what can I do better. I just show up to practice every day, get my teammates better, do whatever I’ve gotta do to make myself better,” McKenzie explained.

“Those two weeks I was inactive I just thought about things and just reevaluated myself and then this opportunity came around.”

“Just seeing a guy like that who has his ups and downs throughout the year, loses the returning position, sat for a couple games and comes out, I mean he was unbelievable today. Just an absolute phenomenal day for him and I’m so happy for him, I can’t express that enough,” Allen explained.

A few notable plays by McKenzie were right from the get-go on the Bills opening drive, Allen found McKenzie for a first down on 3rd and 7 to keep the drive alive that eventually ended with a three-yard touchdown catch by McKenzie.

He also came up clutch on the drive where Dawson Knox scored in the fourth quarter, making a 17-yard play on 3rd and 10 to keep that series going as well.

And it all started from taking the time to reflect, and using the weeks he spent inactive for a positive use. So what did he learn?

“Never mess up again,” Mckenzie laughed.

“Just do my part, try not to put the team in bad situations whether it’s giving up the ball, penalties, and just do my job the best way I can like I know I can. That’s just a learning curve for me so I learned from it, I don’t want to go back to it but I’m gonna keep rolling.”