Josh Allen came up clutch when the Buffalo Bills needed it most. The defense came up with a big stop deep in their territory to clinch a win, with defensive back Taron Johnson coming up with a huge play in the end zone on the final play.
The surprising part was that the Bills needed any clutch plays on Sunday.
There was nothing to indicate that they would be in a tight game and win only 14-9. The New York Giants came in with one win and had looked bad in every loss. Their injury report looked like an old phonebook listing, and it included quarterback Daniel Jones inactive due to a neck injury.
But no matter how bad a team seems to be, you can't overlook them in the NFL.
The important part for the Bills is they won a closer-than-expected game. A loss would've been very hard to explain. But Allen hit tight end Quintin Morris, who hadn't been targeted on a pass all season, on a 15-yard touchdown with less than four minutes left to take a lead. The Giants put together a late drive and found themselves at the Bills' 1-yard line with no time left and a chance to win after a pass interference penalty. But Johnson knocked away a pass intended for Darren Waller, and the Bills escaped, though it wasn't easy.
The Bills can't be happy with their performance against a bad and severely undermanned Giants team. Hopefully for the Bills it wasn't a sign that they aren't really among the Super Bowl contenders. At least they can figure out what happened after a win, even if it was a lot more tense than they expected.
“It’s an ugly win, but it counts the same as a pretty win,” quarterback Josh Allen said on NBC. “Our defense, man, they bailed us out … Offensively, we’ve got to be better. We’ll take the win. We hate that it came down to the last play, but we’ll take the win."
Giants take early lead
The Giants came in as the biggest underdogs in any game this NFL season. The Bills were favored by 15.5 points. But early on, it was clear that New York was not going to be an easy out.
The Giants' offense didn't do much, but the defense was up to the challenge. Giants coach Brian Daboll was Allen's offensive coordinator early in his career, and that intimate knowledge of the Bills quarterback might've helped. Allen took some big hits, at one point briefly exiting the game so he could be checked for a concussion. He also was keeping his shoulder loose and looked like he was in some discomfort.
Whatever the reason, the Bills' offense did nothing in the first half. They were shut out before halftime. The Giants have been uncompetitive on both sides of the field most of the season, but the defense showed up on Sunday.
The Giants led 6-0 late in the first half, when they made a huge error. They ran the ball up the middle at the 1-yard line with 14 seconds remaining and no timeouts left, and the clock ran out before they could spike the ball. Despite that massive mistake, the Giants still led at the break.
Those points the Giants missed would be huge by the end of the game.
Bills hang on in 4th quarter amid controversial no-call
The Bills finally moved the ball in the second half. They went on a marathon 17-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a Deonte Harty 3-yard touchdown catch. The Bills led, but the long drive wasn't the worst thing for the Giants. It took nearly the entire third quarter, which shrunk the game. That helps a big underdog.
The Giants answered right away. Saquon Barkley had a couple of long runs, and even though the Giants couldn't pick up a third-and-inches, they kicked a field goal and took a 9-7 lead. Suddenly, fewer than 11 minutes remained, and the Bills trailed.
The Bills had no margin for error, and Allen made the plays he had to make. His touchdown pass to Morris, rolling right and throwing back to the middle, sneaking it in between two Giants defenders, was fantastic. The Giants hadn't scored a touchdown all night at that point. Tyrod Taylor tried hitting Darius Slayton deep on fourth down, but it was knocked away with 1:45 left. At that point, the game looked like it was over. But the Bills missed a field goal with 1:25 left after the Giants used their timeouts and Allen threw incomplete on third down. The Giants still had life and then put together a great drive.
Taylor started moving the Giants downfield, picking up short completions to move the sticks. Taylor completed a fourth-down pass to the Bills' 15-yard line, and the Giants spiked it with nine seconds left. Taylor ran for 5 yards and got out of bounds with two seconds left. A pass interference kept the game going, and the Giants had one untimed down from the 1-yard line. They decided to throw the ball, but Taylor's pass to Waller was broken up.
The Giants ended both halves at the Bills one-yard line.
Stopped on both 😳 pic.twitter.com/enBhFBebhf
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) October 16, 2023
The last pass seemingly drew enough contact to warrant a second pass interference call, too, though it wasn't called. If it had been, the Giants would've had a third shot at the end zone.
Waller, however, wasn't harping on the lack of a flag.
"There was contact, but I'm not somebody that's going to get into what a call should have been or telling officials how to do their job because there's a way for me to make that play there, and it wasn't made," Waller said, via The Athletic's Dan Duggan. "So that's what I focus on."
Say this about the Bills' performance Sunday: It was good enough. It was a win, just nowhere close to the runaway everyone expected.