A quarter-century ago, the Buffalo Bills won a playoff game. Now, they have another.
They even figured out how to stop a Hail Mary.
Buffalo (14-3) snapped an 0-6 postseason skid with a 27-24 victory at home Saturday against Indianapolis (11-6). The previous playoff win was over Miami on Dec. 30, 1995. And it came in the Bills’ first home playoff game in 24 years, with a limited number of 6,700 fans in attendance for the first time this season.
Josh Allen threw two touchdown passes, scored another rushing, and Micah Hyde batted down Philip Rivers’ desperation pass to end the game. Buffalo will host an AFC divisional-round game.
“It doesn’t matter how it looks,” Allen said. “It’s the playoffs. It’s win or go home and we got it done. We’ve got to turn our focus to whoever we got next week.”
In Buffalo’s last loss before winning its next six games and the AFC East crown, Hyde was one of three defenders who failed to knock down the ball. DeAndre Hopkins’ 43-yard leaping catch on Kyler Murray’s desperation throw – the “Hail Murray” – won that game for Arizona. The Bills learned from it, and Philip Rivers’ heave for T.Y. Hilton was incomplete.
“It’s been a long time since Bills Mafia has been able to celebrate like this,” Allen said. “But it’s one game.”
Tampa Bay 31, Washington 23: New team, same swashbuckling playoff success for Tom Brady.
Brady threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Buccaneers past Washington in Landover, Maryland, for their first playoff victory since 2002.
In his 42nd postseason start and first not in a New England Patriots uniform, Brady made the most of a lack of pressure to carve up the NFL’s second-ranked defense on 22-of-40 passing.
He had to outduel Washington’s Taylor Heinicke, who had a breakout performance in just his second pro start and first in the playoffs in place of injured starter Alex Smith. Heinicke – signed in early December to the practice squad – ran for 46 yards and a touchdown and threw for 306 yards and a score.
But that wasn’t enough to overcome Brady’s brilliance.
While Bill Belichick and the Patriots watch from home with their playoff streak snapped at 11 following a 7-9 season, Brady has the opportunity to play in another Super Bowl – in his new home stadium.
The Buccaneers await the result of Chicago at New Orleans on Sunday to see if they’ll be visiting Drew Brees and the Saints or host the Los Angeles Rams next weekend. They’d need a Bears upset to play at home in the divisional round.
There’s not much slowing Brady, who at 43 years, 159 days passed George Blanda as the oldest player to throw a TD pass in a playoff game. A 36-yard scoring connection with Antonio Brown was Brady’s longest in the playoffs since 2011.
Brady was methodical in the first half with 12 completions for 209 yards and wasn’t sacked until the final minute of the second quarter.
Heinicke made things interesting in the third, most notably scrambling for an 8-yard TD by diving at the pylon in the corner of the end zone. The play even got the attention of reigning Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes, who tweeted, “Bro what!?!?!”
The series after Heinicke banged up his left shoulder, Brady engineered a 69-yard scoring drive capped by a 3-yard Leonard Fournette TD run. That made it 28-16, which was enough to withstand Heinicke’s attempt to be the unlikely hero.
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