In 2018, the Buffalo Bills wanted Josh Allen. They traded the 12th, 53rd and 56th overall picks to move up to No. 7 to get Allen. That was steep for a raw quarterback who was questioned for his accuracy and production in college.
In 2020, the Bills wanted a No. 1 receiver to pair with Allen. Many thought they overpaid to get Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings, sending 2020 first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks along with a 2021 fourth-round pick for Diggs. The first-round pick became Justin Jefferson, who set an NFL rookie record for receiving yards.
The Bills have to feel like they got a steal in both trades. You can’t put a price breaking a playoff drought that had lasted more than 25 years.
The Bills won their first playoff game since beating Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 30, 1995, beating the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 in a thriller on Saturday. Allen threw for 324 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, and Diggs had 128 yards on six catches. The Bills had to withstand a Colts drive in the final two minutes, which included a controversial call on a fourth-down catch by Zach Pascal, but the Colts couldn’t get close enough for Rodrigo Blankenship to try a field goal and a Hail Mary was utlimately knocked down as time expired.
It was a great game with plenty of key plays, but the one constant for the Bills was Allen to Diggs.
Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs light it up
The Bills were up 17-10 in the third quarter of a game that had plenty twists and turns when they dialed up a deep pass to Diggs.
Diggs led the NFL with 127 catches and 1,535 yards. When the Bills needed him to get open this season, he did. He barely got open on that third-quarter deep pass, but Allen can squeeze passes into tight spots.
Allen effortlessly threw a fastball that whizzed by the Colts’ cornerback in tight coverage, and Diggs hauled it in for a 24-10 lead. Allen and Diggs made the play look easy, but it was anything but.
Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs (35-yard TD)
26.1% Completion Probability
➤ Air Distance: 46.3 yards
➤ Allen under pressure
➤ Receiver Separation: 1.4 yards
*Allen is 7/9, 162 yards, 2 TD on vertical routes today#INDvsBUF | Powered by @awscloud pic.twitter.com/GjPmmYL6wI
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 9, 2021
Bills fans had been waiting a long time for a division title, a home playoff game and a playoff win. The Bills knew they had to be aggressive in finding a franchise quarterback and a legitimate No. 1 receiver to get them over the hump.
There were some questions about the price the Bills paid for Allen and Diggs when they did it, but it looks now like they made some good investments.
Bills win a close one
One of the big turning points of the game was the Colts’ decision to go for it on fourth down late in the first half. On fourth-and-goal at the 4-yard line, Frank Reich was very aggressive and went for it. Philip Rivers barely threw incomplete to Michael Pittman Jr. Allen drove the Bills 96 yards after that, scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run with 14 seconds left in the half. The Bills led 14-10 at halftime. The Colts opting against taking those three points was huge in the end.
The Colts fought to stay in the game in the fourth quarter. They scored two touchdowns, and after the second one the Bills’ lead was cut down to 27-24. Buffalo offensive lineman Daryl Williams made one of the plays of the game with 2:58 left, jumping on a fumble by Allen near midfield when he was sacked. But the Bills had to punt after that and the Colts had more than enough time to move downfield.
They held onto the ball after a controversial ruling. The Colts were getting close to field-goal range with 28 seconds left when they faced fourth-and-10. Pascal made a big catch as he slid to the ground, then got up to try to get more yards. He was ruled down by contact, but a review showed Pascal might have gotten up on his own before Matt Milano stripped him of the ball. But after a review the ball stayed with the Colts.
Indianapolis couldn’t get any closer after that, and the Bills knocked down a Hail Mary on fourth-and-11 as time expired. It was close, but the Bills got their first playoff win since 25 years.
The rest of the AFC field that might have wanted to see a red-hot Bills team with Allen and Diggs knocked out might have been hoping for a different result.
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