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'The turning point of the game' | Inside the two minutes that gave the Bills their wild-card lead

Josh Allen (17) touchdown celebration. Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts, Super Wild Card Game, January 9, 2021 at Bills Stadium. Photo by Craig Melvin
Josh Allen (17) touchdown celebration. Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts, Super Wild Card Game, January 9, 2021 at Bills Stadium. Photo by Craig Melvin

Philip Rivers had the Indianapolis Colts on the verge of a two-possession lead as the clock struck 2:00 in the first half at Bills Stadium on Saturday.

The Colts had managed to limit the Bills' offense by keeping them off the field with long, clock-chewing drives and unfavorable field position. Their current drive had eaten more than four minutes as they set up for a 3rd-and-goal run at the Buffalo 1-yard line, up 10-7 with two minutes remaining in the half.

Two plays later, the Bills had the ball. Eleven plays and three video reviews after that, Josh Allen ran into the end zone to give them a 14-10 lead going into halftime.

The 14-point swing proved crucial in a 27-24 victory for the Bills, their first in the playoffs since 1995.

"I think the turning point of the game was that 4th-and-goal stop by our defense and then our offense driving down right before the half, getting a chance to double dip," Allen said.

Here's a recap of those wild last two minutes in the Bills' own words.

The goal line stand

The Colts had made it to the one-yard line once already in the game, earning their first touchdown on a leap into the end zone by rookie running back Jonathan Taylor. They opted to change tactics on the 3rd-and-goal play coming out of the two-minute warning, sending Taylor on a pitch out to the left.

Bills nickelback Taron Johnson tracked the play well, beating Taylor to the edge and stuffing the run for a three-yard loss to set up 4th-and-goal from the four-yard line. The Bills called their first timeout with 1:53 on the clock.

Rivers lofted a fourth-down pass to slot receiver Michael Pittman, who at that point had amassed a game-high 91 yards on four receptions. The pass was perhaps an inch too far, falling just beyond the receiver's outstretched fingertips.

Jordan Poyer, safety: "We always like to say bend but don't break in the red zone. We were able to hold our own in the red zone on 4th-and-goal and stop them. Then you see our offense turn around and drive the ball 90 yards. That's the complimentary football that coaches have been talking about all season, so it was fun."

Dion Dawkins, left tackle: "At that point it was complimentary ball. We knew that we had the ball coming out in the second half, so anytime we're put in position to score before the half, that's where our mind is. Anytime we touch the field, its score, score, score. We know Daboll is aggressive and he likes to go get it, so we had to have our seat belts buckled."

The record-setting drive

The Bills started with the ball at their own four-yard line, their third time starting a drive within five yards of their own end zone. All fives of their drives to that point had started at their own 15-yard line or worse.

Cole Beasley, receiver: "Any time you start off backed up in your territory, it's tough, especially inside the five. You don't want to have a bad situation turn into a worse situation. You can't turn the ball over, because they're going to get points pretty much. You don't want to get a safety either, so, you've kind of just got to do your best to get out of there, then you can really run your offense."

On this particular drive, the Bills showed no such hesitation. Stefon Diggs uncharacteristically dropped a deep pass over the middle from Allen on first down. On the next play, Allen rolled right in his own end zone and floated a perfect 37-yard pass to Gabriel Davis along the right sideline. A video review confirmed that Davis tapped both feet inbounds upon making the grab.

Davis: "It was just a deep route. I got out toward the sideline. Josh started scrambling so I started moving closer and closer to the sideline and tried to get in a space where he could get the ball to me."

Allen and Davis linked up for another highlight-reel grab two plays later, this time along the left sideline. On 2nd-and-2 at Buffalo's 49-yard line, Allen took a shotgun snap and began to scramble right before then drifting to his left. He was running from defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad as he slowed up, threw against his body and delivered a 19-yard strike to Davis, who dragged both feet inbounds.

Diggs: "I kind of talked about it a little bit earlier this year. We have some young guys that can, that can step up and play some good football. So, it was no surprise to me or any of the other guys on the team just because we've seen Gabe makes catches, we've seen Gabe make plays."

The drive got no less outrageous from there. The Bills found themselves facing 4th-and-3 three plays later but left their offense on the field and drew defensive end Kemoko Turay offsides with one second left on the play clock. On the very next play, what appeared to be an interception by Isaiah Rodgers was overturned on video review.

When Allen finished his five-yard dash into the end zone, it completed a 96-yard drive – the longest in Bills postseason history. Allen became the fifth player in NFL history with receiving, rushing, and passing touchdowns in their playoff careers, joining Nick Foles, Julian Edelman, Kordell Stewart, and Freeman McNeil.

Dawkins: "Listen, if Josh Allen does not win the MVP, this thing is rigged. You know what I'm saying? Like, he's doing it day in and day out. He's extending plays, he's making plays with his arm, he's making plays with his eyes, he's making plays with his feet. He's making plays for the offense every single play. It's just like, man, that kid is special. And he's still young, so it's just like, he has a long journey of greatness ahead of him."