Those past glories finally are being recaptured by the best Bills team in a generation, led by brilliant young quarterback Josh Allen. A memorable season became even more so Saturday night when the Bills beat the Baltimore Ravens, 17-3, in Orchard Park, N.Y., in a divisional playoff game before a delighted crowd of 6,772 fans at Bills Stadium.
“Our defense stepped up,” Allen said. “That’s playoff football. It doesn’t matter how it looks. You either get it done or you don’t.”
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered a concussion on the final play of the third quarter, according to Coach John Harbaugh, and exited the game. The second-seeded Bills ended the season of the fifth-seeded Ravens and advanced to next weekend’s AFC championship game, on the road against the top-seeded Chiefs or, if Cleveland upsets Kansas City on Sunday, at home against the sixth-seeded Browns.
Allen threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs and cornerback Taron Johnson had a touchdown on an interception and 101-yard return, matching the longest interception return in NFL postseason history, as the Bills broke open a tight game with a third-quarter flurry Saturday. The calamitous quarter for the Ravens ended with Jackson in the locker room and in the NFL concussion protocol after he was knocked to the turf while throwing a pass upon retrieving an errant snap.
Undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley took over at quarterback and finished the game for the Ravens. Huntley overthrew wide receiver Marquise Brown, who was open deep, with one fourth-down pass. He later missed a connection with tight end Mark Andrews on a fourth-and-goal pass into the end zone.
“It’s a tough loss,” Harbaugh said. “To get to the championship game, you’ve got to play two really great games and things have got to bounce your way. It didn’t happen for us today.”
It is the Bills’ first trip to an AFC championship game in 27 years. They last were there in January 1994 when they beat the Chiefs to secure their fourth straight Super Bowl appearance, all of which resulted in losses.
It has been a season filled with “first time since” accomplishments for the Bills. They won their first AFC East title since 1995. They had their first home playoff game since December 1996. They beat the Indianapolis Colts last weekend at Bills Stadium for their first postseason victory since December 1995. Now they have added to that list.
“It’s only going to get tougher from here,” Allen, who completed 23 of 37 passes for 206 yards, said in a postgame video news conference. “Every game has more riding on it than the last. We know that. We’re ready for it.”
The Ravens, one week removed from securing the first postseason win of Jackson’s NFL career, failed in their bid to reach their first AFC championship game in eight years. They lost for a third straight time in their trips to the divisional playoff round. They last played an AFC championship game in January 2013, when they won at New England to reach a Super Bowl in which they defeated the San Francisco 49ers.
Little came easily for the Ravens during a season in which they suffered a major coronavirus outbreak in late November and early December. They played one rescheduled game on a Wednesday and another on a Tuesday. They won their final five games of the regular season and reached the playoffs as a wild card. They won at Tennessee last weekend. But now they’re going home.
“We fought through a lot,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We had a very good bond. … But at the same time, it wasn’t good enough for us, for the standard that we want.”
There was no snow Saturday but the wind affected play. The two teams were tied at 3 following an inelegant first half in which neither offense could get moving and there were kicking misadventures on both sides, particularly with the Ravens. Their usually reliable kicker, Justin Tucker, missed two first-half field goal attempts, with the ball striking an upright each time. A 23-yard punt by the Ravens’ Sam Koch set up a Bills’ field goal. Tucker finally connected on a 34-yard field goal four seconds before halftime.
“The wind was tough,” Harbaugh said. “A very challenging wind out there.”
The Bills handed the ball off only once on offense during the first half. They had three rushing attempts, two by Allen and one by running back Devin Singletary. But the game changed in the third quarter.
Diggs — on his way to an eight-catch, 106-yard performance — scored a three-yard touchdown on a screen pass. The Ravens tried to answer, but Jackson forced a third-and-goal pass from the Buffalo 9-yard line into heavy traffic. Johnson made the grab and raced the length of the field.
“It’s one of those plays that it will be remembered for a really long time,” Allen said.
Johnson said he read Jackson’s eyes and was able to determine where the pass was headed.
“The ball came to me,” Johnson said. “I took it and made the play.”
The quarter ended with Jackson, the league’s MVP last season, on his back in the end zone, receiving medical attention. He was able to get to his feet and walk to the locker room.
