The Buffalo Bills played one of their worst games of the season on Saturday, but they still escaped with a 27-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Super Wild Card weekend.
That’s the sign of a great team. Despite not playing your best game, you can still leave the field with a victory.
Of course, the Colts deserve plenty of credit for entering the game with a tremendous game plan. The team controlled the time of possession and field position throughout the first half of the game. Throughout the game, Buffalo’s offense struggled to convert third downs, generally a strength this season. Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus was receiving head coaching interest entering the game and his stock may be even higher after Saturday following the loss.
Despite it not being their best day, there were still plenty of units that stepped up on Saturday. Here’s a look at how each unit graded out.
Josh Allen almost made a costly mistake late in fourth quarter when he fumbled on a sack after spinning out of a previous sack attempt. Right tackle Daryl Williams tracked the ball down, but the play resulted in a loss of 23 yards when the Bills could have put the game away.
It was an example of Allen playing a little bit of hero ball. That said, don’t count that against Allen too much, Bills fans. Early in the game, Allen did the same thing and it resulted in a touchdown. On a designed QB run, Allen was met by a Colts defender. Instead of getting tackled, Allen threw the ball at the last possible second to Dawson Knox for a touchdown.
Overall, Allen was excellent on the big stage. He completed over 70 percent of his passes (26-of-35) for 324 yards and two touchdowns. He added a third score on the ground and led Buffalo in rushing yards (54).
On a day where yards were hard to come by, Allen delivered in a big time way.
RUNNING BACK: C
It was not the best day for Bills running backs.
Devin Singletary was the bright spot with 21 yards rushing on three carries. He had an impressive run late in the game for 13 yards when the Bills were looking to take time off the clock. Buffalo will need more from him going forward as a rusher and receiver.
Zack Moss really struggled on the ground. He received seven carries and gained just 21 yards.
The duo also combined to catch seven passes for 49 yards.
Making matters worse for the Bills, Moss suffered a serious ankle injury that could reportedly keep him out for the remainder of the playoffs. Buffalo will now need to decide if T.J. Yeldon will be Buffalo’s No. 2 back or if they should turn to UDFA rookie running back Antonio Williams. The latter really flashed in Buffalo’s regular season finale against Miami.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: A+
You cannot say enough good things about Buffalo’s receivers based on their performance against the Colts.
First-team All-Pro Stefon Diggs led the way for Buffalo with six catches for 128 yards and one score. Diggs had an uncharacteristic drop during the matchup, but you knew he would come up big when it mattered most. Early in the fourth quarter, that happened with Diggs streaking downfield for a 35-yard score.
You’ve heard this hundreds of times by now, but Diggs has been worth every penny for the Bills.
Despite adding Diggs via trade and having John Brown and Cole Beasley on their roster, Buffalo spent a fourth round pick in the draft on Gabriel Davis. You chose wisely, Brandon Beane. Buffalo found an absolute gem in Davis. The rookie showed outstanding footwork along the sidelines to get his feet in bounds on two big plays in the game. Both catches were reviewed and both plays stood. Davis was targeted four times and hauled in every pass for 85 yards. Davis had the same 21.3 yard per catch average as Diggs.
And don’t forget about Cole Beasley. Buffalo’s slot receiver was clearly no where near 100 percent against Indianapolis, but he did not let that stop him. Beasley led the team in receptions (7). He finished with 57 yards receiving. It was the definition of a gutsy performance.
Buffalo’s tight ends were relatively quiet, but Knox hauled in the Bills’ first touchdown of the game on a broken play.
These units came up big despite John Brown and Isaiah McKenzie not catching a single pass.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
Josh Allen was sacked two times and hit six times in the win. He was also pressured early and often. In terms of run blocking, the unit continued their inconsistent blocking.
The Colts’ terrific defensive line deserves plenty of credit for Buffalo’s struggles on Sunday.
One player, however, may have saved Buffalo’s season. When Allen spun out of one sack attempt only to get hit by another defender and fumble, Daryl Williams was able to run downfield and recover the ball. Had the Colts recovered, we may be talking about a much different outcome in the game.
FRONT SEVEN: D
Changing it up a bit and combining two units into one.
Buffalo’s defensive line and linebackers were pretty underwhelming on Saturday. Ed Oliver was a bright spot. He seemed to generate the most consistent pressure and he was around the ball early and often. It certainly wasn’t reflected in his stat line (2 tackles), but he played pretty well.
Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes both recorded one tackle for loss and Vernon Butler had the team’s lone quarterback hit. Not ideal when facing a 39-year-old QB, but Philip Rivers is known for getting the ball out quickly.
Buffalo’s linebackers may have been worse than the defensive line. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano combined for 20 total tackles, one tackle for loss and three passes defensed. If you’re just looking at the box score, that doesn’t seem like a bad day. Watching the game, however, told a much different story. The linebackers missed some tackles and struggled in coverage. Milano specifically was responsible for one of the Colts’ late-game scores on a play where he thought he had help behind him. The linebackers specifically need to be better in coverage.
The front seven also struggled in run defense. The Colts averaged over five yards per carry in the loss. Buffalo deserves some credit for bottling up Jonathan Taylor (21-78-1), but Nyheim Hines was a different story. Hines averaged 12.5 yards per carry (6-75) in the loss.
Buffalo’s front seven needs to be a lot better going forward in terms of pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run. The good news? It’s highly unlikely that they play a better OL than the one they faced off with on Saturday.
Michael Pittman looks like he has star potential. The rookie wide receiver hauled in five passes for 90 yards in the loss. Pittman also broke up on a 4th down play in the end zone, but Rivers led him a bit too far. That was one of many plays that could have changed the outcome of the game.
Buffalo’s secondary, overall, did their job with Pittman being the bright spot among the Colts’ receivers. T.Y. Hilton was pretty much taken out of the game (2-32) and Zach Pascal had three receptions for 37 yards and one score in the loss.
The Bills’ safety duo, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, were the stars of the unit. The latter looked like he had sealed Buffalo’s first playoff win in 25 years after ripping the ball away from Pascal late. Officials disagreed, but anyone watching that game knows Poyer made a great play that should have ended the game.
Hyde made sure that no Hail Mary would be completed. He batted Rivers’ last attempt at a victory into the turf at Bills Stadium. It was one of three passes defensed for Hyde in the Bills’ win.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Andre Roberts has been a bright spot all season, but he hurt Buffalo on Saturday by bringing out kick out of the end zone in the first half after Buffalo had found themselves losing the field position battle. It was a poor decision with Roberts getting tackled at the 12. Making matters worse, Jaquan Johnson was called for holding so Buffalo was moved back to the six yard line.
The coverage unit also allowed a 38-yard kick return by Isaiah Rodgers and a 14-yard punt return by Hines.
The bright spots on the unit were Tyler Bass and Corey Bojorquez.
Bass outdueled fellow rookie Rodrigo Blankenship in the win. He was called upon twice to kick field goals and converted both attempts. His 54-yard kick with 8:08 remaining ended up being the game-winning points. Bass has been clutch for Buffalo.
Bojorquez was also terrific on Saturday. He averaged 47 yards on four punts with a long of 58 yards. One of the four punts landed inside the 20.