1. Missed opportunities cost the Bills
Between the penalties and turnovers, that missed sack at the end, there's just so many plays at the end you could point to — it could have gone differently for the Bills in so many ways, but that's the way this league works. When it came down to it, they didn't make enough plays. To have that start they had to get up 16-0 and not be able to finish it off, it is truly gut wrenching for everyone in the organization and Bills fans out there.
If you had to point to a momentum shift, I think the obvious play had to be the J.J. Watt sack in the third quarter on 3rd-and-8 for a loss of eight yards that ended a potential opportunity to score a touchdown. It looked like Buffalo was in scoring position again, but the Texans took that away. The Bills kicked a field goal on that drive, but the Texans went straight down the field and scored their first touchdown of the game on the next drive. On top of that, they get the two-point conversion too. I know from being in the stadium, the crowd got back into it and the momentum completely shifted at that point. The Bills fumbled on their next possession and the Texans came back and took the lead with a touchdown and another successful two-point conversion. In an extremely gutsy effort by the Bills, they came back and tied it to send it to overtime but just couldn't finish the job. Such a resilient team the Bills have, I am not surprised that they continued to fight to get back in the game.
2. Young core gains experience for the future
The young core that the Buffalo Bills have built is just incredible with this current regime. The draft picks they have made with guys like Tre'Davious White are really paying off. White is an absolute star — first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. The two leaders on your offense and defense are your second-year quarterback in Josh Allen and second-year middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. The two played great this year, they made a ton of plays. There's also a lot of plays that they will learn from which will make them better.
Was Josh perfect yesterday? No, but you will never question that guy's intensity and competitiveness on a football field. He will learn from a game like yesterday. It is tough for quarterbacks in their first postseason game. I believe they have a 33% win percentage. That's for a reason — it's such a big atmosphere, all the teams are good. The intensity goes up in the postseason, the speed of the game goes up. Josh was able to make so many plays yesterday and he will learn from his mistakes. The experience gained for those three guys in Allen, White and Edmunds, as well as so many more young players on that team will be extremely valuable for those returning next season.
3. Defense gave valiant effort - Watson found a way to make plays
Again, the defense plays a great game like they have all season long. They completely shut the Texans out in the first half and held a talented receiver in DeAndre Hopkins to zero catches in the first two quarters. The Texans went into half with just 81 net yards. Deshaun Watson leads a talented offense and they were eventually going to make some plays in the second half. At the end, they held them to 22 points in almost five quarters of play.
It was just a remarkable job all year by the defense. They are a defense that should consistently be good for the next few years if they keep the same guys around because they have built something phenomenal. In this game, they were able to get home with a pass-rush against an offensive line that has a Pro Bowl left tackle in Laremy Tunsil. Jerry Hughes gave him some fits and ended the day with three sacks, the Bills had seven in total. In the playoffs, quarterbacks will be a little bit more willing to use their legs and we saw Watson do more of that in the second half finishing with 55 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.
4. Thoughts heading into the offseason
The Bills lose a phenomenal player and leader in Lorenzo Alexander. He gave so much to that locker room and the community of Buffalo. They do have some other free agents, but they also have a lot of pieces returning. A lot of the core players will be back next year which is great. Buffalo has the most salary cap space out of any team in the playoffs, the fourth-most in the NFL at this point. The future is bright for the Buffalo Bills with people like Brandon Beane, Joe Schoen, Dan Morgan, the staff they have in the front office — I have a ton of confidence that the Bills will be even better next season. It was a tough loss. I'm just as distraught as anybody, but the future is so bright that there's no reason to hang your head for too long.