I think I had a few heart attacks tonight.
The Buffalo Bills came out on fire in their Wild Card game against the Houston Texans. After racing out to a 16-point lead, the Bills allowed Houston to score 19 unanswered points in the second half. A fourth-quarter gave the Bills a chance to force overtime, which they did. Ultimately, Buffalo couldn’t prevail, losing 22-19 in yet another painful chapter in the Bills’ playoff history.
Each team had a possession in overtime. Buffalo had so many chances tonight to salt this game away, yet they just couldn’t, as Houston out-executed Buffalo for the game’s final three periods.
Here are five observations from a heartbreaking Wild Card loss.
Defense dominates first half, can’t hold in second half and OT
Buffalo was dominant on defense for the entire first half. Houston had 81 net yards. The Bills sacked quarterback Deshaun Watson four times. Then, in the second half, the Texans started rolling. After Buffalo took a 16-0 lead, Houston scored 19 unanswered points, as the Bills allowed the Texans to score on touchdown drives of 75 and 74 yards, and a field goal drive on a 27-yard drive. Deandre Hopkins was held without a catch in the first half, but he beat Tre’Davious White on a 41-yard catch to set up the go-ahead touchdown. The Bills ended up with seven sacks and a fumble recovery on the day. In overtime, they were able to force a three-and-out on Houston’s first possession, but allowed Duke Johnson to convert a third-and-eighteen to keep the Texans’ second drive of overtime alive. The Bills gave up a 34-yard completion when they had Watson dead in the pocket to seal the game.
Duke Williams saw game action for the second straight week. This week, he caught four passes for 49 yards in another solid effort. Williams provided the big catch radius that fans wanted to see, and he converted a few big-time grabs. He had a big reception called back thanks to a Tyler Kroft holding penalty, and he was unable to haul in a beautifully thrown ball in the end zone. On the final drive of the game, Allen hit Williams in the hands on a back-shoulder fade, but Duke couldn’t beat Gareon Conley to maintain possession. Overall, Williams played quite well, but questions about his game remain.
Josh Allen starts great, ends miserably
Allen had a fantastic first half. He caught a touchdown pass on Buffalo’s first drive. He was 13-of-20 for 131 yards in the first half. He ran for 53 yards on just three carries. Fourth-quarter Josh played in the first quarter, and bad Josh reared his ugly head at the worst possible time. Allen lost a fumble with the Bills clinging to an eight-point lead, then he took two ugly sacks on consecutive plays with the Bills trying to win the game in the fourth quarter. One of those sacks was nullified by an intentional grounding penalty, but the damage was done. The Bills had a shot to tie after turning the ball over on downs. Allen scrambled on the first play, but inexplicably attempted to lateral to Dawson Knox, who fortunately batted the ball backwards out of bounds to avoid a penalty. Allen was able to bring the Bills into field goal range at the end of the quarter. Allen finished 24-of-46 for 264 yards; he had nine carries for 92 yards.
Nuk v. Tre as good as advertised
The battle between two first-team All Pro players was as good as advertised. In the first half, Houston put Deandre Hopkins in the slot often, avoiding Tre’Davious White in coverage. However, the Texans went at Buffalo’s top corner a bit in the second half, and Hopkins was able to take advantage. On his first catch, Hopkins lost a fumble when White punched the ball out. Hopkins caught his next three targets, a well, and he also caught a two-point conversion to extend Houston’s lead to 19-16. Hopkins ended with a great line—six catches for 90 yards.
Stephen Hauschka was dynamite
Buffalo’s kicker, who had some rough moments this season, was clutch all night. He hit on four field goals, including a 47-yard boot to force overtime, during regulation. His kickoffs were on-point all day. Had Buffalo given him a chance to hit a game-winner, I have confidence he would have been fine.
Alas, that chance never came.
We’ll have plenty of time to dissect the loss in the offseason. For now, fire off in the comments section, Bills fans. We put the “Wild” in Wild Card, for sure.