Years from now, people will remember the snow more than anything else. It's just as well because it wasn't really a football game between the Bills and Colts on Sunday at New Era Field. It was a battle of real estate in a lake-effect storm in a game that required overtime and bordered on absurd.
LeSean McCoy brought the contest to a merciful end with a 21-yard run off left tackle to lift the Bills to a 13-7 victory. The Bills remain in playoff contention with a 7-6 record with Miami visiting next week. Their final two games are against the Patriots and Dolphins on the road.
This one nearly slipped away.
It came after Indianapolis tied the game on Jack Doyle's 3-yard touchdown catch with 1:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Colts were called for a penalty after a successful two-point conversion play, forcing Adam Vinatieri to make the best extra point in NFL history, from 43 yards into the wind, to send the game into overtime.
Sure enough, Webb threw an interception with 52 seconds remaining to give the Colts a shot to win the game with six seconds left in regulation. Vinatieri missed from the same distance, effectively replacing the absurd with reality.
On a day in which two teams had problems negotiating a simple cut, the Bills plowed through for an 80-yard touchdown drive in 75 seconds. Nathan Peterman hit wide receiver Kelvin Benjamim with a 21-yard pass that set up a 7-yard score to – I'm really sorry for this – break the ice.
At times, it was comical.
Every play turned into an adventure with players on both teams struggling to gain their footing. Running backs could barely cut, but it didn't matter because defensive players had a miserable time trying to change directions. The shifty McCoy finished with 158 yards on 32 carries.
As anyone who has ever played football in the snow would attest, the offense has a distinct advantage when playing in adverse conditions. But so much snow fell before and during the game that both teams were merely trying to stay upright. Every tackle was accompanied by a splash of snow.
McCoy led the Bills down the field on their touchdown drive just before halftime when he snapped off runs of 23 and 25 yards. The Bills and Colts had matching game plans because they had no choice: Hand the ball to their running backs, and hope for the best.
Jacoby Brissett completed 11 of 22 passes for 69 yards and a TD. He threw a deep pass that Chester Rogers caught just beyond the end zone before the receiver all but disappeared into a snowbank behind the end line. Rogers later fell on his face after taking one step while trying to return a punt.
Among the more productive people on the field Sunday was the brigade of workers who attempted to clear the lines every 5 yards with leaf blowers.
Peterman was 5 of 10 for 57 yards before leaving the game with 11:37 remaining in the third quarter with an apparent concussion. He was drilled by Antonio Morrison and Jonathan Hankins while diving for yardage, leaving the offense in the hands of utility man Joe Webb.
Players spent the afternoon pulling snow from their facemasks. Both called off-tackle running plays on third-and-long and nobody blamed them. It was a shame Doug Marrone wasn't coaching the Bills. He would have been applauded for punting from the opponent's 32-yard line Sunday.
You knew it was going to a mess long before kickoff.
Outsiders who view Buffalo as a snowy tundra from television news clips had a chance to watch a true lake-effect storm play out before them. It was difficult to see from one corner of the stadium to the other, and fans on the tunnel side couldn't see the scoreboard for much of the first half.
Vinatieri attempted a 33-yard field goal that wasn't close, falling short and wide right, on the Colts' first possession. Rigoberto Sanchez's first punt plugged in the snow like a golf ball on a soggy day. He used the snow to his advantage, and showed off his short game, when he dropped one on the 2-yard line in the second quarter.