Usually these analyses focus on a specific aspect of the team or player. To close the season I thought it would be fitting to look at, well, the close of the season. Not counting the punt, the Buffalo Bills had a ten-play drive in overtime that sealed their fate for the 2019-2020 season. We’ll use the coaches film to take a look at each of these ten plays (sorry Corey Bojorquez and Reid Ferguson) and ride the roller coaster one last time.
No matter any other message I try to convey, there’s no avoiding at least some conjecture on what could have been. It’s easy to second guess plays when I have frame-by-frame at my side. Don’t think of this as finger pointing though. Think of this as an illustration of the razor’s edge on which many NFL plays live. With Quinton Spain’s man working inside, the lane behind Morse is also narrow and makes the resulting choice understandable.
On second down the safer play may have been the wisest, but again we’re dabbling in what if. Brian Daboll and Josh Allen gamble on winning it all. Just like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects Patrick DiMarco to run a go route. The pass travels over 50 yards downfield and is perhaps a couple feet off. DiMarco’s brakes leave him open in what is one of the better performances tracking a deep ball all year. The razor’s edge will sometimes cut you.
Josh Allen moves to his right to give himself the option of running or gunning. The Houston Texans have his number and eyes on Allen’s best target at this point, Dawson Knox. Both young players execute and keep the team alive.
A lot of chatter this week has been how the Bills collapsed. That’s not entirely unfair. This play illustrates a strong counterpoint, though. The Texans came ready to play too. The same determination and execution the Bills used to gain a lead in the first place happened to be present on the other side of the ball too.
Josh Allen’s best option is to throw it away. The Texans have again dialed up the right play at the right time.
After the last few plays, it looks like Allen might have felt pressure that wasn’t there. Moving right leads to real pressure, which he navigates expertly, all while keeping his eyes open for a target. Devin Singletary understands the situation and gives Allen a target. One incredible throw later and the Bills are still in it.
Brian Daboll calls a designed run for Allen and it’s a doozy. A small army of blockers have gotten well ahead of the Texans’ defense and a decent gain looks all but certain. One miss is all it takes sometimes.
Plays like this fuel Allen’s critics and this, too, is not entirely unfair. I’ll defer to one of my old defenses of Tyrod Taylor. A quarterback can be a limiting factor in a team’s offense and hold them back. As a starter, Taylor led the Bills to respectable finishes in points for. The simple conclusion then is that if Taylor was the biggest limiting factor, he wasn’t an anchor.
Allen deserves some blame for this pass and other plays. And yes, Allen could still turn out to be the limiting factor. But as of right now, the Allen “anchor” helped force overtime in a playoff game and came up with great plays in this drive to keep it alive to this point.
One thing that should not be questioned is the team’s heart. It’d be a tough challenge to find a play where they weren’t giving it their all. I froze at the end to show McDermott. Instead of opting for simple self preservation, he’s keeping his eyes on what’s happening, protecting his QB and possibly about to pick a fight with the refs. Culture starts at the top and is displayed in all the little moments that make up a game.
The Texans have an easier play to defend than the one we won’t discuss going the opposite way. The Buffalo Bills play this fairly safe and cross their fingers. The Texans remain disciplined and only bite to Duke Williams’s side when it’s clear that Allen is throwing that way. Even if the ball was caught, or thrown to the other side of the field, this was resulting in a punt.
This didn’t end the game either. While a score was the desired outcome, the Bills did manage to flip the field and force the Texans to drive.
It’s all too easy to focus on a “choke” or “collapse.” It’s just as easy to use these ten plays to illustrate that. I hope Bills fans look closer, however. A team that many wrote off before the season began showed major strides, clinching a playoff spot early and doing the unthinkable deed of resting starters in Week 17.
Against a Houston Team that proved capable of toppling the best in the league when they’re on fire, the Bills took them to the wire. Put simply: It’s hard to find yourself in position to create a ten-play drive in overtime of the playoffs without a little skill.