With the 2017 NFL season in the books following a fairly surprising playoff berth, we look back at the season and our beloved Buffalo Bills. Every week is a story, and we bring this to you through the lens of key plays that defined the game. Your Week 14 match-up:
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills had begun a three-game homestand with a loss to the New England Patriots. At 6-6, the Bills were “in the hunt” but desperately needed wins to close the season. With one more game against New England and both games against the Miami Dolphins approaching fast, the Week 14 tilt against the Indianapolis Colts was firmly of the “do or die” variety. At 3-9, the un-Lucky Colts seemed like easy pickings. Nothing comes easy though in the NFL. The Colts had been playing to the wire against tough teams, while the Bills had dropped four of their last five games by two or more scores. If the Bills were truly “Playoff Caliber,” they would need to start showing it. The team breathed a sigh of relief when Tre’Davious White cleared concussion protocol and was deemed active for the game. Tyrod Taylor was not so fortunate with his knee, and Nathan Peterman made his second start of the season.
Angry snow demons enveloped the field and took over the game. Normal football rules stopped applying. The game drastically skewed to the run game, breaking the 70% barrier of play calls. Punts wouldn’t bounce. Adam Vinatieri field goals from 33 yards weren’t automatic. Cats and dogs lived together. Mass hysteria. Each team managed a lone touchdown during regulation play. Despite trying to get off the field as quickly as possible, the dreary conditions became home for the Bills and Colts through four quarters and over eight minutes of overtime. The snow demons grew tired of the nonsense, turning their favor to the Bills to allow a home team touchdown on the back of two minor miracles. With this victory, fans were in the unfamiliar territory of mid-December playoff hopes more legitimate than “mathematically alive.”
Nathan Peterman TD to Kelvin Benjamin (Q2, 0:31)
It took nearly an entire half for either team to put points on the board. After promising early drives resulted in a failed fourth down attempt (Bills) and a failed 33-yard field goal (Colts), the two teams struggled to do more than create awesome photo opportunities. With less than two minutes in the half, the Bills put their faith in LeSean McCoy. Two runs totaling 48 yards put the ball in scoring position. A few plays later, Nathan Peterman threw this beauty where only Kelvin Benjamin had a shot. Instead of celebrating, half the team immediately begins clearing a pit for Stephen Hauschka to kick the extra point. Fun fact: want to know what happened between 2nd and 7 at the Indianapolis 29-yard line and 1st and 8 at the goal? Don’t look at the play-by-play because they couldn’t keep up. There’s blank spots in the official record of this game. Neat!
Colts’ two-point conversion (Q4, 1:16)
Neither team was able to do much in the third quarter. The fourth quarter belonged to the Colts. Taking possession at their own 23 with 11:09 to play, they took the ball all the way into the end zone. This score capped off a 20-play drive that took the clock all the way down to 1:16. The Colts had nothing to lose in terms of their season and elected to decide the game in regulation. This two-point conversion likely would have been the game-winner. However, Kamar Aiken (circled) started blocking a little early and was called for pass interference after a lengthy discussion among the officials. With the extra ten yards to go on their next try, they opted for the extra point, sending the game to snowvertime.
Joe Webb interception (Q4, 1:01)
No one really seemed excited for overtime, and the Bills went aggressive. Joe Webb (who replaced a concussed Nathan Peterman in the third quarter) would ultimately go 2 for 6 on passing attempts. He would not complete a single pass to anyone wearing red until the final drive in overtime. This is not an indictment of Webb so much as the impossibility of the situation. This play set the Colts up at the Buffalo 28. In any other game, with almost a minute of clock and Frank Gore running the ball, this would have been a death sentence. On this day, they managed to bring Vinatieri a scant three yards closer, where he missed the 43-yard attempt to close the game.
The Punt (OT, 4:13)
For the Bills, a tie was as good as a loss for playoff dreams. With only four minutes to go and plays taking significantly longer to execute in the conditions, this punt became the most controversial play of the game. It worked out on the end, but fans on team “good strategy” went at it with team “tried to punt away the season” for quite some time.
Joe Webb 34 yard pass to Deonte Thompson (OT, 2:00)
Statistics suggested this play should not have been expected. Webb had completed one pass so far and that was only 25 seconds before this one. It also went for only one yard. Joe Webb said “statistics be damned.” Standing firm in the pocket, Webb launched this pass to the awaiting Deonte Thompson. In one play, the Bills had traveled over half the distance needed for a score.
LeSean McCoy touchdown (OT, 1:39)
And on the sixth play, the snow demons said “let there be Shady...”