For the first time in 25 years, the Buffalo Bills are advancing in the National Football League Playoffs.
Buffalo defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the first postseason game at Bills Stadium since December of 1996 on Saturday afternoon, 27-24, giving the franchise its first playoff win since the 1995 season.
In ironic fashion, the game came down to the final play, a Hail Mary attempt from Colts quarterback Philip Rivers, eerily similar to the last play of Buffalo's Week 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. However, the result was different this time around. Rivers' final pass was knocked down by Bills safety Micah Hyde, and Buffalo is moving on to the Divisional Round next weekend.
The playoff win is the first for head coach Sean McDermott, who has led the Bills to three postseason appearances in the last four years, and for quarterback Josh Allen, who finished the game 26-of-35 passing for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Allen also led the Bills in rushing, carrying the ball 11 times for 54 yards along with a running score.
Indianapolis got on the board first after both teams traded punts on their opening possessions. The Colts offense put together a nice drive on its second series, with Rivers completing a pair of 20-plus-yard passes. However, the Buffalo defense held Indianapolis to a 30-yard field goal, giving the Colts a 3-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.
Allen and the Buffalo offense appeared to have some life on their second series after going three-and-out to start the game. Allen completed five passes to five different receivers on the eight-play drive, with the last being a three-yard toss to a diving tight end Dawson Knox in the end zone.
Knox's fourth touchdown grab in the last seven games put Buffalo ahead, 7-3, with 1:49 to play in the first quarter.
Indianapolis took the lead back midway through the second quarter. Rivers connected with wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. for a 32-yard gain, putting the Colts at Buffalo's 11-yard line.
Pittman's grab set up a Jonathan Taylor one-yard rushing touchdown, pushing Indianapolis back in front, 10-7.
The Colts had a chance to add to the lead late in the first half with Buffalo's offense continuing to struggle to find a rhythm. Following a third three-and-out in four possessions from the Bills, Indianapolis went on and eight-play drive, covering 55 yards and getting all the way to Buffalo's one-yard line. However, head coach Frank Reich elected to go for it on fourth down, and Rivers' pass to Pittman in the corner of the end zone fell incomplete, leaving the Colts with no points and the Bills still down by three.
Buffalo's offense followed up the defense's goal-line stand with its best drive of the afternoon. Allen and the Bills marched down the field, covering 96 yards in 10 plays and just 1:32 of game time en route to the end zone.
Gabriel Davis, who led all Bills receivers with three catches for 72 yards in the first half, reeled-in a pair of passes from Allen for gains of 37 and 19 yards on the drive; and he did it with some fancy footwork near the sidelines. Davis finished the game with four catches for 85 yards.
The drive was capped with a five-yard rushing score from Allen, who scampered for 16 yards on the previous play to set up the touchdown. The quarterback's run into the end zone put the Bills back on top, 14-10, with just 14 seconds left until halftime.
Buffalo's choice to defer to the second half after winning the coin toss paid off. The Bills used the first possession of the third quarter to add to their lead. A 46-yard field goal from Tyler Bass, the rookie's first postseason field goal of his career, pushed the score to 17-10 in Buffalo's favor.
With momentum really starting to shift the Bills' way, the Colts offense responded with an impressive, 14-play drive, in which Rivers successfully converted on third down on three separate occasions.
The fourth time was the charm for the Buffalo defense, however, as the Bills were able to stop Indianapolis at Buffalo's 15-yard line. Rivers was unable to complete a fourth pass on third down, leading to a field goal attempt from Blankenship. The rookie's 33-yard kick hit off the right goal post and fell to the turf, keeping the Bills ahead by seven.
Buffalo capitalized on Indianapolis' misfortunes, going on a nine-play scoring drive following the missed field goal. The Bills doubled the lead to 14 points early in the fourth quarter when Allen hit Stefon Diggs in the end zone with a 35-yard bomb of a throw; the third postseason touchdown of the wide receiver's career and first in a Bills uniform.
Diggs finished with six catches for 128 yards to go with his touchdown. After being limited to just one reception through the first two quarters, Diggs rebounded in the second half, catching five balls for 92 yards.