“What we’ve been through as a football team — the road we traveled this year, the challenges that we faced, all well documented — I feel like our guys, they handled them with toughness and with grace, and they were positive and they just came to work every day,” Harbaugh said. “They were a joy to be around, man. … I’m very proud of them and we’ll hold our head high walking out of here and into the offseason.”
Ravens drive but fail on fourth-down pass into the end zone
The Ravens, trying to stay in the game, reached the Buffalo 8-yard line. But they turned the ball over on downs again, as Tyler Huntley threw incomplete into the end zone for tight end Mark Andrews on fourth and goal from the 10-yard line. (Bills 17, Ravens 3 with 2:41 left in the 4th quarter)
Bills miss field goal
The Bills failed to add to their lead after the failed fourth down by the Ravens. Kicker Tyler Bass missed a 44-yard field goal try, sending the ball wide left. It was his second miss of the night. (Bills 17, Ravens 3 with 5:30 left in the 4th quarter)
Tyler Huntley misses Marquise Brown on fourth-down deep pass
The Ravens turned over the ball on downs. Quarterback Tyler Huntley overthrow wide receiver Marquise Brown, who was open deep, on fourth and eight from the Baltimore 29-yard line.
(Bills 17, Ravens 3 with 6:36 left in the 4th quarter)
Ravens rule out Lamar Jackson for remainder of game
The Ravens have ruled out quarterback Lamar Jackson from returning to the game. He was placed in the NFL concussion protocol and was taken to the Ravens’ locker room after being hit while throwing a pass upon retrieving an errant snap on the final play of the third quarter.
It’s undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley at quarterback for the Ravens the rest of the way. (Bills 17, Ravens 3 with 6:36 left in the 4th quarter)
Lamar Jackson in concussion protocol; Tyler Huntley at QB for Ravens
Quarterback Lamar Jackson was injured and exited the game, being taken to the Ravens’ locker room. The Ravens announced he was in the NFL concussion protocol. Jackson was hurt on the final play of the third quarter as he was tackled and threw a pass after retrieving an errant snap. Jackson was called for intentional grounding on the play. He remained on the ground in the end zone while receiving attention from the Ravens’ medical staff, then was able to get to his feet and walk to the locker room.
Tyler Huntley, an undrafted rookie from Utah, replaced him at quarterback. (Bills 17, Ravens 3 at the end of the 3rd quarter)
Bills extend lead on Taron Johnson’s 101-yard pick-six
Just when the Ravens were poised to tie the game, the Bills extended their lead with an interception and 101-yard return for a touchdown by Bills cornerback Taron Johnson. Lamar Jackson forced a third-and-goal pass from the Buffalo 9-yard line into heavy traffic in the middle of the field. Johnson made the grab and raced the other way, as Jackson got caught behind a blocker and never had a legitimate chance to make the tackle.
Jackson had been pressured by the Bills’ Jerry Hughes into a second-down incompletion on the previous play when he had wide receiver Marquise Brown open on a crossing pattern for a potential touchdown. Earlier on the drive, Jackson had a 15-yard scramble for a first down on a third-and-13 play. Johnson’s interception return is tied for the longest in NFL postseason history. (Bills 17, Ravens 3 with 41 seconds left in the 3rd quarter)
Allen-to-Diggs touchdown puts Bills in front
The game finally has a touchdown. The Bills reached the end zone on a three-yard touchdown from Josh Allen to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who took a quick screen pass to the left and plowed his way across the goal line. Diggs, who led the NFL in catches and receiving yards during the regular season, had a 20-yard catch earlier on the drive.
The Bills actually started to run the ball, also. Tailback Devin Singletary provided a 12-yard run. Singletary also made a third-and-four catch for a nine-yard gain. That gave the Bills a first down at the Baltimore 3-yard line and set up the touchdown, which came on a second-and-goal play following a first-down incompletion into the end zone. (Bills 10, Ravens 3 with 9:29 left in the 3rd quarter)
Ravens, Bills tied at 3-3 after inelegant first half
The first half is over in Orchard Park, N.Y.
The Bills and Ravens are tied 3-3 in their divisional playoff game at Bills Stadium, with a trip to the AFC championship game on the line.
