All was not well for the Bills on Thanksgiving.
Not until the final few seconds of Buffalo’s nail-biting 28-25 win over the Detroit Lions.
Until the final minute, the Lions looked poised to pull off an upset. And then everything that seemed to be going wrong for Buffalo suddenly went right. As the game drew into the final minute, the Lions coaching staff bungled their clock management. Jared Goff made a bad decision and a worse throw on third down with a misfire to an open receiver. So the Bills defense held Detroit to a field goal on its final drive. And Buffalo’s offense had just 23 seconds to get points in a tie game.
Allen wasted no time.
On the first play of the drive, the quarterback fired downfield to Diggs for 36 yards. That capped off a fourth quarter when Allen was 5-of-6 for 65 yards and a touchdown. After that 36-yard gain, the Bills were in field goal range. They need only hold onto the ball, bleed the clock and — if they wanted — advance the ball to make life easier for kicker Tyler Bass. So the Bills had Allen run the ball a few times to pick up yards and drain the clock. He had a hand in all the team’s offensive yardage on the drive. Bass hit the field goal with two seconds left. And the game was effectively over.
What a final sequence.
It was chaos. It was brilliant. It was Josh Allen at his finest.
And now, the rest of the game feels like a comedy of errors for the Bills, who — as usual — played down to their level of competition.
The Bills are one of the NFL’s most talented teams, but they sometimes struggle to play like it. Their offense has looked labored in the last few weeks, and as a result. That seems to be the biggest reason why the Bills have struggled to put teams away in recent weeks. The Lions took advantage of that.
There wasn’t one particular mistake that kept the Lions in the game. There was a general sense of attrition, with the Lions controlling the game’s pace. Detroit wasn’t even stellar on third down (6/15) but they were great on fourth, where they converted all four opportunities (including a fourth-down penalty from Buffalo in the red zone).
Outside of that final minute, the Bills’ performance was defined by botched and missed opportunities. Allen threw a red-zone interception to erase a scoring chance. Allen and Diggs struggled to connect in the first three quarters. They just weren’t in sync. Prior to the fourth quarter, Diggs and Allen connected on just 3-of-9 passes for 12 yards
And then there were the rare defensive gaffes. Cornerback Dane Jackson looked outmatched for the entire game, allowing a go-ahead touchdown — and a handful of chunk plays. Most egregious on defense, linebacker Joshua Klein dropped a Goff attempt that was a more glaring error than anything Allen threw on Thursday. Goff spun 360 degrees before chucking the ball directly to Klein. But the linebacker dropped the ball — and missed an opportunity in making Goff go viral for all the wrong reasons.
But none of those mistakes, shortcomings and miscommunications ended up mattering. Because as flat as Allen started, he finished strong. And that’s how the Bills have eked their way out of these types of games this year. Sure, they’ve lost them because Allen has thrown interceptions. But a result like this one — a last-second win — is a testament to why the Bills have to keep trusting Allen, even when he gets on a cold streak like he did in the previous three weeks when he threw two interceptions in all three games.
Allen is a bringer of chaos, for better or worse. And the Bills are justified in letting him do what makes him special. Games like this one are a reminder of that.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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