Monday, January 18, 2021

Here’s What Happened in Saturday’s N.F.L. Wild-Card Games

Here’s What Happened in Saturday’s N.F.L. Wild-Card Games

Led by the quarterback Josh Allen, who had a role in all three Bills touchdowns on Saturday, Buffalo scored 17 consecutive points, turning a 10-7 first-half deficit into a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead. But as Rivers fired touchdown passes on the Colts’ first two drives of the final period, the Bills managed only a field goal on theirs, giving Indianapolis a final chance to tie or take the lead.

Facing fourth-and-10 from his team’s 37-yard line, Rivers connected with Zach Pascal, who made a diving catch for 17 yards but was stripped after getting up. The reception was upheld on instant replay, giving the Colts first-and-10 at the Buffalo 46, but they lost a yard on their next three plays, failed to reach the kicker Rodrigo Blankenship’s field-goal range and forced Rivers into making a desperate, but incomplete heave.

In reaching the divisional round for the first time in 25 years, the Bills knocked out one of their legends, Frank Reich, who is head coach of the Colts.

To beat the Bills would demand inhuman precision, and Reich knew it. All week, he emphasized to his players the importance of doing ordinary things extraordinarily well, and for the first 28 minutes of the game that’s what the Colts did.

They controlled the clock. They muffled the Bills’ offense. They pinned Buffalo deep.

Against Buffalo, margins are thin. Just how thin was exposed after the two-minute warning, when, leading by 10-7 near the end of the second quarter, they were a yard outside the end zone. Buffalo stuffed Jonathan Taylor on third down from the 1-yard line and Rivers’s fourth-and-goal pass glanced off Michael Pittman’s hands.

Taking over at their 4-yard line, the Bills went 96 yards in 92 seconds because Gabriel Davis had two toe-tap catches along the sideline and Allen, on a drive-reviving fourth down, got Colts defensive end Kemoko Turay to jump offside to give Buffalo a first down. On the next play, Colts cornerback Isaiah Rogers couldn’t hold onto an interception in the end zone.

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