Neither offense could get moving. And there were kicking misadventures on both sides, particularly with the Ravens. There has been no snow thus far but the wind has affected play.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker missed two field goal attempts, with the ball striking an upright each time. A 23-yard punt by the Ravens’ Sam Koch set up the Bills’ field goal. Tucker finally connected on a 34-yard field goal four seconds before halftime.
The Ravens had 180 yards of total offense; the Bills had 114. Quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for 123 yards on 9-for-16 passing. Jackson had only 18 rushing yards as the Buffalo defense focused on limiting his ball-carrying opportunities.
The Bills handed off the ball only once on offense during the entire half. They had three rushing attempts, two by quarterback Josh Allen and one by running back Devin Singletary. Allen completed 13 of 22 passes for 120 yards. Kicker Tyler Bass made one field goal attempt and missed another. (Ravens 3, Bills 3 at halftime)
Ravens pull even as Justin Tucker makes field goal this time
Kicker Justin Tucker finally connected on a field goal for the Ravens and they tied the game 3-3 just before halftime. Tucker’s kick was good from 34 yards with four seconds remaining in the half.
Lamar Jackson had a 30-yard completion to wide receiver Marquise Brown on the drive.
Tight end Mark Andrews had two catches. Tailback J.K. Dobbins ran for a nine-yard gain on a third-and-five play. (Ravens 3, Bills 3 with 4 seconds left in the 2nd quarter)
Another upright, another missed field goal for Ravens’ Justin Tucker
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is having a nightmarish first half. He missed a 46-yard field goal attempt, this time at the opposite end of the stadium from his first-quarter miss. The ball deflected off the right upright this time. Tucker’s first-quarter miss from 41 yards came when the ball hit the left upright. (Bills 3, Ravens 0 with 10:47 left in the 2nd quarter)
Bills miss field goal
The night’s kicking misadventures continued. Bills kicker Tyler Bass missed a 43-yard field goal attempt, sending the ball wide right. Bass’s miss came at the same end of the field at which Ravens kicker Justin Tucker missed a 41-yarder in the first quarter. (Bills 3, Ravens 0 with 13:16 left in the 2nd quarter)
Bills get field goal after short Ravens’ punt
The Bills have the lead on a 28-yard field goal by kicker Tyler Bass. They moved only 28 yards after a 23-yard punt by the Ravens’ Sam Koch went out of bounds at the Baltimore 38-yard line.
Quarterback Josh Allen connected with wide receiver Stefon Diggs for 16 yards then drew a roughing-the-passer call with a bit of a flop on a light shove by a Ravens defender on a throwaway of a pass.
But the Bills’ drive stalled when Allen’s third-down pass went through the hands of wideout Gabriel Davis in the end zone. The Ravens are being let down by their kicking game. Justin Tucker missed a 41-yard field goal and Koch’s short punt set up the Bills for points. (Bills 3, Ravens 0 with 2:57 left in the 1st quarter)
Justin Tucker misses 41-yard field goal off upright
Justin Tucker, the Ravens’ usually reliable kicker, squandered an opportunity to provide Baltimore with an early lead when he missed a 41-yard field goal attempt. The ball clanked off the left upright, and Tucker looked stunned.
The Ravens began the game well with running plays of 12, nine and nine yards. They were stopped on a fourth-and-inches try from the Buffalo 31-yard line but received a gift of a first down when the Bills’ A.J. Klein was penalized for lining up offside.
The Ravens were pushed back when quarterback Lamar Jackson was sacked on the following play. An 11-yard completion to wide receiver Miles Boykin on third and 19 set up Tucker’s kick. Tucker also had a miss last weekend at Tennessee. (Ravens 0, Bills 0 with 7:36 left in the 1st quarter)
Bills to host fans for a second straight playoff weekend
Buffalo has a crowd of approximately 6,700 fans at Bills Stadium for a second straight playoff game.
The fans are being allowed to attend the game under a plan, approved by state health officials, by which all attendees must test negative for the coronavirus.
It’s the second straight NFL playoff game Saturday with fans in the stands. The Green Bay Packers had a paid attendance of 7,439 at Lambeau Field for their victory over the Los Angeles Rams.