The Buffalo Bills earned a wildcard berth to appear in the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and searching for their first postseason win since 1995. The Houston Texans have made six playoff appearances over the last decade, but with a 3-5 playoff record, never making it past the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. The Texans are the only one of the NFL’s 32 franchises to never appear in the Conference Championship round.

Needless to say, these are two teams starved for postseason success.

With identical 10-6 records during the regular season, the Texans entered the game as narrow 2.5-point home favorites.

The Bills took the opening possession on Saturday afternoon, kicking off the NFL’s 2019-20 Playoffs at 4:35 PM ET/3:35 PM CT.

Buffalo wasted no time pulling out every trick in the book. Early in the drive, Josh Allen ripped open a designed quarterback run for 42 yards.

After a couple more reverses and misdirections, Buffalo went big early: calling upon wide receiver John Brown to deliver a 16-yard touchdown pass to Josh Allen: the first reception of his career.

After exchanging a couple punts (both quarterbacks were accurate but drives were cut short early,) the Bills tacked on another three points, ending an 11-play drive with a 40-yard field goal.

At a time, it appeared in real-time as though Josh Allen fumbled at the end of a run, recovered by the Texans for a touchdown. However, upon further review his knee was clearly down.

Another two punts by Houston meant they had yet to pick up two first downs in a drive. On the ensuing Buffalo drive, they marched the ball 74 yards over 15 plays to end the half. They settled for another field goal, and while a 13-0 lead is hardly insurmountable, Buffalo completely dominated the pace of the first half.

Allen finished the first half 13/20 passing for 131 yards, along with 3 rushes for 52 yards and of course, a touchdown catch. Deshaun Watson was accurate, completing 6 of 8 passes for 49 yards. But the Texans inability to get a drive going kept them shut out from scoring in the first two quarters.

Houston’s second drive of the second half was cut short early yet again: this time by a Deandre Hopkins fumble. The Bills would capitalize on a short field, adding yet another field goal to extend their lead to 16-0.

With the fourth quarter winding down and the Texans still scoreless, Watson started to take matters into his own hands. He broke loose and willed his way into the endzone to break the drought for Houston.

Watson would break out his legs, athleticism, and determination again on a two-point conversion run to the corner of the endzone. This made the score 16-8, putting the Texans just another 8-point score from tying the game.

With the Bills need a score or long drive to respond in the fourth quarter, their drive was cut short by a fumble of their own, as Merculis knocked the ball out of Allen’s hands near mid-field.

The Texans were able to capitalize with a field goal, cutting Buffalo’s lead to 16-11 with plenty of football to play in the fourth quarter. After dominating through three quarters, the Bills lead was suddenly in jeopardy.

Buffalo’s next drive didn’t do much to help, going three and out quickly. The Texans next drive was ignited by a 41-yard pass to Hopkins. After a 14-yard catch by Fells got the Texans to the 1-yard line, a Carlos Hyde 5-yard TD run would give the Texans their first lead of the game.

Another two-point conversion, this one a connection between Watson and Hopkins, the Texans gained a 19-16 lead with 4:37 to play in the fourth quarter.

Playing from behind for the first time in the game, the Bills essentially needed to get a score on this drive. Daryl Singletary got the drive going early with 38-yard run. The Bills were threatening quickly, but their drive was derailed by a huge intentional grounding penalty on Allen that set up 4th and 27. To make matters even worse, Allen was sacked again, completely switching the field.

It appeared both the Bills 16-0 lead and hopes of advancing in the playoffs had been completely erased at this point. But with three timeouts in their pocket, the Bills were able to get one more chance to posses the ball. The Texans went for it on fourth down instead of punting, and the Bills stopped them, gaining favorable field position.

On the first play of the drive, Allen ripped off another long run, this one 20 yards. Allen took a few shots at the endzone in the final seconds, but the Bills ultimately settled for a field goal that would force overtime at 19-19.

The Texans went three and out on the opening drive of overtime, but the Bills were able to sustain a bit of a drive. But it was stalled after the Bills were pushed back 15 yards and back past midfield, forcing them to punt.

Houston would march down the field, with a 10-yard catch by Hopkins, 18 yard-catch by Johnson, 10-yard catch by Kenny Stills, and 34-yard catch and run by Jones. That last catch would be the final play for Waston and the Texans offense, as Ka’imi Fairbairn would connect on a 34-yard field goal to advance Houston to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

The Bills can find some solace in their first playoff appearance in 20 years, but all Buffalo fans will be able to think about tonight is the missed opportunities and what could have been. It was a special season, and Josh Allen elevated his game as an NFL quarterback. Hopefully, it won’t be another 20 years this time before the Bills make the playoffs again.

As the #4 seed, the Texans would play the Baltimore Ravens if the Patriots defeat the Titans, or the Kansas City Chiefs if Tennessee can upset New England.






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Header Photo: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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