ORCHARD PARK, NY — On the second play of the Buffalo Bills’ game-winning drive against the Miami Dolphins, the offense moved backwards thanks to a sack on quarterback Josh Allen.
Facing second-and-18 at their own 13-yard line, the Bills needed to make some big plays or be forced to give the ball back to the Dolphins with limited time remaining but likely in good field position with the score tied. Instead, Allen connected with wide receiver Gabe Davis on a 15-yard pass, and the Bills’ offense navigated downfield, taking all of the remaining 5 minutes, 56 seconds off the clock on a 15-play, 65-yard drive.
Helped by a defensive pass interference call on third down in Miami territory, the game came down to a 25-yard field goal attempt, which Tyler Bass booted through the uprights after Bills players helped dust off a spot in the snow for him.
The kick clinched a 32-29 win over the Dolphins and, for a Bills team with title aspirations, a fourth straight season with a playoff appearance. It also gave Buffalo its third straight campaign with 11-plus wins, the second-longest streak in franchise history (four straight from 1990 to 1993). The celebrations began with Bass and several players sliding in the snow to celebrate.
“It took everything we had to pull this one out tonight,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “It just makes it special. … You know, like I said, humbling. Really, that’s how I feel about it. Humbled to be a part of it in this great town that doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves , honestly. And the fans, I mean, this place is unique. So, just awesome. Awesome.”
Trailing by eight points early in the fourth quarter, the Bills tied the score on their second-to-last drive, thanks in large part to a 44-yard run by Allen on a quarterback draw that put Buffalo inside the Dolphins’ 20. Allen likened the way he ran to Forrest Gump, the way he picked up his knees and continued full speed ahead.
Allen’s long run was the highlight of the Bills’ revitalized rushing attack in the fourth quarter. They ran for 99 yards in the final 15 minutes after rushing for 51 yards in the first three quarters combined. Allen finished with a team-best 77 yards on 10 carries and also threw four touchdown passes, all of which went to running backs and tight ends, including a 5-yard scoring pass to tight end Dawson Knox on the game-tying drive. Allen then dove for the 2-point conversion that followed.
“He makes plays that I’ve never seen before. Sometimes you kind of turn into a fan while you’re watching him,” Knox said. “Unfortunately, I was under a 300-pound 3-technique on that play that he reached the ball over on the two points, so I didn’t see it until we saw the JumboTron. But I’ve kind of talked about it before . It’s not even surprising at this point. You’re just like, oh, there’s Josh being Josh again. He’s the best quarterback in the league, the best football player in the league. So anytime you got him on your team, you got a chance to win.”
The Bills took a 21-13 lead into halftime, but all three phases of their game were undone in the third quarter. The offense punted on four straight possessions, the defense gave up two quick touchdown drives and special teams extended a Dolphins drive thanks to a roughing the kicker penalty on defensive back Cam Lewis.
But as the snow came down in the fourth quarter, things came together for the Bills. After an Allen fumble, the defense held the Dolphins to a field goal, and Buffalo’s offense put together the consecutive scoring drives to close the game.
“Almost like it was all supposed to happen, right?” Bill’s safety Jordan Poyer said on the timing of the snow. “We didn’t see much snow. We thought we were going to see a lot more snow than we did. But yeah, Josh goes down, takes the offense down and scores, and snow starts just coming down. It was actually kind of surreal. It was a fun, fun atmosphere though.”
The Bills remain atop the AFC with an 11-3 record, with games against the Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots remaining. But the sights are now set on hosting many more games in Orchard Park.
“That’s the No. 1 thing Coach McDermott preaches, is playoff caliber; can’t win the Super Bowl unless you make the playoffs,” Allen said. “So that’s goal No. 1 down. Goal No. 2 now is to clinch the division. That’s how we’ll take it. We’ll take it one game at a time. Be ready for next week.”