Over the years, it has gone the other way for the Bills so many times that you lost count. Usually, it’s the Bills that figure out some way to lose, the Bills who blow a defensive assignment late in the game, the Bills who crumble when it matters most and leave the field wondering what hit them.
On Sunday, it was the Bills who pulled one out.
Tyrod Taylor found Charles Clay wide open in the secondary and threw a perfect pass to the tight end for a 40-yard touchdown in a 30-21 victory over the Texans in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills kept their playoff hopes alive with a much-needed win. If this one had gone the other way, as it usually does, any chance of reaching the postseason would have been all but sunk.
The Bills made you sweat, of course.
Dan Carpenter missed the extra point after the winning touchdown, and the Texans had enough time on the clock to mount a winning drive. Uh oh. The Bills’ defense shut them on four straight downs, and Carpenter made a 36-yard field goal to preserve the win. The Bills should beating a weak Eagles team next week in Philadelphia.
Can anyone make sense of this team?
You never know what you’re going to get with the Bills from one week to the next, a maddening pattern of inconsistency that has lasted for 15 straight seasons. Sometimes, it has changed from half to half or quarter to quarter or possession to possession. The Bills were shut out in the second half Sunday.
Rather than allow the opposition to dictate how they were going to play, the Bills did a better job of imposing their will on the Texans. Houston had allowed only two touchdowns in the previous four games before giving up three in the first half alone against a Buffalo team that struggled on offense.
J.J. Watt, the Texans’ all-universe defensive end, was invisible Sunday. His only sack was wiped out by offsetting penalties in the fourth quarter. The Bills’ offensive line played one of their best games this season. Buffalo rushed for 187 yards and didn’t allow a sack until the fourth quarter.
Too often this season, the Bills reacted to what the opposition was doing rather than determine how games would be played. On Sunday, they were more aggressive with their game plan while working to their strengths. It started with the offensive line and the running game. The defense was more assertive and sound against the run.
It comes down to exploiting weaknesses.
Sammy Watkins destroyed the Kansas City secondary in the first half last week before he was inexplicably ignored in the second. Buffalo returned to him Sunday with similar effectiveness. Watkins had a 54-yard catch in the second quarter and a 53-yard grab in the third. He scored on a 3-yard catch on the opening drive.
Buffalo figured to have a major problem with Jordan Mills getting the start at right tackle and drawing the assignment to block. The Bills effectively ran to the left side, away from Watt and behind Richie Incognito and left tackle Cordy Glenn. They had 134 yards rushing in the first half.
The Bills spotted an advantage against Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson, who had a tough day. Watkins and Woods beat him for short touchdown passes. Johnson also was smoked on a 54-yard pass to Watkins that set up the Bills’ third TD. The chore for Buffalo was maintaining its success in the second half. The Bills failed to score until the first play after the two-minute warning.
But they scored when it mattered most.
Usually, it goes the other way.