The 2019 Buffalo Bills have eliminated the possibility of another lengthy dearth of postseason football.
That much is certain after they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 on Sunday Night Football in Week 15. The result clinched a playoff berth for the Bills for the first time since 2017. That’s not bad given the now infamous playoff drought prior to that which began after the 1999 season.
2019 Buffalo Bills Ensure a Much Shorter Playoff Drought
The Josh Allen Experience Is Fun Personified
Josh Allen is making noticeable strides towards becoming a bona fide franchise quarterback. The second-year man out of Wyoming didn’t put up monster stats on Sunday. But he solidified his status as a late-game maven with his fourth-quarter touchdown toss to tight end Tyler Kroft that sealed the deal.
It’s been the identity of Allen and the team as a whole from the beginning of the year. After all, they trailed the New York Jets 16-0 late in the third quarter of the season opener only to storm back and win 17-16. What makes it all the more amazing is that ESPN’s win probability metric gave the Jets a 97.4 percent chance to win when they had taken that 16-point lead.
Allen’s squadmates on offense are all doing their part. Both Cole Beasley and John Brown have proven essential off-season signings as they’ve combined for 11 receiving touchdowns so far even though neither found the end zone against the Steelers. Still, Brown did finish the game with seven catches for 99 yards and he certainly played a role in getting Buffalo into favorable positions to score.
His numbers aren’t going to jump out at most people. But, in the end, Allen is part of a Bills team that’s accumulated double-digit wins in the regular season for the first time this century with two games to spare. That has to stand for something and the coaching staff realizes that.
“I’m proud of where he’s at,” head coach Sean McDermott emphasized post-game. “Every guy in this locker room is proud of him. We don’t really get into the stats and the analytics and all the things that people want to criticize him for. It is about wins and losses.”
A Defense That’s Not Just Playoff-Caliber, But Super Bowl-Caliber
The Baltimore Ravens have certainly emerged as the frontrunner to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIV. Part of it has to do with their own talented young signal-caller, Lamar Jackson. He’s undoubtedly the favorite to win the NFL MVP at this point, and rightfully so. But over the course of the Ravens’ previous eight games, all wins, the only teams to hold them under 30 points were the San Francisco 49ers and the Bills. Chris Berman‘s probably smiling about that fact.
It highlights the notion that there are few defenses in this league that can compare to Buffalo’s. They proved it on Sunday night, handing Devlin Hodges his first loss as a pro. Though most Bills fans love underdog stories, and Hodges winning his first three starts as an undrafted free agent out of Samford certainly qualifies as such, they undoubtedly reveled in his struggles which included throwing four interceptions.
Two of them fell into the hands of Tre’Davious White. The third-year cornerback out of LSU put the NFL universe on notice with a performance on national television that ostensibly falls into the category of all-Pro caliber. There’s no doubt that he and his alma mater is having a good run with the Tigers the top-ranked team in the forthcoming College Football Playoff and their quarterback Joe Burrow having won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday.
White is committed to a new narrative surrounding this team. No longer is this team going to prompt fans to exclaim “same old Bills” when they invent another way to lose late in the game. There probably were many worried about such a scenario when Pittsburgh had the ball with under two minutes left, having a chance to force overtime. It didn’t happen. And it makes what this team is accomplishing all the more special.
“We know we’re not connected to the past,” White told reporters post-game. “But we just want to be that team to break down those barriers and break those boundaries.”
The first one to shatter is winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995. If they can win their final two games, it’s a very real possibility. First up is a clash with their implacable nemesis, the New England Patriots, this coming Saturday. They’ve looked vulnerable in recent weeks. And with the way the defense is playing, they may yet have a chance to pull off a win in Foxborough. It could go a long way towards this franchise that’s endured a lot over the past two decades exorcising some long-standing demons.