Image Credit: © Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
It’s almost hard to believe it was 1996 when the Buffalo Bills last won an NFL playoff game. On Saturday, Bills safety Micah Hyde emphatically batted down a last-second Philip Rivers Hail Mary attempt to give Buffalo its first postseason victory in 25 years.
The Colts, who actually outgained Buffalo 472 to 397 for the game, kept the game close in the fourth quarter when Rivers found Zach Pascal for a nine-yard touchdown pass. After a failed two-point conversion, Indianapolis had cut Buffalo’s lead to 24-16.
Tyler Bass hit the second of his two field goals on the day with 8:08 to play in the game. The booming 54-yard kick gave Buffalo a commanding 27-16 lead late in the game. The Colts, who went 11-5 in the regular season, were not done.
Rivers engineered a five-play Indianapolis drive that covered 76 yards and ended with a 27-yard touchdown pass to TE Jack Doyle. The drive took just 1:55, and the successful two-point conversion, also caught by Doyle, pulled the Colts to within a field of Buffalo with plenty of time – 6:13 – remaining in the game.
Buffalo would put together an eight-play drive of its own and use up nearly four minutes before giving the ball back to Indianapolis. The Colts ensuing drive was kept alive by a Rivers-to-Pascal completion on fourth-and-10. Moments later, Hyde’s pass breakup ended the game and kept the Bills alive in the hunt for a Lombardi Trophy.
It was Bills quarterback Josh Allen who almost single-handedly willed the Bills to the win. Allen completed 26-of-35 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Bills in rushing with 54 yards on 11 carries. Allen scored on a five-yard run late in the first half to give Buffalo a 14-10 halftime advantage.
Allen’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs at the beginning of the fourth quarter put the Bills up 24-10. Diggs, who led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards this season, would lead all receivers with six catches and 128 yards.
The grit and determination of the Bills was no more evident than in WR Cole Beasley. Playing through a knee injury, Beasley caught all seven of the passes that targeted him for 57 yards.
Buffalo entered Saturday’s game riding a six-game winning streak. The game was the closest the Bills have played since a one-score game in Week 8. Buffalo had beaten each of its previous six opponents by an average score of 19.8 points.
With his rushing touchdown, Allen became the fifth player in NFL history since 1940 to score a rushing, passing and receiving touchdown in a playoff game. He scored on a 16-yard reception in last year’s wild-card loss to Houston.
Allen also became the youngest player in league history to throw for over 300 yards and complete at least 70 percent of his passes in a postseason game.
The Bills will host the highest remaining seed in next week’s divisional-round playoff game. No. 3 Pittsburgh faces No. 6 Cleveland, and fourth-seeded Tennessee hosts No. 5 Baltimore on Sunday.
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