Cole Beasley, who returned to Buffalo's lineup after missing the regular season finale against the Miami Dolphins with an knee injury, led all Bills receivers with seven catches for 57 yards.
The Bills did suffer a bit of a blow prior to Diggs' touchdown. Running back Zack Moss was carted off the field after suffering an ankle injury, leaving rushing duties solely on the shoulders of Devin Singletary and Allen for the final stretch of the game. Moss did not return to the game following that play.
Down a pair of touchdowns after Diggs' score, the Colts once again responded when it was needed most. Rivers led a seven-play, 75-yard drive in under three minutes of game time that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Zach Pascal.
After an offside penalty against the Bills, Reich chose to go for two and make it a six-point game. However, Taylor was stopped short of the goal line on a rushing attempt, leaving the score at 24-16, Buffalo, with 11:32 to play.
Tyler Bass would extend the lead to 27-16 on the ensuing drive with a 54-yard field goal; a kick that would end up being the game-winning score. The rookie kicker has now made 24 of his last 25 field goal attempts and hasn't missed in the last eight games.
Indianapolis continued to make things interesting, answering another Buffalo score with a touchdown. This time, Rivers ended a quick drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Doyle, cutting the Colts' deficit to five points.
Rivers connected with Doyle through the air again for a successful two-point conversion, making the score 27-24, Bills with 6:13 to go.
Buffalo punted the ball back to Indianapolis with 2:38 left on the clock, giving the Colts and their veteran quarterback a chance to win on a late drive. The Colts' hopes were nearly snatched away when Pascal appeared to fumble the ball after making a catch on fourth down, but was ruled down by contact.
After a lengthy review, the play on the field stood as called and the Colts kept possession. Pascal's catch put Indianapolis at Buffalo's 46-yard line, but the Colts wouldn't get much further.
The final play was run from the Bills' 47-yard line, and it ended with the ball on the turf, and Buffalo victorious.
- 3-0 INDIANAPOLIS – Colts field goal (5:29) – Rodrigo Blankenship’s 30-yard field goal attempt is good
Drive info: 8 plays, 52 yards, 3:39
- 7-3 BUFFALO – Bills touchdown (1:49) – Josh Allen passes to Dawson Knox for a three-yard touchdown (Tyler Bass’ extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 85 yards, 3:40
- 10-7 INDIANAPOLIS – Colts touchdown (8:07) – Jonathan Taylor rushes for a one-yard touchdown (Rodrigo Blankenship’s extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 65 yards, 5:27
- 14-10 BUFFALO – Bills touchdown (0:14) – Josh Allen rushes for a five-yard touchdown (Tyler Bass’ extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 96 yards, 1:32
- 17-10 BUFFALO – Bills field goal (11:05) – Tyler Bass’ 46-yard field goal attempt is good
Drive info: 9 plays, 44 yards, 3:55
- 24-10 BUFFALO – Bills touchdown (14:10) – Josh Allen passes to Stefon Diggs for a 35-yard touchdown (Tyler Bass’ extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 77 yards, 4:22
- 24-16 BUFFALO – Colts touchdown (11:32) – Phillip Rivers passes to Zach Pascal for a nine-yard touchdown (Jonathan Taylor stopped short of the goal line on a rushing attempt, two-point conversion is no good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 75 yards, 2:38
- 27-16 BUFFALO – Bills field goal (8:08) – Tyler Bass’ 54-yard field goal attempt is good
Drive info: 7 plays, 39 yards, 3:24
- 27-24 BUFFALO – Colts touchdown (6:13) – Phillip Rivers passes to Jack Doyle for a 27-yard touchdown (Rivers’ pass to Doyle is complete, two-point conversion is good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 76 yards, 1:55
The Bills will now wait and see who their opponent will be in next weekend's Divisional Round. If the third-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the No. 6 seed Cleveland Browns on Sunday night, the Bills will play Pittsburgh. However, if the Steelers lose, Buffalo will host the winner of the Tennessee Titans (No. 4 seed) and Baltimore Ravens (No. 5 seed) matchup.