As the Bills kicked off to the Pittsburgh Steelers to begin their Super Wild Card matchup, Highmark Stadium was full of snow. Throughout the game, that snow found the air as fans tossed it into the air after each Buffalo touchdown in the Bills' 31-17 win, which punched their ticket to a Divisional Round matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday.
Quarterback Josh Allen contributed a flurry of explosive plays, including a 52-yard rushing touchdown — the longest in Bills postseason history. The quarterback went 21-for-30 for 203 yards and three touchdown passes, adding 74 yards and a score on the ground.
After the Steelers punted on the game's opening drive, Allen and the Bills offense executed to near perfection, averaging eight yards per play and ending with a lofted pass to Dawson Knox to take the lead – one they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
The Bills defense forced three three-and-outs in the first half and had two takeaways, both of which the offense capitalized on. Nickel corner Taron Johnson forced Pittsburgh receiver George Pickens to fumble which Terrel Bernard recovered. After Sean McDermott successfully challenged the initial ruling on the field, winning the ball for his offense, Allen hit tight end Dalton Kincaid in stride for a 29-yard touchdown on the following play.
The rookie finished with three receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Two drives later, Pittsburgh tight end Pat Freiermuth appeared to fumble with linebacker Baylon Spector recovering the loose ball, but the officials ruled that the ball went out of bounds before the recovery.
Freiermuth picked up a first down, driving through contact from cornerback Kaiir Elam, who committed defensive pass interference two plays later.
Elam enacted his revenge shortly after, intercepting Rudolph in the end zone to kill the Steeler's best drive of the half and give Buffalo back the ball.
Allen took advantage of Elam's big play on his astounding rushing touchdown, flexing in the end zone after the score, which put the Bills up 21-0.
The Steelers finally got on the scoreboard on their seventh drive. After Tyler Bass' field goal attempt was blocked all the way back to the Bills' 33-yard line, Rudolph found Diontae Johnson in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it a two-score game going into halftime.
The Bills defense, riddled throughout the game with injuries, slowed after halftime.
After the Bills' offense stalled in their first possession of the second half, the Steelers scored a field goal after approaching the red zone. On the drive, starting middle linebacker Terrel Bernard exited the game and was taken in for X-rays of his ankle.
Bernard has been an anchor point for the Bills defense for the entire season, stepping in as the play caller on the defense and helped lead the Bills to a top-five defense in points allowed per game.
Facing third-and-8, right outside of field goal range, the Bills were in danger of going 0-for-2 in their first two second half drives. Allen scrambled in the pocket to create time for Diggs to get open, throwing across his body and connecting with his receiver for the first down. While the offense failed to convert on third-and-12 a few plays later, Tyler Bass hit a 45-yard field goal to put the Bills back up two touchdowns.
The Steelers had a 12-play touchdown drive on their following possession, with Rudolph finding Calvin Austin in the end zone to make it a one-score game.
Allen continued to put his receivers in position to make plays, finding Khalil Shakir on a quick slant. The second-year receiver refused to go down after meeting Minkah Fitzpatrick off the line of scrimmage, absorbing the contact and pivoting as he ran into the end zone for his first career playoff touchdown.
Despite missing multiple starters, when the defense needed a stop, they came through. Facing fourth-and-3 down two touchdowns, Pittsburgh went for it in their own territory but could not convert.
Buffalo will play Kansas City next Sunday at 6:30 p.m. in the Divisional Round.
Key stats and facts to know:
- With the win, Sean McDermott improves to 11-1 in regular season and postseason games that are 32 degrees or below at kickoff and 5-1 in home playoff games
- McDermott also joins Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy as the only Bills coaches with five or more playoff wins
- The Bills finished with over 300 total yards for the sixth straight game for the second time in team history
- Dawson Knox's first quarter touchdown marked his sixth in the postseason, tying Gabe Davis and James Lofton. Only Andre Reed has more postseason receiving touchdowns in Bills history with nine touchdown receptions
- Cornerback Kaiir Elam recorded his second career playoff interception in just his third career playoff game, also tallying an interception last season in the Super Wild Card matchup against Miami
- Josh Allen joined Patrick Mahomes (26) as the only players with 23+ total TDs in their first nine career playoff games
- Allen's 52-yard touchdown run was the longest rush of his career (regular season and playoffs) and the longest rushing TD in Bills playoff history. It was also the second-longest rushing TD by a quarterback in NFL postseason history
- Allen's three passing touchdowns made him just the fourth quarterback in NFL history with 20+ passing touchdowns in his first nine playoff games, joining Drew Brees (22), Patrick Mahomes (22) and Dan Marino (21)
- Allen is the first player in NFL history to throw three touchdown passes while rushing for over 70 yards and a touchdown in a playoff game
7:02 1Q | BUF 7 PIT 0 | Josh Allen pass short left to Dawson Knox for 9 yards, TOUCHDOWN
4:10 1Q | BUF 14 PIT 0 | Josh Allen pass deep middle to Dalton Kincaid for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN
7:01 2Q | BUF 21 PIT 0 | Josh Allen scrambles left tackle for 52 yards, TOUCHDOWN
1:39 2Q | BUF 21 PIT 7 | Mason Rudolph pass short left to Diontae Johnson for 10 yards, TOUCHDOWN
8:50 3Q | BUF 21 PIT 10 | Chris Boswell 40-yard field goal is GOOD
1:32 3Q | BUF 24 PIT 10 | Tyler Bass 45-yard field goal is GOOD
10:32 4Q | BUF 24 PIT 17 | Mason Rudolph pass short left to Calvin Austin for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN
6:27 4Q | BUF 31 PIT 17 | Josh Allen pass short middle to Khalil Shakir for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN