Josh Allen casually shrugged off Kyle van Noy as he scrambled toward the right sideline. With no passing options and no more room to run, Allen lofted the ball through the back of the end zone in the interest of living to fight another down.
Or so he thought. Allen was jogging to huddle up for third down when he realized the rest of his teammates were celebrating. Dawson Knox had leapt in the back of the end zone and hauled in Allen's attempted throwaway for the game's first touchdown.
Allen was still trying to figure out what had happened when he sat down on the sideline.
"Nobody could tell me an explanation," he said. "I hadn't seen the video on the screen yet. It took about three and a half, four minutes for them to finally put it up on the screen after we kicked the PAT. It was like, 'Holy crap, I did not mean for that to happen.' But Dawson was in the right place at the right time and made an unbelievable play."
It was one of those nights. The Bills went on to turn in one of the most dominant playoff performances in NFL history, scoring touchdowns on all seven of their offensive drives in a 47-17 win over the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium.
Buffalo advances to the Divisional Round, where it will play Cincinnati at home or Kansas City on the road depending on the outcome of the Wild Card game between Kansas City and Pittsburgh on Sunday night. A Kansas City win would set up a rematch of last year's AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium.
Here are three things we learned from Saturday's statement win.
1. Complimentary … to the extreme
Allen's touchdown to Knox put the Bills ahead on the game's opening drive. The next drive concluded in the opposite end zone, when Micah Hyde channeled Willie Mays with an over-the-shoulder interception of rookie quarterback Mac Jones to thwart what had been a steady Patriots attack.
Once again, it was the sort of play that defied explanation. Hyde felt he had a late jump on the intended receiver, Nelson Agholor.
"I just put my head down and started running," Hyde said. "I knew it was going to be at the receiver. I just looked up at the last second, and the ball was there."
Jordan Poyer was in similar disbelief as he watched the play develop from the field.
"I told [Hyde] on the sideline, 'That might have been the most unbelievable play I've ever seen on the field,'" Hyde said.
The play came at a critical juncture of the game, just when it seemed the Patriots might tie the score early and set up the sort of barnburner most expected from two teams that had already faced each other twice in the span of a little more than a month.
Instead, the Bills drove down the field and extended their lead with another Knox touchdown. They led 27-3 by halftime, the most lopsided score after two quarters against a Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick. They did it by adhering to one of Sean McDermott's most oft-repeated phrases.
This was complimentary football to the extreme.
"I think if you look it up in the dictionary, it's gonna be that game that we just played," Hyde said. "That's what we preach. Offense scoring points, defense feeding the offense, special teams field position. Making big plays, big hits, that's what we preach, and we were able to do it."
The offense chugged along with the sort of balance that McDermott said the team was striving for early in the season. Allen was lethal as a passer, distributing touchdown passes for four different receivers: Knox, Emmanuel Sanders (who caught his first playoff touchdown in Year 12), Gabriel Davis, and – when the game was comfortably in their hands – to rookie offensive lineman Tommy Doyle.
The run game, meanwhile, maintained the efficiency that was a hallmark of Buffalo's four-game winning streak to end the regular season. Devin Singletary carried the ball 16 times for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Allen added 66 yards on the ground.
Isaiah McKenzie – having already put together a career-best game against the Patriots in Week 16 – was productive in all phases, accumulating 45 yards on three receptions and adding 29 more on the ground. It was McKenzie's pre-snap motion and ensuing block that helped pave the way for Singletary's second touchdown, a 16-yard run to the outside during the second quarter.
The list goes on. The offensive line did not allow a sack. Jerry Hughes, Star Lotulelei, and Boogie Basham all earned sacks. Hyde and Levi Wallace recorded interceptions.
"They really came out and executed," McDermott said. "It goes back to the week of preparation. I thought that they had a great week of preparation."
2. A historic performance
It's not hyperbole to call this one of the most dominant performances in NFL history.
The Bills became the first team in NFL history to go an entire game without punting, turning the ball over, or kicking a field goal on offense, according to Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, they were the first team in the Super Bowl era to score touchdowns on their first five drives of a playoff game – let alone seven.
All of this against a Patriots defense that ranked second (to the Bills) in points allowed during the regular season.
"It's a reflection of the entire building, honestly," left tackle Dion Dawkins said. "We have a special group, a special unit, and it doesn't happen every week. We understand it and we take it for what it is and we'll pat ourselves on the back and we'll keep it pushing because we're blessed to do it and we're all smiles. But shoot, that is hard."
It all started with the play of their quarterback. Allen completed 21 of 25 passes (84 percent) for 308 yards. He became the first quarterback in Bills history to throw five touchdown passes in a playoff game.
How dominant was Allen? He had more touchdowns than incompletions, the first to accomplish that feat in a playoff game since Kurt Warner did so for the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.
Not enough? Allen was the first quarterback in NFL history to have 300-plus passing yards, five-plus passing touchdowns, and 60-plus rushing yards in a single playoff game. His four career playoff games of 250-plus passing yards and 50-plus rushing yards are already the most in NFL history.
Just don't tell him he was perfect.
"He'd say, 'Absolutely not,'" center Mitch Morse said. "And that's what makes him who he is.'
3. Soaking it in
McDermott made it a point to take in the atmosphere once the game was in hand late in the fourth quarter. Though the Bills had played a pair of playoff games in front of limited capacity crowds of 6,700 last year, this was the first playoff game in front of a full house in Orchard Park since 1996.
A crowd of 69,188 braved the second-coldest playoff game in Bills history, with a kickoff temperature of seven degrees and a windchill that made it feel like minus-5. McDermott looked into the crowd and reveled in their jubilation.
"There's a lot of hard-working people in this community that get up every morning, pack their lunch and go to work," McDermott said. "So, glad to see that they can enjoy something like that."
Members of the Bills who spoke postgame insisted that beating the Patriots carried no extra meaning compared to other opponents. But they understood the significance for the fans who watched the Patriots win the AFC East 17 times in 19 years while the Bills mired through a playoff drought.
It was the third time playoff loss of 30 or more points in Patriots history. It was the most lopsided playoff loss of the Bill Belichick era.
"It feels good for the fans, and I know that," Allen said. "I'm glad we could give that to them, but at the end of the day, it's a playoff game that we advanced on."
Fans packed Highmark Stadium for the first time in 26 years during a Bills playoff game. Check out the best photos of Bills Mafia, Legends and more from tonight's historic win.