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Playoff tick-tock: Minute-by-minute review of how the Buffalo Bills ended their 17-year playoff drought

A Buffalo Bills victory wasn't enough.

Not only did they have to beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, but the Bills also needed help from at least one other team, maybe two, to end the longest active playoff skid in North American big-league sports.

In addition, the Baltimore Ravens had to lose. If not that, then the Los Angeles Chargers and the Tennessee Titans had to lose.

Those were the only paths for Buffalo to get into the postseason for the first time in 18 years.

All four games kicked off at 4:25 p.m.

The Buffalo News sat down in front of a bank of televisions in the New Era Field press box and monitored every significant play throughout a rollicking 3 hours, 32 minutes of action that seemed to break the Bills way from the outset, but certainly twisted as the afternoon evolved.

Keep reading for a Bills postseason ride-along.

4:26 p.m. -- Buffalo's chances of making the postseason go up .17 percent when linebacker Matt Milano drops Miami running back Kenyan Drake for a 3-yard loss.

4:28 -- The Dolphins, Jaguars and Chargers all punt at the same time, with the ball in the air simultaneously.

4:30 -- Running back Marcus Murphy makes his first carry for Buffalo. Who's Marcus Murphy? He was signed this week to replace the injured Travaris Cadet.

4:32 -- Touchdown Bengals: Andy Dalton fires a pass to tight end Tyler Kroft in the end zone for the first score to benefit the Bills' chances. The Bengals lead the Ravens, 7-0.

4:33 -- Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor likes the idea of finding a tight end in the end zone, too, lobbing a 26-yard throw to a wide-open Nick O'Leary.

4:37 -- Buffalo's chances seem to go up with Miami coach Adam Gase's decision to put third-string quarterback David Fales into the game. Fales, a 2014 sixth-round pick, has been cut seven times from the Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens and Dolphins. His page on the official Dolphins website has blanks where his photo and biography should be.

4:42 -- With nothing to lose, Gase decides to go for a first down on fourth-and-7 from Buffalo's 29-yard line. Fales connects with DeVante Parker for the first down.

4:46 -- Buffalo will have a much better chance to win if Miami continues to pass up scoring chances. Miami goes for it again on 4th-and-3, but cornerback Leonard Johnson breaks up the pass for tight end A.J. Derby.

4:47 -- Gase attended Williamsville South High for a year. Maybe his loyalties are to Western New York.

4:51 -- Chargers and Raiders end the first quarter scoreless.

4:53 -- In the span of four plays, Taylor completes passes to tight end Charles Clay for 15 yards and 17 yards. Taylor has completions on eight of his first nine throws for 111 yards.

4:54 -- That Murphy guy runs off right tackle for 25 yards to the Miami 10, and safety Reshad Jones is flagged for a facemask, putting the ball at the 5.

4:59 -- Taylor slightly overthrows an open O'Leary in the end zone.

4:59 -- Chargers touchdown: Melvin Gordon runs 14 yards, fumbles, but receiver Keenan Allen scoops up the loose ball and takes it 26 more yards for a 7-0 lead.

5:00 -- Unable to punch it in, Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka makes a 23-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.

5:00 -- Jaguars and Titans reach the end of the first quarter scoreless.

5:03 -- Some bad news for Buffalo: Marcus Mariota flings a screen pass to Derrick Henry for a 66-yard touchdown. But Jacksonville blocks Ryan Succop's extra point. Tennessee is up, 6-0.

5:07 -- Oakland strikes back to tie the game with an 87-yard Amari Cooper touchdown.

5:08 -- A long first quarter finally ends in Baltimore, where Cincy still leads, 7-0.

5:11 -- On third-and-8, Taylor completes an 18-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin and absorbs a head shot from Miami safety Walt Aikens for a grand total of 33 yards to Miami's 43.

5:16 -- Jacksonville's Josh Lambo kicks a 41-yard field to cut Tennessee's lead to 6-3.

5:19 -- Chargers kicker Nick Rose's 50-yard field goal is blocked.

5:24 -- Buffalo gets some help: Oakland overtakes L.A. with a field goal. Giorgio Tavecchio makes a 40-yarder for a 10-7 lead.

5:27 -- With 11:14 still to go in the second quarter, Baltimore gets on the board with a 46-yard Justin Tucker field goal. Cincy still has 7-3 edge.

5:30 -- Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack hurts the Bills' cause with an unnecessary roughness call to erase what would have been a second-and-19 situation for the Chargers, who now have first-and-10 on their 44-yard line with 5:21 until halftime.

5:33 -- On the Chargers' next play, Tyrell Williams gets behind the Raiders' secondary and Philip Rivers finds him for a way-too-easy 56-yard touchdown. Chargers now lead, 14-10.

5:38 -- Bills right tackle Jordan Mills goes down with a leg injury 76 seconds before halftime. Seantrel Henderson comes in for him.

5:43 -- BENGALS TOUCHDOWN! Kroft snags another one from Dalton in the end zone 4:14 before halftime. Ravens trail, 14-3.

5:44 -- The Bills are on their way to pulling off the improbable.

5:48 -- Bills hit halftime with a 10-point lead and the Bengals driving for more points in Baltimore. The Bills are that much closer to the postseason now.

5:52 -- Cincy-Baltimore result becomes more of Buffalo's focus as the other playoff scenario continues to erode. Tennessee extends its lead over Jacksonville to 12-3 with a Succop 29-yard field goal at the half.

5:53 -- Chargers tack on another touchdown, a 6-yard Allen catch with 24 seconds left, to hit halftime with a 20-10 lead over the Raiders.

5:58 -- Cincinnati squeezes in a field goal for a 17-3 lead 23 seconds before halftime.

5:59 -- Uh oh. This might sting. Baltimore's Chris Moore returns the kickoff 87 yards to Cincy's 6-yard line.

6:00 -- Hoo boy. Joe Flacco throws a dart to Moore for the 6-yard touchdown. Ravens trail only 17-10 at intermission.

6:01 -- If these halftime scores hold up, then the Bills would claim the second wild-card berth and open the postseason in Jacksonville.

6:04 -- LeSean McCoy is injured and lying on the field with an ankle injury after a 3-yard run with 13:27 to go in the third quarter.

6:08 -- Always a bad sign: A cart is needed to get a dejected McCoy off the field. Murphy and Mike Tolbert must carry the Bills across the finish line.

6:10 -- San Diego extends its cushion to 23-10 on a 25-yard Rose field goal.

6:12 -- Hauschka makes a 49-yard field goal for a 13-0 Bills lead with 10:17 left in the third quarter.

6:18 -- Gase goes for it on fourth-and-8 from Buffalo's 37-yard line. Fales is flagged for intentional grounding. Buffalo ball.

6:25 -- Ravens are very much alive. They are marching on their opening second-half possession, and Bengals defensive players are getting hurt.

6:25 -- Bills, meanwhile, continue to strengthen their grip. Dolphins cornerback Cordrea Tankersley is called for interference on Deonte Thompson in the end zone to put the ball on the 1-yard line.

6:26 -- Succop kicks another field goal for a 15-3 advantage over Jacksonville.

6:27 -- KYLE WILLIAMS SCORES A TOUCHDOWN! On a "fullback" plunge, the 12-year veteran defensive tackle took it over the goal line. How about that? The two-point conversion, a Murphy rush, doesn't work. But the Bills lead, 19-0.

6:28 -- Thurman Thomas tweets: "Love you #95"

6:29 -- AND CINCINNATI SCORES ON A WILD INTERCEPTION! Moore, the Ravens' hero at the end of the first half, bobbles a pass long enough for Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard to snag it and run 89 yards up the left sideline. Instead of a 17-17 score, the Bengals lead by 14 points.

6:38 -- Gase decides he doesn't want to get shut out and decides to kick a field goal on fourth down. Cody Parkey makes a 36-yarder with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.

6:39 -- The Chargers are not screwing around. Rivers and Travis Benjamin execute a 62-yard pass play for a 20-point lead late in the third quarter.

6:41 -- BUCKLE UP, BILLS FANS! On fourth-and-3, Ravens running back Alex Collins appears stopped on his run around the left end, but he reverses field and goes 17 yards for the touchdown and cut the Bengals' lead to 24-16 with 6:16 still left in the third quarter.

6:50 -- Bills are salting this one away. Hauschka kicks a 33-yard field goal to make it a three-score game again and 11:41 to play.

6:52 -- Holy smokes. The Cincy-Baltimore game still has 4:14 left in the third quarter. We'll be watching the end of that one to learn if Buffalo is playoff-bound.

6:54 -- Jacksonville making matters interesting in Nashville. A bad Tennessee handoff exchange leads to a Yannick Ngakoue 67-yard touchdown return. Jacksonville now within five points with 10:48 to go in the game.

6:58 -- The Ravens' offense is in a rhythm. The fluke Bengals interception return has been the difference so far. A lot of time left for Bills heartbreak.

7:00 -- BILLS TOUCHDOWN? Bills linebacker Preston Brown returns a fumble 99 yards, but the play is being reviewed. Was Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry down before he fumbled?

