Josh Allen and co. deliver big performances to make the Bills’ losing past history
With Buffalo becoming the AFC East champions for the first time since 1995 and hosting their first playoff game since ‘96, Josh Allen and his Bills put on a show. Allen totaled three touchdowns on the day, becoming Buffalo’s first starter in a quarter century to win a playoff game.
Micah Hyde also came to play, batting down a Phillip Rivers’ desperation pass as time ran out to help Buffalo snap an 0-6 postseason skid and ensuring the Bills wouldn’t suffer another last-second meltdown like they did against Arizona.
This is uncharted territory for the Bills. Last season the Bills were walking home as losers against the Texans when they blew a 16-0 third-quarter lead in a 22-19 overtime loss to Houston. Now they’re winners and are moving onto the Divisional Round matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
“Obviously we started off a little slow and we were able to get into a rhythm late. Made enough plays to win,” said Allen. “It’s new territory for myself, but it just gives us a chance to play next week.”
Allen finished 26 of 35 for 324 yards and three total touchdowns on a day, including an incredible 5-yard touchdown to Dawson Knox and a 35-yarder to Stefon Diggs, which led to the limited 6,700 fans in attendance to chant “MVP! MVP” to celebrate the first Buffalo player to lead the league in catches and receiving yards.
The 39-year-old Phillip Rivers also played a good game for the Colts, finishing 27 of 46 for 309 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Rivers' career playoff record dropped to 5-7 in completing what may be the final season of his career as he contemplates retirement.
The Colts played almost a perfect game, but squandered opportunities that ended up costing them dearly in the game. The first, a decision to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal on Buffalo’s four-yard line on fourth-and-goal. Rivers’ rainbow toss just went over the hands of receiver Michael Pittman.
Josh Allen was then able to lead his offence down the field from starting deep in Buffalo territory with less than two minutes left in the first half to deliver a rushing touchdown to put the Bills up 14-10.
Buffalo carried this momentum into the second half, driving down the field but settling with a 46-yard field-goal from Tyler Bass.
While the Colts did manage to get back into field goal range, Rodrigo Blankenship ended up missing the 33-yard field goal.
Then came the fourth quarter.
Josh Allen got it going quickly, finding his No. 1 target Stefon Diggs in the endzone that saw the Bills extend their lead to 24-10. The Colts responded quickly though, with Rivers driving his offence down the field to make it a one score game.
Tyler Bass then delivered what would be the decisive points of the game, hitting a 54-yard field goal to put Buffalo up 27-16 with 8:08 remaining. This was also the longest kick ever made by a rookie kicker in the NFL playoffs.
The Colts kept fighting though, with Rivers hitting a wide-open Jack Doyle for a 27-yard touchdown. Doyle also caught the 2-point conversion, moving the score to 27-24.
The Bills didn’t make it easy though, with Allen nearly losing a fumble at midfield when sacked for a 23-yard loss by Denico Autry on first down from the Indianapolis 37. Luckily for the Bills, offensive lineman Daryl Williams recovered the ball. The Bills couldn’t manage to produce a first-down after the fumble and had to punt the ball with 2:30 remaining.
The Colts managed to drive down the field, even managing to convert on fourth-and-1. Then came the controversial call.
Rivers found a wide open Zach Pascal on fourth-and-10. With no one around him, Pascal decided to get up and try to make something more out of the play. Bills safety Jordan Poyer pounced on Pascal and managed to strip the ball from him. However, after officials reviewed the play, it was announced that Pascal was down by contact.
The Colts couldn’t make anything of this opportunity though. With seconds left and Rivers facing fourth-and-11 on Buffalo’s 47, he tried to connect on a Hail Mary pass to T.Y. Hilton who was surrounded by defenders in the end zone. Hyde broke through the crowd of bodies, leaping up and batting the ball to the ground.
Defensive end DeForest Buckner reflected on the opportunities the Colts squandered throughout the game.
“All around, it felt like we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Buckner. “We just let it slip between our fingers.”
The Bills move on to play the Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs on Saturday night.