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Buffalo Bills 27, Indianapolis Colts 24: Rapid recap and notes

Big sigh of relief. Then onto the next one.

It took a quarter of a century, but the last minute of the ballgame finally passed. With Micah Hyde’s emphatic two-handed spike, the Buffalo Bills buried bad memories of the “Hail Murray” loss to the Arizona Cardinals and 25 years of playoff futility, defeating the Indianapolis Colts by the skin of their teeth, 27 to 24.

The Colts proved to be a worthy, competitive foe for the Bills, going blow-for-blow all afternoon. They controlled field position and time of possession early, took the first points of the game, and nearly went into halftime with a lead. The Bills battled back, and eventually built a 24-10 lead on 21 unanswered points. Then the Colts found new life, scoring two touchdowns on quick drives, as the Bills responded with a field goal. Buffalo had a 27-24 lead after the second Colts touchdown, but were confidently burning clock late in the fourth quarter.

Then the patented Josh Allen Disaster reared its ugly head for the first time of the day. The pocket closed around Allen, who escaped one rusher but couldn’t escape a second. He ran backward. He lost the football. Daryl Williams somehow fell on it, but the Bills wiped their eyes and looked up to see 2nd-and-33 on the scoreboard. They didn’t have it in them to convert that down, and punted the ball to the Colts with 2:30 remaining.

Now it was gut-check time for the Bills’ defense, who (reminder) had just been shredded for two touchdowns. The Colts slowly but surely made their way downfield while the clock tick-tick-ticked away. 3rd-and-5. 4th-and-1. 3rd-and-10. 4th-and-10.

Then it was Buffalo’s turn to make a crazy play. Zach Pascal caught the ball on fourth down, fell over untouched, then moved to get back up and run again. Jordan Poyer and Matt Milano met him immediately, and Poyer stripped the ball away for a fumble, which the Bills recovered. The officials ruled Pascal down by contact, but with head coach Sean McDermott buying time, the league office took the play under video review.

Now you can think what you want to think about the next event. Maybe the league has it in for the Bills after all these years. Maybe they were reticent to turn over a call on the field in a situation that would quite literally choose the winner of the game. Maybe they didn’t have incontrovertible proof that Poyer never touched Pascal before the runner’s knee was off the turf. At any rate, despite the slow-mo replay looking an awful lot like a clear fumble (and the announcer booth agreeing), the officials in New York sided with the original call of “down by contact.”

Indianapolis now had 1st-and-10, 45 yards away from the goal line, with 28 seconds remaining. A pass to the sideline earned one yard and burned 14 seconds. A deep throw was thrown away. Another sideline pass, also thrown away. With four seconds left, on fourth down, 45 yards from the end zone there was only one play remaining: the Hail Mary.

I don’t have to remind you what this means to the Bills or Bills fans. The most picturesque moment of the 2020 season was DeAndre Hopkins posterizing three Bills defenders for a game-winning touchdown. The Bills came off the bye week and surrendered another Hail Mary throw to the Los Angeles Chargers. This was a scripted moment pulled straight from a hokey sports movie.

It felt like years to get to this point, and for many Bills fans, it was more like decades. But Micah Hyde squeezed the remaining life out of the Colts, the entirety of Bills Mafia began to breathe again, and the Bills won their first playoff game since the 1990s.

Take it in, Bills fans. Enjoy the sunshine and the clean feeling. The Bills won, but they’re not done. They’re playing again next week. The Super Bowl dream lives on.


Injury report

Zack Moss was carted off the field in the fourth quarter after his ankle was twisted out from under him on a running play. Devin Singletary and Taiwan Jones were the remaining runners on the active roster for the rest of the game. We’ll know more after the game about Moss’s long-term prognosis. T.J. Yeldon and Antonio Williams are also available for future games.

Miscellaneous

  • In a battle of rookie kickers, Tyler Bass won against Rodrigo Blankenship. Bass was perfect on the day, including a 54-yarder and a 46-yarder, while Blankenship doinked a 33-yard attempt in the second half.
  • Speaking of rookies coming up big, Gabriel Davis had himself a nice playoff debut. With two spectacular toe-dragging sideline catches, he sparked Buffalo’s second touchdown drive. he caught four passes for 85 yards overall.
  • Stefon Diggs was held to a single catch in the first half, but stepped up in a major way in the second half. He finished with six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.
  • Jonathan Taylor came into the game on a red-hot streak, but he was bottled up by the Bills. He carried the ball 21 times for only 78 yards, though he did score a touchdown.
  • The pass protection was elite in this game, as to be expected with the reputations of these two offensive lines. Neither quarterback was sacked today until Josh Allen was taken down with 5:40 remaining in the game.
  • Speaking of Allen, he had a phenomenal day up until his disastrous fumble. He powered the offense with 324 passing yards, 54 rushing yards, two passing TDs, one rushing TD, 74.3 completion percentage, and a 121.6 passer rating.
  • The Colts used a slow, methodical offensive game plan for most of the day, but it didn’t yield much in the way of points. They changed their tactics in the fourth quarter, and scored two touchdowns on drives of 2:38 and 1:55 as a result. They weren’t able to outplay the Bills’ defense in the clutch, though.
  • Colts rookie Michael Pittman Jr. was a major first-half weapon with four catches for 91 yards, but a complete non-factor in the second half. He only caught one pass for negative-one yards, finishing with five catches on ten targets.
  • The Colts were only two-for-five scoring in the red zone, while the Bills were a perfect two-for-two.
  • What a great day for Micah Hyde. Didn’t just stop the Hail Mary—he was in on numerous pass breakups and run fits.
  • Jordan Poyer, too, was all over the field, with nine total tackles and one TFL.
  • Matt Milano led the team with 11 tackles and a pass breakup.