1. Josh Allen's valiant effort
It was the kind of performance we've seen from Josh Allen before. Reminiscent of some of his performances in his rookie season, Buffalo's quarterback put the team on his back for the majority of Sunday's game in Tampa Bay. Allen not only led the charge to wipe out a 21-point halftime deficit, but he almost willed the team to victory after forcing overtime.
"He's a baller and I'll go to war with Josh any day," said Jordan Poyer.
Early in the game it was evident that Allen would be carrying the fortunes of the offense as pass plays outnumbered run plays by a ratio of 5:1 in the first half. Add in the fact that Allen had all four rushing attempts, one by design and the others on scrambles and he accounted for all 158 of the team's total net yards at halftime.
The problem was the Bills only had three points to show for it as they fell into a 24-3 hole by the break.
But coming out after halftime, Allen appeared to redouble his efforts as he orchestrated and capped off the team's first touchdown drive. He was only 3-5 passing for 20 yards on the drive, but he converted a 4th-and-1 with a run off the right end to set up 1st-and-10 at the Buccaneers 26.
Then three plays later he not only converted a 3rd-and-2, but he also took off for an 18-yard scramble for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 24-10 midway through the third.
After Tampa Bay made it 27-10 early in the fourth quarter, Allen led the offense on three consecutive scoring drives capped with touchdown passes to Dawson Knox and Gabe Davis before putting Tyler Bass in position to put a 25-yard field goal through to force overtime with 22 seconds left in regulation.
All the while he was ripping off chunks of yardage on the ground, which led to the second biggest rushing day of his career, second only to his 135-yard rushing effort against the Dolphins just over four years ago (12/2/18).
His carries also took a toll, especially when he was caught from behind on by Devin White on a 23-yard run out to the left sideline. White's body rolled up on Allen's ankle from behind. He got up and limped away from the play and finished the drive finding Dawson Knox on the next play for a 15-yard scoring pass.
"There's no way I was going out," said Allen.
"Josh is one of the toughest competitors, one of the most resilient football players and people I've been around," said Mitch Morse. "Never seen him point a finger except at himself. A guy you can rally around, a guy who's in pain. You saw the pain he was in, and he was still asking for QB runs, still asking to put it on his back and when you have a guy like that step into a huddle, you're so prideful having a quarterback like that. You want to do everything in your power to help him lead our team down the field. Josh Allen is a competitor, and if anyone questioned that after today, they weren't watching the same game we were."
Allen finished the game with 308 yards through the air on 36-54 passing and rolled up another 109 on the ground for a total of 417 total yards from scrimmage, the most since his 419-total yard day in the win over the Seahawks last season.
"I can tell you on the offensive line on the headset there was talk about how he was, what could he do still, and so he's a warrior and he played his butt off," said McDermott of Allen. "Incredible, incredible amount of heart and guts that they showed – this team, Josh included, but all of them. All of them. Again, we came up short, they made one more play than we did, but I love how the team fought."
2. Big play Tampa Bay
Buffalo's defense is not one to give up big plays often, but there have been a handful of big plays that have gone for scores against them and put them behind on the scoreboard. Some of the most difficult ones have come on the ground.
Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor put long touchdown runs on the board against Buffalo this season. On Sunday, Leonard Fournette added his name to the list with a 47-yard touchdown run. The Bills defense buckled down in the second half, using some blitz calls to help hold Tampa to just three second-half points for the remainder of regulation.
But the Bucs bookended Fournette's run that opened the scoring with the biggest play of the game, a 58-yard catch and run by Breshad Perriman in overtime to seal the victory.
"A couple big plays changed the outcome of the game," said Jordan Poyer. "Defensively, we didn't take the ball well enough to help us win the game. But yeah, a couple big plays, but it's good football team. A couple of big plays (were the key)."
The Bucs offense admittedly has wall-to-wall big play threats across the board and have been a challenge for just about every defense they've faced. Facing Buffalo's number one defense didn't slow them down.
In the first half alone, in addition to Fournette's long run, Tampa had six more plays of more than 15 yards including a pair of 20-plus yard receptions by Chris Godwin and another by Mike Evans.
"I think we just had to had to lock in on what we were doing," said Micah Hyde. "In that first half we were giving them some big plays. I don't really know how we did on third down, but I just feel like we couldn't get off the field. So, second half we tried to just dial in, do what we do and focus in, and it just paid off."
Buffalo was better at preventing big plays in the second half, but Tampa did put up three more plays of more than 15 yards through the final two quarters of regulation before Perriman's game-winning touchdown.
"I know we strive to be perfect," said Tremaine Edmunds, who acknowledged his eye discipline needed to be better on the game-winning play. "We're a defense that strives to be perfect each and every rep, but sometimes things just don't go your way. That's not me making an excuse, that's just me just speaking on the reality of it. At the end of the day, we have to find ways, when we're in a position to make those plays, we have to make them. That's just the reality of it."
3. Bills go pass heavy early
The Bills made a conscious decision to rely on their pass game from the outset of the game and stuck with it almost exclusively in the first half of their Week 14 matchup with Tampa Bay. That approach did not yield much in the way of points, as they managed just one drive that gained more than 25 yards in the first half, which produced a short field goal.
Buffalo called 20 pass plays, and it might have been more had Allen not taken off on three scrambles in the first half. There was one designed run call for him, and it accounted for the only run play through the first two quarters.
That combined with a defense that had trouble getting stops consistently put Buffalo in a 24-3 halftime hole.
They appeared to find a bit of rhythm offensively when they mixed in some run plays come the second half. Buffalo staged a nine-play 81-yard drive on their second possession in the third quarter. The drive began with a 29-yard run by Devin Singletary off the right side. Facing a 4th-and-1 four plays later, Spencer Brown flattened a pair of Bucs defenders giving Josh Allen enough room to convert on a four-yard carry.
After a swing pass to Singletary picked up 10 yards to bring them to the Tampa 18 for a 3rd-and-2, Allen took a read option keeper in for an 18-yard scoring run.
"We wanted to get a little creative in the run game and when you have designed quarterback runs you get an extra blocker," said Allen. "That's a tough fit for the defense sometimes. Whether we do that moving forward is not up to me. But again, I just want to do whatever I can to help this team win football games."
Allen liked Singletary's second-half effort, with his 29-yard run in the third quarter that jump started their first touchdown drive. He also had six receptions for 37 yards as he often served as a safety valve for Allen when he was under duress in the pocket and couldn't escape.
With Zack Moss a healthy inactive, Singletary contributed 89 total yards from scrimmage, good for second-most behind Allen.
"When he had options to run the ball he ran it well," said Allen of Singletary. "He made some good plays in the passing game too and we're going to need more of that moving forward."
By game's end it was still largely a passing effort, due in large part to the 21-point halftime deficit. Buffalo had 54 pass attempts to 19 total runs with many of Allen's carries coming on scrambles, but there was enough of a mix for coach McDermott.
"I think we found a rhythm offensively in the second half," said McDermott. "Real proud of what Coach (Brian) Daboll did and the offensive staff there. We were mixing it up awfully well, I thought, in that second half."