Image Credit: © Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Sunday night’s AFC Divisional Round playoff game in Buffalo was supposed to be a showdown between the Bills’ Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. Instead, an unlikely hero emerged when Taron Johnson picked off a Jackson pass in the end zone and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown.
Johnson’s pick-six came as Jackson was marching the Ravens toward a game-tying score. Buffalo led 10-3 with just 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Jackson tried to find TE Mark Andrews in the end zone on a third-and-goal play from the nine-yard line.
The interception return would close the scoring as neither team scored in the fourth quarter. Jackson would actually leave the game on the first series of the fourth quarter. On second down, the ball was snapped over Jackson’s head. The Ravens quarterback retrieved the ball and was able to throw it away but was taken to the turf by Buffalo’s Trent Murphy.
Jackson hit his head on the turf and left the game. He entered concussion protocol and did not return. Tyler Huntley, a former practice squad player, finished the game at quarterback for Baltimore.
With Jackson in the game for three quarters, the Buffalo defense did a number on the Ravens. Baltimore had won six straight, averaging over 200 yards rushing per game coming into Sunday night. The Bills held the Ravens to 150 rushing yards. Jackson had just 34 on nine carries. Both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards carried the ball 10 times and wound up with an identical 42 yards.
The Bills also sacked Jackson three times and got to Huntley once for a total of four for the game. The Ravens passing game, which finished last in the NFL during the regular season, could not overcome the Buffalo defense. Jackson finished 14-of-24 for 162 yards.
On the other side of the ball, Allen proved why he is worthy of this year’s NFL MVP. The third-year pro went 23-of-37 for 206 yards and a touchdown. Allen’s three-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter shifted the momentum in the Bills’ favor.
The Ravens knotted the game at 3-3 at halftime. Allen led Buffalo on an 11-play, 66-yard scoring drive to start the third quarter. Allen connected with WR Stefon Diggs on a quick screen, which Diggs took to the end zone. Diggs, the NFL’s regular-season leader in receptions and receiving yards, finished the day with eight catches for 106 yards.
Buffalo awaits the winner of Cleveland-Kansas City on Sunday. Should the top-seeded Chiefs win, the AFC Championship Game will be held next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. An upset win by the Browns would shift the game to Bills Stadium.
The last time the Bills played for an AFC title was at the end of the 1993 season. They beat the visiting Chiefs to earn their fourth straight trip to the Super Bowl.
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