That was intense and, at times, excruciating.
It's been 20 years since I felt like I did during the Buffalo Bills' 17-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. I was on the edge of my seat from start-to-finish.
There were numerous times I prayed to the football gods. Every drive, every snap felt so important. As expected, the strong defenses ruled the night, which made any trip into scoring territory crucial, and any points scored seemed monumental.
There is plenty of credit to go around.
In terms of big picture, it goes to head coach Sean McDermott and his coaching staff for getting the Bills to double-digit wins for the first time since 1999. You can also credit general manager Brandon Beane and the personnel department who overhauled the roster and hit on free agents, trades and draft picks the last three offseasons.
As to this win specifically, the defense came up with, yet, another "get on our back" performance, giving up just one touchdown while holding Pittsburgh to 229 total yards. The defense also took the ball away five times, recorded four sacks and after giving up a 69-yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter, completely shutting down the Steelers offense. On Pittsburgh's final six drives, the Bills forced three punts (all were three and outs) and came up with three interceptions. The defense has now given up less than 20 points in 10 of the 14 games this season.
The offense had its struggles against a strong Pittsburgh defense, but as opposed to the game against the Baltimore Ravens last week, the offense made a handful of plays and that's all it took.
Josh Allen only completed 13 passes for 139 yards, but on the Bills' first touchdown drive, he completed a 10-yard pass to wide receiver John Brown on 4th-and-6 at the Pittsburgh 36-yard line. On the second touchdown, drive Allen had just his second completion of the season on a pass that traveled at least 30 yards in the air. The 40-yard completion to Brown was the spark they needed on, what would turn out to be, the game-winning drive.
Speaking of Brown, the Bills' No. 1 receiver came up big after his three quietest games of the season. He caught seven of Allen's completions for 99 yards. He made that 40-yard grab despite being interfered with by the Steelers' defensive back. He got open on that huge fourth down conversion. He had a key block on a Devin Singletary run to the Pittsburgh one-yard line that led to the Bills' first touchdown. For good measure, Brown also recovered a Singletary fumble on that game-winning touchdown drive.
The biggest thank you of all goes to the Bills for not making us sweat out the next game against the New England Patriots in Foxboro, or even worse the final game of the season against the New York Jets. Clinching a playoff spot with two games to go was not something I anticipated back in the summer.
Welcome back to the playoffs, Bills fans!