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Buffalo Bills 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills lost another close game

The Buffalo Bills were three inches away from winning against the defending Super Bowl champions, but that wasn’t enough to take down Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 33-27 overtime loss. Josh Allen, running with the ball as the fourth quarter closed out, dodged through defenders and dove for the pylon. But he barely stepped out of bounds seven yards shy of the end zone, the Bills were forced to try for overtime, and Brady hit Breshad Perriman in stride for a game-winning 58-yard touchdown after Buffalo’s first possession ended with a punt.

The game opened with high adrenaline, as an errant snap looked like a potential turnover before Brady fell on it. Tampa would go three and out after that mistake, but the Bills punted right back to them five plays later, stopped by a sack on 2nd & 10.

It didn’t take long for the potent Bucs offense to take the lead from that point. Brady and Leonard Fournette picked up a few short gains to bring them to midfield, then Fournette broke through the Bills’ defense and pulled away for a 47-yard touchdown.

The second Bills drive looked like the first—a few short gains, Allen being sacked on second down, and another punt play. Taking over the ball, Brady used his arm and his legs to orchestrate a 15-play, 80-yard drive. Buffalo’s defense held firm at the goal line to force the field goal, and Tampa had a 10-0 lead.

Allen’s arm woke up in the third drive, and he hit on three big pass plays—a 25-yard gain to Emmanuel Sanders, a 24-yard gain to Stefon Diggs, and a 21-yard gain to Gabriel Davis. But on 1st & GOAL, Allen’s QB run was stuffed, and although Allen’s second down run made it to the three-yard line, he had to throw away the ball on third down, and they settled for a field goal.

The Buccaneers started rolling on their next drive. In seven plays that only took up 2:17 of the game, they drove 75 yards for another touchdown, this one a skyscraping ball to the 6’5” Mike Evans. The Bills, looking lifeless, allowed another sack and kicked a 32-yard punt. Tampa went right back to tearing through the Bills’ defense, on another touchdown drive that traveled 72 yards and ended with a vintage Brady sneak.

Allen took over with 1:29 remaining in the half, but their drive ended almost immediately when an errant throw was scooped up for an interception. Luckily, the Bills were able to prevent Brady from scoring any more points before halftime, but they stumbled into the locker room with a 24-3 deficit.

Out of halftime, the Bills gained a quick first down, but once again failed to move the sticks on third down. Aiming for a momentum shift, they tried a fake punt, but the Buccaneers were totally prepared and shut it down. The Bills stood firm, though, and prevented Tampa from gaining a first down, even when they tried throwing on 4th & 2.

Devin Singletary heated up the next possession with a 29-yard run, and Allen hit Diggs for 13 to bring the Bills to field goal range. A few plays later, Allen ran behind the left guard and sliced through the defense for a touchdown. The Bills forced another punt on Tampa’s next possession, but Buffalo’s next possession, though it reached midfield, also ended on a 4th & 3.

At that point, trailing 24-10 near the end of the third quarter, head coach Sean McDermott opted to punt and trust his defense. That trust backfired when the Bucs mounted a clinical, 84-yard drive that ended with a field goal and took up nearly six minutes of clock.

The Bills weren’t dead yet. Trailing 27-10, Allen kickstarted the drive with a couple short passes, then Singletary had an 18-yard gain that looked like a loss when he started. Allen ran for 23 yards, injuring his foot in the process, but stayed on the field. He then caught the Tampa defense sleeping, hitting Dawson Knox for a wide-open touchdown. Buffalo’s defense forced a three-and-out, with a short punt that only reached midfield. Allen conducted the offense down to the goal line, and found Gabriel Davis for another touchdown. With five minutes left, the Bills trailed 27-24.

Continuing to redeem themselves from the first half, Buffalo’s defense forced another punt, after only five plays and ten yards gained. Dane Jackson had a great pass breakup, then Matt Milano sacked Brady in the clutch on third down.

Allen and the Bills traveled 70 yards in the final three minutes of the game, but weren’t able to punch it into the end zone. On fourth down, they chose to kick the field goal and go for overtime. Although they took the first possession, the Bills punted it away, and Brady was able to find the right receiver for the game-winning dagger.

The Bills have now lost three of their last four games, all to presumptive NFL playoff teams. In fact, the only team with a winning record who lost to the Bills this season was the Kansas City Chiefs. It feels like Buffalo’s season ended, and Kansas City’s began, on that game. The Chiefs traded for Melvin Ingram shortly thereafter, and are 7-1 since that point. Buffalo is 3-5. The nadir of this segment might’ve been when the Bills went into halftime today losing 24-3. The team came back valiantly from that deficit, but still lost the game in the end.

At 7-6, Buffalo’s back in that familiar territory of “in the hunt.” Along with the Bills, there are seven teams in the AFC with a record between 8-5 and 7-6. Their season is spiraling away, with four games remaining and the team near the back of the playoff pack. But if they can secure a Wild Card spot, all would be forgiven if they find their winning ways again.

Injury report

  • Bills special teams captain Taiwan Jones took a shot to his knee in the opening quarter, but it didn’t phase him. He was back out on the subsequent kick.
  • Emmanuel Sanders suffered a knee injury in the second quarter, and didn’t return to the game.
  • After Josh Allen had a long run in the fourth quarter, he was tackled hard to the ground. He got up with a grimace. The training staff wrapped up his toe and ankle on the sideline, and he played out the rest of the game, but he was limping while he did it.

Quick hits

  • The Bills surrendered another huge run in the first quarter, a 47-yard touchdown by Leonard Fournette. It marked the longest run by any Buccaneers player all season.
  • Mirror image: the Bills were outscored 24-3 in the first half of the game. They outscored the Buccaneers 24-3 in the second half.
  • The Bills didn’t have a running back carry the ball in the first half of today’s game—the first time that’s happened in the NFL in the last 30 years.
  • In fact, Buffalo’s first running back carry came when Matt Breida ran the ball on a failed fake punt attempt.
  • I feel like it’s now a weekly occurrence where I call out Sean McDermott making a questionable punt call in a game. This week he chose to punt on 4th & 3 at midfield, down 14. The Buccaneers turned that into a 10-play, 84-yard field goal drive that consumed six minutes of clock.
  • Josh Allen had a tremendous day, throwing for over 300 yards and running for more than 100 yards. That’s only the fourth time that’s ever happened in NFL history—regular season or postseason.
  • In fact, the Bills had more rushing yards in today’s game than any other team who played the Buccaneers this year. And they were ridiculously efficient, too—rushing for more than nine yards per carry.
  • A major talking point for this week will be the penalties that counted, and the penalties that didn’t. I’ll leave it at that.

Next week

The Bills, back in Orchard Park, will play against the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. EST. The Panthers, 5-8, are on a three-game losing streak, and scuffling at the quarterback position. They just fell to the Atlanta Falcons, 29-21.