You didn’t think the Buffalo Bills' first playoff win in 25 years would come easy, did you?
When the Bills took a 24-10 lead over the Indianapolis Colts in the first minute of the fourth quarter, it sure didn’t feel like this game would go down to the very last snap, but it did, indeed.
It shouldn’t have, but the National Football League is incompetent. I’ll save that for later.
You might have forgotten what a nail-biting game is like since the Bills hadn’t had one in eight weeks and that ended in the “Hail Murray” in Arizona. The last three wins for the Bills were all blowouts, and the three prior that stretch were all two score finals.
This was the narrowest margin of victory for the Bills since Nov. 1 when a late Cam Newton fumble preserved a 24-21 triumph over the New England Patriots in Orchard Park.
How about the irony of the game coming down to a Hail Mary pass, since the last time the Bills lost a game was that heartbreaker in Arizona. But the Bills gave their fans, 6,700 of whom were in the stands at Bills Stadium for the first time this season, a precious playoff win and, at least, another game in this magical, wildly entertaining season.
Josh Allen had a tremendous day for the Bills. It was the "Josh Allen experience," and I mean that in a good way.
The third-year quarterback completed 74% of his throws, going 26-of-35 for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Allen, again, used his legs as a weapon through scrambles and designed runs. He was actually the Bills' leading rusher with 54 yards and another touchdown.
Allen was under pressure for most of the afternoon, and actually the majority of his completions came on throws from outside the pocket, where Allen went 15-of-20 for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
It was a struggle for the offense early on, as they punted on three of their first four possessions. Field position was a problem, as the Bills had two drive starts inside their own 10-yard line, and the two others were inside their own 20.
However, the offense found a groove late in the second quarter and carried it into the second half.
Following a goal line stand by the defense, Allen and company were backed up again, this time at their own four-yard line. No problem. They put together a 10-play, 96-yard touchdown drive just before halftime. Allen made a couple of nice throws while on the run towards the sideline, and wide receiver Gabriel Davis made a couple of outstanding catches. Davis, who has had an impressive rookie campaign, was able to get his feet in with little room to spare on both catches, which totaled 56 yards.
Allen would opt to his legs on the final two plays of the drive with a 16-yard run, followed by a five-yard run for the touchdown.
Allen also guided the Bills to 10 points on their first two possessions of the second half. Following a field goal drive, Allen’s arm was on display on a picture-perfect 35-yard touchdown throw to Stefon Diggs, who had 128 yards receiving in his Bills playoff debut.
Allen also had a stretch in the second half where he completed 12 straight passes.
The depth of the Bills' receiving group was a difference maker once again.
John Brown had no catches on four targets, but it still didn’t negatively impact the passing game. Diggs had his 128 yards (92 of which came in the second half), Davis caught all four of his targets for a total of 85 yards, and Cole Beasley, who was questionable due to a leg injury, was a perfect 7-for-7 on his targets for 57 yards. Just to make the tight end room happy, I will point out that Dawson Knox had his fourth touchdown catch in the last seven games.
The Bills defense did not have a great day, but they came up huge on a couple of occasions.
Leading 10-7 in the second quarter, the Colts had a 1st-and-goal at the Bills' four-yard line. After a two-yard shovel pass and a one-yard run, Indianapolis was at the one-yard line. They ran a toss to Jonathan Taylor, but cornerback Taron Johnson led the way and snuffed it out for a loss of three yards. The Colts decided to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the four, but Philip Rivers' throw was just a little long for Michael Pittman and the Bills kept Indianapolis from adding to their lead.
The next, and ultimately the biggest stop came on the final drive as the Bills clung to a 27-24 lead.
The game should have ended when the Bills forced a fumble after a catch by wide receiver Zach Pascal and recovered the ball. The Bills would have then gone into victory formation, but the NFL apparently needs to get their replay monitors or their eyes checked or both. Despite the fact that replay clearly showed it was a fumble, the NFL said there was no clear and obvious visual evidence, so the call of a catch stood.
Visions of the "Music City Miracle" and another botched replay review that ended a Bills postseason were dancing in my head.
A few plays after that, it all came down to the Hail Mary from the Bills' 48-yard line. But this time, the Bills successfully defended the play as safety Micah Hyde came flying up from the end zone and went airborne to knock the Rivers pass down inside the five-yard line.
Bills fans all over exhaled. Bills players began their on-field celebration. Head coach Sean McDermott pointed to the sky. I resumed breathing.
The 2020 season continues, and the Bills will have a second home playoff game in the same season for the first time since 1993.
Soak it all in and enjoy the week, Bills fans. You’ve certainly earned it.