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Buffalo Bills 19, Houston Texans 22: Rapid recap and notes

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A heartbreaking finish in Texas.

The 2019 Buffalo Bills’ season began with Josh Allen leading his team from a 16-0 deficit to a last-minute comeback victory. It ended with the Bills taking a 16-0 lead, and surrendering a 19-point comeback in an overtime loss to the Houston Texans. With a 22-19 result, the Texans advanced in the AFC playoffs after a tense, back-and-forth affair. The Bills and the Texans each had moments of magic, moments of mishaps, and moments of sheer WTF-ery, but the Texans came through in the clutch, and the Bills came up empty.

The first half was just about as great as the Bills could’ve hoped for. It started with an explosive opening drive from Buffalo. Josh Allen ran 42 yards on a QB sweep, and two plays later the Bills pulled a rabbit out of their hat. John Brown took a handoff, then threw back to Allen for a touchdown.

Allen wasn’t red-hot, but he did finish the first half with 199 total yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t sacked, and only felt pressure on a single play. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson was held under 60 total yards in the first half, and the Bills sacked him four times. The Bills put together a 13-0 lead, with two drives fizzling just shy of the red zone. Buffalo had a solid scoreboard lead, and more than tripled up the Texans in yards from scrimmage and first downs gained.

As dominant as the Buffalo Bills played in their first half, the Houston Texans responded even more assertively in the second half. Deshaun Watson activated his playoff gene, running in a touchdown and throwing another to Carlos Hyde on an easy pitch-and-catch. He also ran in a two-point conversion and hit DeAndre Hopkins for another.

Speaking of Hopkins, he was as much of a catalyst for Houston’s comeback as anyone else. In the first half, he was held without a catch. He opened the second half by losing a fumble on a seven-yard catch. Then he caught three more for 63 yards to set up Houston’s scoring.

Meanwhile, the Bills offense looked utterly lost.

After Houston’s last touchdown put them in the lead, Buffalo took over with four-and-a-half minutes, trailing 19-16. Devin Singletary led the drive with a 38-yard screen pass, and Buffalo advanced to the Houston 25, but Frank Gore was tackled for a loss on second down. On third down, Josh Allen was in field goal range, hoping for a touchdown—but protection didn’t hold up, he panicked, and he took an intentional grounding penalty. On 4th and 27, the Bills were now out of field goal range, and Allen was set to attempt a desperation play, but protection broke down and he took another horrific sack that put the ball at the edge of Houston’s field goal range.

Only a minute and a half remained, but the Bills had three timeouts. Houston attempted to run out the clock, and the Bills defense stepped up. On 4th and 1, Bill O’Brien dialed up a QB sneak to try and end the game, but Buffalo walled it off. Allen had a chance for redemption, with a minute left and no timeouts.

On first down, Allen ran the ball against a soft defense. He then inexplicably attempted to intentionally fumble the ball, which caused more chaos, but Dawson Knox whacked it out of bounds. A few plays later, Allen extended the drive with a sideline throw to Cole Beasley. The Bills were just outside of Stephen Hauschka’s range, trailing 19-16.

On 1st down from the 39-yard line, Allen overthrew John Brown on a crossing pattern. On second down, Allen tried hitting Isaiah McKenzie on a late throw and it was nearly intercepted by Bradley Roby. The Bills had 34 seconds left and 3rd and 10. Allen hit Cole Beasley on an angle route and Beasley dove forward, but his knee touched as he was advancing past the chains. If he was short, the Bills needed to kick a field goal. If not, they needed to spike and stop the clock to continue driving. The referees ruled to see if he reached the first down, and the referees ruled “the ruling stands—first down.”

...

So the field goal unit, with Corey Bojorquez under center, spiked the ball to preserve clock for the Bills’ offense.

Allen took two shots at the end zone, with nothing open. The Bills had 10 seconds left, trailing by three, and they needed Stephen Hauschka to come through with a 47-yard field goal. He was 3/3 on field goals through the day, and perfect under 50 yards in his career in the playoffs.

