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 16 match-up:
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
The Buffalo Bills had beaten the Miami Dolphins in Week 15. That needed victory ensured that the Week 17 rematch would give the Bills a meaningful close to the regular season for the first time in... It had been awhile. If the Bills could sweep the Dolphins they’d have a winning record and realistic postseason hopes assuming a couple cards fell the right way. But there needed a horse put before that cart. In Week 16, there was one more shot at creating a buffer against all the other “in the hunt” teams. A win over the 11-3 New England Patriots would give the Bills a nice boost. The last time the two teams met, a woeful Buffalo offense negated a valiant defensive effort. Maybe this time would be different.
Mirroring the Week 13 match-up, the 21-point loss had some positive signs. Buffalo took an early lead that lasted mid-way through the second quarter. The lead changed hands, but the Bills forced a tie going into the half. The third quarter was mostly a draw for the Bills and Patriots. The entire 21-point deficit would occur during the last 16 minutes of the game as the defense simply ran out of answers. An offense that had been unable to punch back all day, couldn’t pick up the slack. With the loss, the Bills would need a win and a prayer.
Tyrod Taylor sacked (Q2, 11:30)
Typically a conservative coaching staff, the Buffalo Bills decided to be aggressive against the New England Patriots, much like the first meeting. Tied at three, the Bills went for it on fourth down. Tyrod Taylor takes off to his right and can’t find the open man. He tries to flip the ball forward at the end for an incomplete pass that would have changed nothing but the stats. They had gambled and lost.
Jordan Poyer pick-six (Q2, 10:37)
The Bills found their touchdown just a few plays later as it turned out. Tom Brady didn’t account for Jordan Poyer and gave up six points to the visiting Bills. It’s hard to find players more excited to block for a teammate than the rest of secondary is on this play.
Kelvin Benjamin non-touchdown (Q2, 0:06)
Though the Bills didn’t officially score an offensive touchdown in this game, fans know they really did. Taylor put this just out of reach of Stephon Gilmore and into the hands of Kelvin Benjamin. If this had counted, the Bills would have taken the lead into the half. After being overturned, a Stephen Hauschka field goal tied the game at 13, in what’s surely the football gods poking fun at the non-touchdown.
Stephen Hauschka 30-yard field goal (Q3, 10:25)
The Bills received the ball again after halftime and gave the Patriots a dose of their own medicine. With scores before and after the half, the Bills were in the lead with two-thirds of the game in the books. Crazy, right?
Stephen Hauschka missed field goal (Q4, 13:13)
Hauschka attempted nine field goals from 50 or more yards in 2017. He made seven. While that’s a tremendous success rate, I wish it had been eight. Still a one-score game at this point, this was the last gasp of momentum whooshing out of the Bills. Still think the football gods weren’t pranking Buffalo in this game? Take a look at the time stamp when this kick was snapped. Kelvin Benjamin (13) has his TD reversed, which results in a 13-13 tie at the half. And then this?
Incomplete pass (Q4, 2:35)
Just about the perfect close to this game is this pass. An offense that had it’s best play overturned and lacked potency all game fails to execute on fourth down. There’s no grand finale here, only a whimper as the pass falls harmlessly in front of Nick O’Leary. Though he’s not hurt, O’Leary is slow to rise. The look of frustration on his face is a reflection of that of every Bills fan.