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Powered by the strong arms and legs of quarterback Josh Allen, the Buffalo Bills won their first playoff victory since 1995. Excluding the Devils, who squandered a playoff lead a season ago, the Bills, led by Allen, built a lead and the Buffalo defense took on Saturday to face Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts, 27-24, in the start of Super Wild Card Weekend. The Bills, led by Allen, will host an AFC divisional round game next week.
Buffalo Bills 27, Indianapolis Colts 24
1) The Super Wild Card weekend started with a very entertaining game in Buffalo that ended with white knuckles as the Bills held on to their first playoff victory and their trip to the divisional round since 1995. Josh Allen put a stamp on his All-Pro season, taking dart after dart to thwart the Colts' stellar defense. Allen's ability to induce magic, avoid pressure and throw from any platform was demonstrated Saturday when he accumulated 324 yards of passing in 26 of 35 attempts with two TDs. Allen's patience, throwing easily into the Colts' zone, kept the cars alive. Smart pitches were complemented by big bursts when he had time. Allen went 5 for 6 with a TD on passes beyond 20 yards of air. QB's performance was a continuation of what we've seen all season of the young star. Allen combines a rocket arm, can easily throw around the field and run through opponents (leading the Bills on the ground with 54 yards and a TD on 11 totes). His only mistake at the end of the game was a loss when the Bills tried to milk the clock. Fortunately, Buffalo recovered and held on, otherwise it would have been another blow to Allen in the playoffs. One of the big differences between this year and last year's "collapse" against Houston was that Allen had to play Stefon Diggs at key points in the game. The best receiver in the league slipped through a Colts defense designed to stop him. When Allen needed a key play in the second half, Diggs found himself with a great catch. Diggs finished with six catches for 128 yards and a TD. A 35-yard score extended the Bills' lead to 14 points early in the fourth quarter and helped Buffalo break a six-game losing streak in the playoffs.
Josh Allen's best plays from 3-TD | Super Wild Card Weekend
2) The end of the first half changed the complexion of the contest. Philip Rivers put the Colts in the door in the second quarter, leading 10-7. Indy made four plays inside the 4 yard line. Frank Reich scored a TD in the fourth quarter. Rivers couldn't connect with a Michael Pittman diving in the corner of the end zone. Instead of a 17-7 or 13-7 deficit, Buffalo had a chance to change the script. Allen hooked up with WR rookie Gabriel Davis on a pair of closed-side bombs that were pure QB magic. Buffalo drove 91 yards on 10 plays in 1:32 to score a starting TD and take the lead, which he would never give up. In addition to receiving the ball after halftime, the Bills went for a field goal. It was a sequence of events that changed the rest of the epic skirmish.
3) Indy kicked the ball on a play in which he moved the ball up and down the field, dominated the clock and had a chance for final possession. Out of a fourth down near the goal line, Indy also missed a field goal, struggled to get a save in the second half and missed a chance to enter the red zone. Throughout the season, the Colts struggled to get the ball into the end zone when their shot was taken. Indy was 2 for 5, turning the red zone odds into a TD. As they entered the game, the Reich club wanted to direct the ball, control the clock, move the chains and keep Allen on the sideline. Indy skillfully executed that plan during the first three quarters, but the inability to get the ball into the end zone left the Colts in defeat. Between the last play of the second quarter and the first play of the third, the Colts advanced 115 yards in 22 plays with six first runs, eating at 11:55. Rivers played well for most of the contest, helping to move the chains and making his shots when possible. With several missed passes, including one that fell behind Pittman in the third quarter, the veteran will shake his head on Sunday. There were opportunities for the Colts, who didn't take them soon enough. When they needed points late, Rivers took them to the field twice fast in the fourth quarter. The Colts went into the Bills' territory with their nine kneeless possessions, putting up 472 yards on 76 plays but scoring only 24 points. Once again, Rivers & Co. didn't put the game on the line.
4) The Bills' defense closed a hot end to the season, but struggled to put pressure on Rivers all game long. The lack of rushing passes allowed the Colts to convert 9 of the day's 17 third downs and average 6.2 yards per game, while coming very close to giving up 500 yards on offense. Buffalo held off T.J. Hilton, but struggled with Pittman's skill after the catch. The tight Jack Doyle (7/70/1) beat the Bills' defenders midway through the game. Saturday came closer to what we saw earlier in the season from Sean McDermott's defense before he came out strong in the stretch. On the other hand, the Bills were leaning into the red zone and near the goal line when needed. Tre'David White had a massive PBU in final possession, and the Buffalo defense ended up shutting him down. Next week, however, things will be better. Fortunately, the Bills had the best offensive teams and special teams units that could help the defense. Kicker Tyler Bass was huge, scoring two field goals, including a colossal 54-yarder that ended up being the difference in the game.
5) The Colts saddled rookies Jonathan Taylor and Pittman on Saturday. Taylor once again carried the load in the backfield, generating 78 yards on 21 carries. The running back's ability to throw tackles and turn the yards controlled the pace of the game from the beginning. Pittman led the Colts with five catches over 90 yards. Combined, the two freshmen players went 185 yards and were particularly strong early in the competition. The rookie duo underscores Indy's promise to move on to 2021. The Colts have everything they need to be a January staple for years to come. The biggest question is the future under the center. Will the Colts bring the Rivers for another trip? The QB could keep playing if the sides want to resume the game. Or will Indy decide to try less mature waters for the long term, moving in tandem with his young and talented core?