HE NAILED IT.

The Bills, barring a kickoff disaster, were surviving the second half and heading to overtime.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Houston won the overtime coin toss, electing to receive. After a false start, the Texans completed a pass for ten yards, then Carlos Hyde ran for two to bring up 3rd and 3. The Bills brought a blitz and Deshaun Watson had to escape the pocket, but his improvised pass to Darren Fells was bobbled and dropped. The Bills would receive a punt, needing a field goal to win the game.

On first down, Allen carried the ball for a two-yard loss. On second down, he had all day to throw, but no one was open. He aired one out deep for Patrick DiMarco, and it fell incomplete. But on third down, Allen rolled right, found Dawson Knox, and his rookie tight end dodged a tackle and ran past the sticks to extend the drive.

Allen tried hitting John Brown on a quick out on first down, but Bradley Roby closed in a heartbeat and limited the gain to a single yard. On second down, the protection scheme left J.J. Watt unblocked, and he disrupted any chance of a pass, but Allen threw the pass away. On third down, with no one open, Allen rolled right and just barely squeezed a pass to Devin Singletary for another first down.

The Bills opened the next sequence with a quarterback sweep, but all three blockers failed to pick up Zach Cunningham, who nailed Allen to the turf on a one-yard gain. Allen’s second-down pass to Cole Beasley was low and dropped, bringing up a second consecutive 3rd and 9. The Bills needed one more first down to give Stephen Hauschka a chance at a field goal. Allen took the snap, but couldn’t find an open receiver and scrambled to the sideline short of the sticks. Cody Ford was called for a personal foul, and Houston accepted the penalty to set up a 3rd and 24. Allen’s quick throw was way off-target, and the Bills had to punt themselves.

Watson took over with his chance to set up a game-winning field goal. He started with another throw to Hopkins for a ten-yard gain. Then the Bills held a run to a single yard, and on second down the Bills brought Siran Neal on a blitz for a sack. But on the next play, the Bills failed to contain Watson, who hit his checkdown target against soft zone coverage and converted a first down.

Watson called his own number for five yards on first down, and followed that up with ten yards to a wide-open Kenny Stills. Hyde carried the ball for three.

Then Deshaun Watson uncorked his championship-caliber magic. The Bills brought two blitzers, who sandwiched Watson in the pocket. He somehow absorbed both blows, spun out of them, rolled out of the pocket, and found his teammate in stride. That play set up a field goal attempt from the ten-yard line, which Kaimi Fairbairn drilled through the uprights.

Close, but no cigar—the Bills lost their return to the postseason, 22-19.

Injury Notes

  • Taron Johnson was shaken up in the first half and did not return to the game. Siran Neal and Dean Marlowe replaced him in the lineup.
  • Duke Williams took a hard fall after one catch and rolled his ankle, but the trainers taped him up and he returned to the game.

Miscellaneous

  • It’s still been 25 years since Buffalo’s last playoff win, in 1995. Let’s look forward to next season ending the streak.
  • Josh Allen’s first-quarter receiving touchdown was his first career reception. It was John Brown’s second passing touchdown of the year, and he threw this one with his non-dominant hand.
  • Josh Allen still hasn’t hit a 300-yard passing game in his career. He finished with 264 today, on 46 attempts. He did have 372 total yards, between passing, rushing, and receiving.
  • Excellent playoff debut for Devin Singletary, with 134 yards on 19 touches. Arguably, the Bills forgot about him in overtime when they could’ve used him most.
  • The Bills sacked Deshaun Watson seven times, an identical count to their meeting in 2018.
  • Great day from Stephen Hauschka, four-for-four on field goal attempts. He also avoided a Wide Right curse to set up overtime.
  • Remember the second-half opening kickoff? At one point, it seemed that the Texans receiver unintentionally “fumbled” the ball away, with the Bills recovering it for a touchdown. Common sense prevailed, though, so the Texans maintained possession.
  • J.J. Watt “Let’s go” count: over 9000