The Buffalo Bills‘ playoff hopes warmed up on Sunday, contrary to the conditions they played through.
Bolstered by a 21-yard LeSean McCoy rushing touchdown with under two minutes left in overtime, the Bills took down the Indianapolis Colts 13-7. The result moves Buffalo to 7-6 on the season and gives them an above .500 record with seven wins in December for the fourth time since 2000.
Despite Sunday’s victory, the Bills still need help if they are to ascend in the AFC standings. Coming into the game, they stood at eighth in the conference behind the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens for the final playoff spot. However, they could move back into that sixth and final playoff spot if the Ravens lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
But for now, Buffalo can take solace in the fact that they held serve in a must-win game with respect to their quest for the postseason. What are the biggest things to take away from Sunday’s snowy game?
Week 14 Buffalo Bills Takeaways
Lake Effect Paradise
Despite Western New York’s reputation for heavy snowfall, it’s actually fairly rare for a Bills game to be played in such conditions. Last year’s Week 14 game against the Steelers took place in wintry weather, but not the manner which fans witnessed on Sunday. The last time Buffalo had a game affected by lake effect snow, it actually got moved to Detroit after a historic storm dumped up to six feet of snow in Orchard Park ahead of their Week 12 encounter against the New York Jets.
Ironically enough, the last Bills game played in true lake effect conditions came against Indy in the 2009 season finale. With the Colts at 14-1 and already assured of the top seed in the AFC, Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning only played part of the game. The Bills pounced, with Ryan Fitzpatrick tossing three touchdown passes including one to Terrell Owens in a 30-7 victory that was as pyrrhic as can be given Buffalo finished that season 6-10.
Eight years later, they once again held the Colts to seven points in a win that came in the snow. The conditions forced both teams to rely on their ground games to gain yardage on offense. Of the 546 total yards between both teams, 71.4 percent came from the run game. Nevertheless, Buffalo’s lone touchdown in regulation came via a Nathan Peterman pass to Kelvin Benjamin at the end of the first half. And McCoy’s game-winning rushing touchdown was set up by a 34-yard pass to Deonte Thompson on third and six by Joe Webb who took over after Peterman suffered a head injury in the third quarter.
All in all, what Sunday’s blizzard bowl proved is that if you’re anticipating heavy snow, bet the under.
1,000 Reasons to Admire the Real McCoy
LeSean McCoy is at that point in his career where a lot of people are forecasting an inevitable decline. The veteran running back turns 30 next year, an age that elucidates terms such as “past their prime” and “over the hill” when it comes to players at that particular position in the NFL. But McCoy need only look at his counterpart on the Colts for hope. On Sunday, 34-year-old Frank Gore toted the rock 36 times for 130 yards in Indy’s losing effort.
McCoy himself saw a precipitous increase in his workload against the Colts. The conditions certainly dictated such a game plan on the part of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. In the end, McCoy carried the ball 32 times which was a career high and just the third time he’s ever had more than 30+ carries as a pro. All three resulted in wins for his team, with his previous two (October 30, 2011; September 9, 2013) coming as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. His final attempt of the game, a simple power run through the A-gap, capped off a massive drive to avoid what would’ve been a back-breaking tie.
His 156 rushing yards in Sunday’s win took him over the 1,000 yard mark for 2017. He became the fourth running back to do so this season, joining Le’Veon Bell, Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley. It marks the sixth time in his career across nine seasons that he’s eclipsed that threshold. The manner in which he rocketed past the mark on Sunday indicates he’s got plenty of mileage left in his legs despite how much he’s already accumulated over the course of his time in the league.
Who’s the Quarterback Moving Forward?
As mentioned earlier, Peterman left Sunday’s game and the Bills later put him in the concussion protocol. It came as a result of a vicious hit by Colts linebacker Antonio Morrison as Peterman scrambled out of the pocket in the third quarter. Before the injury, Peterman’s numbers weren’t anything to marvel at which can’t come as much of a surprise given the conditions. But he did make a perfect back shoulder fade to Benjamin for Buffalo’s only touchdown of regulation.
With Tyrod Taylor inactive due to a knee injury suffered against the New England Patriots last week, it forced Sean McDermott to go with Webb. The eighth-year man out of UAB threw an interception with a minute left in the fourth that nearly cost the Bills the game. But on the Colts’ next drive, Adam Vinatieri missed a 43-yard field goal with six seconds left. Webb’s only two completed passes came in overtime, including the throw to Thompson which ultimately changed the complexion of the game.
With the status of both Taylor and Peterman up in the air, the Bills are certainly in a quarterback quandary. If neither can go next week against the Miami Dolphins, it likely thrusts Webb into his first NFL start since January 1, 2012 when he played for the Minnesota Vikings. Such a dilemma probably forces the Bills to go out and sign someone off the streets to serve as a backup or possibly even start if they feel Webb isn’t ready. Either way, the Bills’ quarterback situation is fraught with uncertainty at the most inopportune of times given they’re still in the hunt for the postseason.