A quick reaction to that game? Is that the entire community of Bills fans I sense exhaling en masse? More than anything, it feels like the Bills survived here on Sunday afternoon, like they tried their best to give a game away but managed to pull it out in the end.
I'm sure many Bills fans were shielding their eyes and wondering just how this team would manage to
blow another crucial home game. After a dominant first half, the offense went to sleep, allowing the Texans to hang around and tie the game, 21-21, midway through the fourth quarter.
At that point, hardened fans expected the worst. But in the end, they pulled it out. Tyrod Taylor threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Charles Clay with 1:53 left in the game to lift the Bills to a 30-21 victory over the Texans at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills are now 6-6 after getting a win they desperately needed to stay relevant in the hunt for an AFC wild-card berth. As they move into the final quarter of the season, they're right in the thick of the chase. They're tied with Houston, but would have the tiebreaker by virtue of Sunday's win.
It wasn't easy, by any means. The Bills, already missing several key players, lost cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a shoulder injury and LeSean McCoy for a brief time to a possible concussion. The defense was shaky against journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer, allowing him to throw three TD passes before stiffening in the game's vital moments.
The offense set a tone in a dominant first half, rushing for 134 yards and averaging 7.1 yards a carry as the Bills surged to a 21-13 halftime lead. Taylor had to throw only seven times in the first half, but threw touchdown passes to Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.
For the second week in a row, the Bills lit up a defense that came into the game as one of the hottest in the NFL. In fact, if you combined their first half in Kansas City with the opening half against the Texans, the Bills had 37 points and exactly 500 yards of offense. Not a bad game, you have to admit.
Of course, the offense failed to follow up its electric start for the second week in a row, allowing the Texans to hang around until they tied it, 21-21, on Hoyer's 19-yard TD pass to DeAndre Hopkins and a successful 2-point conversion run.
The Bills got the ball back after forcing a punt with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter. A couple of McCoy runs left them with a third-and-6 at their own 49-yard line, desperately needing a play from Tyrod Taylor.
Instead, Taylor threw a pass behind Clay, barely avoiding his first interception since the Giants game -- a pick that could have been returned for a go-ahead touchdown.
But a Colton Schmidt punt pinned the Texans at their own 6-yard line with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter. The beleaguered Bills defense, which had allowed three Brian Hoyer touchdown passes, had a chance to make a stand and give the ball back to the offense one more time.
They got it when safety Bacarri Rambo obliterated Texans wideout Cecil Shorts on an apparent reception over the middle, knocking the ball away anf forcing a fourth-down punt. Shane Lechler's short punt was returned to the Houston 13 by Marcus Thigpen, but naturally, there was a penalty on the Bills. Ron Brooks was called for holding away from the play and the Bills had to start at their own 35.
A key run by McCoy (who had another 112-yard rushing day) put the Bills into Houston territory, setting the stage for Taylor's decisive throw to Clay.
There are still questions about Taylor as a franchise quarterback. But it's a big part of any franchise QB's evolution to win games like this one. Taylor didn't need to carry the day, but he made all the big throws that were there for him -- including two 50-plus bombs to Sammy Watkins.
Taylor was 11-for-21 for 211 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a TD on a nifty sprint and dive for the cone in the first half. So he accounted for four touchdowns and extended his team record for consecutive throws without an interception.
He continued to make his case as the quarterback of the future, while keeping his team's playoff hopes alive and relieving the anxieties of long-suffering Bills fans. At the very least, Taylor helped make the next four weeks a lot more interesting.