The game, which was won when Wil Lutz's made his second-chance field goal after the Bills were penalized for having too many men on the field, was the third straight win for the Broncos, who have climbed back into playoff contention with eight games to go.
"It's the NFL. I mean, credit (to) these guys," Payton said afterward, via NFL.com. "There's a little toughness to this league. I keep saying it -- there's that fine line between a groove and a rut. You have to bow up a little bit, and you have to demand it of each other at practice during the week. You win during the week. I felt like we've been practicing during the week better -- a lot better. If you do that and you demand that of each other, then Sundays become a little bit less chaotic."
Payton's line about the groove and rut has been a recurring quote of his during his first season in Denver. It would be a good title to a documentary on the 2023 Broncos, who are now 4-5 after a rocky start.
So, how have the Broncos found their groove? By playing exponentially better defense, an improved running game and better quarterback play from Russell Wilson, who at times on Monday night looked like the Wilson that led the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls.
Wilson went 24 of 29 passing on Monday night, including touchdown tosses to Courtland Sutton and Javonte Williams. His touchdown pass to Sutton was a thing of beauty; Wilson evaded a sure sack by Shaq Lawson before turning and finding Sutton, who was able to keep both feet in bounds. The score, which occurred on a fourth-down play, gave the Broncos a 9-0 lead.
"There's a lot of practice," Sutton said of the play, via 9News. "You practice it as much as you possibly can so it becomes an unconscious thing."
After holding the Chiefs to nine points in their previous outing, the Broncos defense came up with four turnovers against the Bills. The unit, which gave up a whopping 70 points to the Dolphins back in Week 3, has allowed an average of 16.8 points per game over its last four contests.
"Our defense has been unbelievable," Wilson told ESPN after Monday's win. "Everybody was talking stuff about them. I know how good they are. I play them every day and how great they are."
Resiliency has been another key to Denver's turnaround, especially during Monday's game. Despite the Bills' rally and several self-inflicted errors (including two missed PATs), the Broncos responded to their adversity while creating their own good fortune.
"I went through some adversity personally tonight," Lutz said. "But short memory. One kick at a time and I'm proud of how we handled that as a unit."
Add everything up, and you have a Broncos team that is very much alive in the AFC playoff race.
"Well, we know what we can do," Wilson said. "We have to come back to work this week. We're going against a team, the Vikings, at home, who's been playing some really good football. We're going to enjoy this win, though. We're going to celebrate. We're going to have some fun. This is a huge one. This is a good football team we just played. Obviously, the past couple weeks we've been playing some really good teams. To beat the Chiefs, to beat these guys, sets the standard of who we should be and who we can be and who we're going to be."