If it’s not extended playoff droughts, it’s suffering heartbreaking defeats in the postseason. The latest latter example took place at NRG Stadium on Saturday as Buffalo fell 22-19 in overtime. The source of the pain associated with the defeat was the fact that the Bills enjoyed a 16-0 in the third quarter.
You can’t help but feel for a fanbase who seems to continuously fall victim to Murphy’s Law. Nearly 20 years to the day after malodorous officiating cost them a win much more than any miraculous play, they let another current AFC South team back into the game when a historic win appeared inevitable. And in that respect, they have nobody to blame but themselves.
Buffalo Bills Wild Card Loss: Plenty of Promise Despite Painful Overtime Defeat
A Tough Way to Lose
When you own a 16-point lead with just over six minutes left in the third quarter, there are no excuses when it comes to not ultimately coming away with a dub. A defense that had put on a masterclass throughout much of the game suddenly began to struggle containing Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense. Tre’Davious White completely neutralized Houston’s star receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, in the first half. Then Hopkins demonstrated his WR1 quality by beating him time and time again late in the game.
In the end, Buffalo’s hopes of winning their first playoff game in 24 years died out when Ka’imi Fairbairn knocked through a 28-yard field goal with 3:02 remaining in the first overtime period. The way Houston ended up that close to the goal line certainly qualifies as a “that’s so Bills” moment. Both Siran Neal and Matt Milano were converging on Watson with one of them poised for a surefire sack. However, Watson eluded the pressure and subsequently dumped the ball off to former Bill Taiwan Jones. His only touch of the game saw him go 34 yards downfield, setting up a field goal that eliminated his former team from the postseason.
The final result was a shame for Bills Mafia who was well-represented on the road, just like they were two years ago in the matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars that officially ended the drought. It appeared that a win which would exorcise over two decades of demons was imminent. Ultimately, it didn’t happen and the nature of the defeat means it will take some time for the pain to subside.
The Silver Lining
Still, this is a team on the rise. Yes, you could term Josh Allen‘s performance on Saturday as erratic. But there’s no doubting he put this team in position to win their first road playoff game since January 9, 1993. He certainly put his dual-threat capabilities on display right off the bat with a 42-yard rush on Buffalo’s opening drive. Two plays later, he was the beneficiary of some trickeration when he caught a touchdown pass from John Brown. In so doing, he joined Nick Foles and Marcus Mariota as the only quarterbacks in NFL playoff history to haul in a touchdown catch.
The Bills score first on a trick play as John Brown throws a touchdown to Josh Allen! pic.twitter.com/6nKvdIXXUB
— Sports Daily (@SportsDGI) January 4, 2020
There’s talent all over the field at the skill positions. Devin Singletary simply got better and better over the course of his rookie year. And he had arguably his best game as a pro in Houston, totaling 134 all-purpose yards with his 76 yards receiving leading the team. With the game putting an increased emphasis on running backs who can catch out of the backfield, that’s a good sign. It remains to be seen whether Frank Gore will decide to hang up his cleats. If he does, it was simply an honor to have a future Hall of Famer in Buffalo for one season. Fans were treated to history when he passed Barry Sanders for third all-time in career rushing yards in a win over the Denver Broncos.
What’s not to like about the defense? It came into Saturday’s wild-card matchup allowing the second-fewest points per game in the league. Yeah, they gave up some back-breaking plays down the stretch against the Texans. But make no mistake about it. This is an elite unit with playmakers all over the place. Tre’Davious White has solidified himself as one of the top cover corners in the league. Tremaine Edmunds is an absolute workhorse of a linebacker. And as he demonstrated in Houston, Jerry Hughes is a quarterback’s worst nightmare when he brings his A-game.
The Bills Quarterback Situation and Continuing to Fight the Good Fight
And here’s the thing. Quite a few teams in the AFC and the league as a whole will go into 2020 with massive questions at that all-important position: quarterback. Predicting Tom Brady‘s inevitable decline has been a pretty dirty business but it’s going to happen at some point. It’s possible that Ben Roethlisberger has played his last down for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Is Ryan Tannehill truly the answer in Tennessee? All of it points to the fact that if Allen can continue to develop, the Bills are a team that will remain playoff-relevant.
QB Josh Allen: “This loss hurts. There are things that we should have executed better and that’s on me. This game is going to stick with me and it’ll only fuel me during the offseason.” #GoBills pic.twitter.com/ToSQS0LHZV
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 5, 2020
That’s why there’s plenty of reason for optimism moving forward. It’s hard to relay such sentiment in the wake of such a disappointing loss. A lot of fans probably want to break out the “oh shit, here we go again” memes on social media. But as Sean McDermott emphasized post-game, this is a team that will keep on keeping so long as he’s in charge.
“There’s a lot of pain in our locker room because our team has worked extremely hard all year,” McDermott emphasized. “This loss stings, but the Buffalo Bills will never stop fighting.”