7:03 -- Referee Jeff Triplette declares the touchdown has been overturned, but Brown mishears and does a celebratory dance on the sideline. Whoops.

7:05 -- On the next play, Landry scores on a shovel pass to reduce Buffalo's lead to 22-9 with 6:16 to play. A brawl breaks out. Running back Kenyan Drake slings Ryan Davis' helmet several yards.

7:08 -- Two Bills and four Dolphins are called for unnecessary roughness. Triplette announces multiple players have been ejected, but there's confusion over precisely who they are. So we wait.

7:09 -- In Baltimore, meanwhile, the Ravens pull within four points on Tucker's 34-yard field goal with 13:08 remaining.

7:12 -- As officials continue to review Landry's scoring play and the ejections, the Chargers still lead by 20 and the Titans still lead by a field goal inside the final five minutes of each game. Cincy-Baltimore is Buffalo's lone playoff hurdle.

7:13 -- Landry's touchdown is upheld. Miami's ejections are Landry and Drake. No Bills have been kicked out.

7:14 -- Miami goes for two with their third-string QB and without their two best offensive players. Fales throws an incomplete pass. Dolphins trail 22-9.

7:19 -- Baltimore, with help from an unnecessary roughness call, takes over on Cincy's 45-yard line with 12 minutes left and down by four points. Baltimore's offense has been clicking. There's enough time for it to win with two field goals.

7:22 -- FINAL SCORE: Chargers 30, Raiders 10. Only game that matters now is Cincy at Baltimore.

7:24 -- RAVENS TAKE THEIR FIRST LEAD: Joe Flacco hits Mike Wallace just inside the right pylon from 6-yards away with 8:48 left. The Bills' postseason hopes now trail by three points.

7:29 -- Bills owner Terry Pegula showing no emotion on the sideline with Bills General Manager Brandon Beane. No happiness for the impending victory and a rare winning record without a Ravens defeat to put them in the playoffs.

7:30 -- FINAL SCORE FOR POSTERITY: Titans 15, Jaguars 10. The Bills' chances have hinged on the Ravens' result all the way.

7:34 -- Fales sneaks into the end zone from a yard away. Miami creeps within a touchdown, 22-16.

7:36 -- For heaven's sake ... Dolphins recover the onside kick with Parkey's jukey approach drawing the Bills' hands team offside, the ball ricocheting off Patrick DiMarco and the Dolphins falling on it. Look out. Bills suddenly have two ways to miss the playoffs.

7:38 -- NEVER MIND! Free safety Jordan Poyer picks off Fales at Buffalo's 28-yard line with 49 seconds left.

7:39 -- Bills are in victory formation.

7:40 -- FINAL SCORE: Bills 22, Dolphins 16. ... Still 2:31 left in the Bengals-Ravens game.

7:41 -- To torture Bills fans a little more, the Bengals-Ravens game is the only one that hasn't concluded.

7:42 -- Ravens hit the two-minute warning with a three-point lead. Bengals have the ball second-and-10 on their own 33-yard line.

7:47 -- A couple of penalties by the Ravens' secondary give the Bengals a first-and-10 on the Ravens' 47-yard line with 73 seconds remaining. The Bills still are breathing.

7:50 -- Cincy calls its last timeout, facing a fourth-and-12 from Baltimore's 49-yard line.

7:51 -- WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?! Dalton zips a pass up the seam to Tyler Boyd, who avoids some would-be tacklers and makes it all the way for a 49-yard touchdown. Cincinnati leads by four points with 44 seconds on the clock.

7:52 -- Bills Wall of Famer Darryl Talley tweets: "I got chill bumps."

7:53 -- Bills fans haven't experienced anything like this since Bill Clinton was president. The last time Buffalo made it, USB flash drives and iPods didn't even exist. iPhones came eight years later. We hadn't heard of Xbox, Harry Potter movies, Lebron James or Sidney Crosby, Crocs or Kanye West.

7:56 -- Fourth-and-14 for Baltimore from its own 23-yard line with 24 seconds left.

7:57 -- A completion to tight end Ben Watson goes for 22 yards. That's it. Ravens will lose. Bills will go to the playoffs.

7:58 -- FINAL SCORE: Bengals 31, Ravens 27. BUFFALO HAS ENDED THE LONGEST PLAYOFF DROUGHT IN NORTH AMERICAN SPORTS.

7:59 -- Talley tweets: "See y’all in Jacksonville next week. IDC if I have to sit in the nosebleeds. #BillsMafia"

8:01 -- NFL announces Bills' playoff game against the Jaguars will be Sunday at 1 p.m.

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