Image Credit: © Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Entering the playoffs as the hottest team in football, Buffalo prepared to host their first playoff game in almost 25 years. For the first time at Bills Stadium this season, fans were allowed to be in the stands, except this game was for Super Wild Card Weekend. If you were one of roughly 6,700 members of Bills Mafia in attendance, you got to witness a thrilling victory that went down to the wire.
Led by the first player in NFL history to finish a season with at least 4,500 passing yards, 35 touchdowns, and five or more rushing touchdowns, Josh Allen consistently marched the Bills down the field despite less than favorable field position to start each drive.
Allen made a phenomenal heads-up play with their second possession of the game, scrambling to his right. With the Colts’ defense gravitating toward the Bills’ QB, he tossed up a throw to Dawson Knox in the right corner of the end zone as Allen was falling to the ground for the first touchdown of the game.
When Indianapolis decided to go for six instead of kicking a field goal on 4th-and goal, it provided a shift in the momentum of which the Bills were able to take quick advantage of. Starting their fifth drive of the day with 85 or more yards to go, Buffalo had just under two minutes before the end of the half to make something happen in a 10-7 game.
Staying calm and collected, Allen showed his unique ability to avoid tackles while firing dimes on the run, launching a throw to Gabriel Davis along the very edge of the sideline. Davis worked the boundary lines like a pro, hauling in the 37-yard catch. Just two plays later, the Allen-Davis connection worked again for a 19-yard snag along the sideline. In disbelief of what they just witnessed, the refs reviewed both catches before determining they should stand.
One of the dumbest plays of the day came on 4th-and-three. With just 37 seconds before the end of the half, Allen used his hard count to draw Kemoko Turay offsides to give Buffalo a first down. Allen nearly threw an interception on the very next snap, but the defender could not retain possession before the ball touched the ground.
The Bills’ franchise QB then took manners into his own hands with two rushes for 21 yards and the five-yard score to put the Bills ahead 14-10 heading into the second half.
In previous years, where maybe the Bills would look like the inexperienced team making nervous mistakes, the Colts made questionable decisions to turn the game around. The Colts’ two plays that proved to be most costly - the failed fourth-down attempt, and jumping offsides on the Bills’ fourth-down attempt, completely changed the feel of this game.
Coming out of the second half, everything started going the way of the Buffalo for the Colts. Andre Roberts returned the kick to the 28-yard line to give the Bills their best starting field position of the day. They also converted their first third down of the game with a 10-yard strike to Cole Beasley. Buffalo closed the drive with a 46-yard field goal courtesy of Tyler Bass.
With the knee injury to Zack Moss in the 4th quarter, it remains to be seen how much time he may miss. However, early reports suggest he may miss the rest of the playoffs. With Buffalo’s running game struggling to get going, it’s not exactly an area the Bills can afford to lose depth at. Quarterback Josh Allen led the team in both rushing attempts and rush yards against the Colts.
Shortly after the Moss injury, the Bills finally took a deep shot down the field. Targeting the NFL leader in catches and receiving yards, Allen fired a shot to Stefon Diggs for a 35-yard touchdown to put the Bills almost out of reach in a 24-10 game with 14 minutes to play.
With Buffalo ahead by two scores, the Leslie Frazier-led defense ensured no big, quick plays took place to prevent the Colts from getting right back in the game. However, the Colts used the change in mentality to their advantage, driving down for a touchdown that only took seven plays and less than three minutes off the game clock.
Down by eight points, Indianapolis decided to try to make it a six-point game. A neutral zone infraction by Buffalo moved the ball from the two-yard line to the one-yard line. The rush attempt up the middle by stud rookie running back Jonathan Taylor proved unsuccessful as Matt Milano stuffed their two-point attempt to keep the score at 24-16.
Getting the ball back with just under twelve minutes to go and an eight-point lead, the Bills needed to continue chewing as much time off the clock as possible while marching down the field to put the final nail in the coffin. With the Bills struggling to generate first downs, it came down to a bold 54-yard kick from rookie Tyler Bass. He nailed what would be the final points of the game for the Bills.
Veteran gunslinger Philip Rivers didn’t back down, taking just five plays to go 76 yards for a touchdown. The Colts then converted the two-point conversion to make it a 27-24 game with over six minutes to go. Even though Buffalo dominated the middle portion of the game, Indianapolis was right back in it, with a chance to send the Bills home for the season.
Luckily, the Bills have two of the best players in the NFL. Allen didn’t panic despite facing a 2nd-and-15 after being sacked. Allen found Diggs for a 21-yard gain, but he was tackled out of bounds to stop the clock. Devin Singletary provided a nice boost, gaining 13 yards on a 2nd down carry to keep the drive alive and the clock moving.
Then, the controversial fumble occurred. Allen, fighting off an unblocked defender, suffered a loss of 23 yards as Denico Autry wrestled the ball out of his grasp. Fortunately, Darryl Williams hopped on top of it to keep the ball for the Bills. Though, a 2nd-and-33 proved to be too tough of a hole to dig out of.
Buffalo had to punt, giving the Colts a chance with 150 seconds remaining. Now, it was all on Rivers’ shoulders, a QB who had 36 career-winning drives in the 4th quarter or overtime coming into the game.
Continuing the theme of the day for the Colts, their offense struggled to move the ball efficiently. As Buffalo deflected several passes on the final drive, Rivers threw three consecutive incompletions. It came down to the final play before Bills Mafia could celebrate, but a Micah Hyde pass knockdown deflated any remaining hope the Colts had to win the game.
Understandably, with fan capacity nowhere near the usual amount for a pre-COVID game, Jerry Hughes said it felt like 20,000 fans were cheering their team on to victory. Although the first Bills playoff victory in 25 years was a good start, Josh Allen will tell you, “one’s not good enough.”
Bills Game Balls
- Josh Allen
Playing in just the second playoff game of his career, Josh Allen played like a 10-year veteran. The 24-year old superstar QB completed 12 consecutive passes at one point and displayed a level of poise unexpected from a player in just his third season. He perfectly managed the game, knowing when to take off from the pocket and making sound decisions throughout the day.
- Stefon Diggs
In a game where both Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley were questionable to play, they left it all on the field in a potential elimination matchup. Hauling in six receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown, Diggs continued his dominance, displaying what makes him the best wide receiver in the NFL.
- Tyler Bass
Kicking outside in a chilly Buffalo atmosphere, Tyler Bass showed why the Bills drafted him with the 188th selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Bass contributed to nine of the Bills’ 27 points on the day, including 46 and 54-yard field goals. Without Bass, there is no guarantee the Bills would have beaten the Colts.
What’s next for the Buffalo Bills?
As the team with the second-best record in the AFC Conference, Buffalo faces the highest remaining seed next weekend. If the third-seed Pittsburgh Steelers win against Cleveland, they will head to Bills Stadium to take on the Bills. However, if the Cleveland Browns, who have the sixth seed, wins, it would be the Baltimore Ravens playing the Bills in the Divisional Round.
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