Bills win in NFL playoffs: Buffalo herd overruns Steelers after snowstorm

Bills win in NFL playoffs
Buffalo herd overruns Steelers after snowstorm

By Heiko Oldörp

The Buffalo Bills easily jumped the opening hurdle of the NFL playoffs. The 31:17 home win against the Pittsburgh Steelers was never in danger. The next opponent is champions Kansas City. Buffalo still has a score to settle with the Chiefs. The Steelers are currently facing a tough cut.

First the snowstorm raged, then the buffalo herd. Just as the blizzard swept across the greater Buffalo area at the weekend and caused the wild card game between the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed, the hosts overran the guests in a 31:17 home win. While the Bills, driven by their euphoric and enthusiastic fans, were running hot in the cold chamber of Orchand Park, the Steelers seemed frozen for a long time in the most important game of the season so far.

The thermometer showed minus eight degrees Celsius at the start of the game, and the perceived temperature was even -15.5 degrees. But the fans, who had been called on by the club to shovel snow the day before, took it with humor: “Where would you rather be than right now, right now?” was written on a poster.

Buffalo only made this fun in their winter wonderland possible with a 21:14 victory on the last game day of the points round at the Miami Dolphins. Because of this triumph – it was the fifth in a row – the Buffaloes won the AFC East ahead of Miami and thus saved themselves a wild card trip to the much higher hurdle Kansas City Chiefs.

The day before, up to 15 centimeters of snow had fallen per hour, but on Monday at least the playing field was free of the white splendor. To do this, numerous fans had to fight their way through sometimes knee-deep snow to their seats – and therefore worked harder than their favorites in the first quarter.

Loving looks in the cold chamber

In the eighth minute, Bills quarterback Josh Allen passed to Dawson Knox. The tight end tackled the left half of the Steelers end zone and Buffalo had its first touchdown. The preparer then jumped into the executor’s arms and looked him in the eyes as lovingly as Anna looks into her Kristoff in the Disney classic “Frozen”.

Just three minutes later, a double strike by the Bills followed. First, their cornerback Taron Johnson made a hit that caused Steelers’ wide receiver George Pickens to lose the football at their own 29-yard line and Buffalo gained possession of the ball. Then Josh Allen only needed one action to immediately punish this mistake. He served the completely free Dalton Kincaid with a 29-yard pass – 14-0 for the hosts.

The Steelers, who are at least as familiar with winter temperatures as the Bills, crossed the center line for the first time in the final seconds of the first quarter. But the attack ended four minutes later with an interception by quarterback Mason Rudolph. When he passed, Buffalo cornerback Kaiir Elam was a bit faster in his own end zone than Pittsburgh wide receiver Diontae Johnson and intercepted the throw from Rudolph, who has been so reliable in recent weeks.

Josh Allen was completely different. In the 23rd minute, he ran on a third down just behind the center line in his own half – and only stopped again 52 yards later in the Steelers end zone. It was the second-longest rushing touchdown by a quarterback in NFL history – and also Allen’s 16th touchdown of the season in the running game, no other playmaker has more. “That’s unbelievable. His legs make the difference,” said CBS expert and former Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.

Frost and frustration near Pittsburgh

Buffalo led 21-0 – and fans in the stands were throwing snowballs around in their excitement. For the Steelers, on the other hand, there was not only frost, but also frustration. “It’s devastating. We wanted to go far in the playoffs this year and we thought this was a team we could beat,” offensive tackle Dan Moore said. “It’s hard to come back when you’re down 21-0 in their stadium,” added tight end Pat Freiermuth.

A touchdown shortly before halftime and a field goal seven minutes after the restart brought the guests within 10:21, but Buffalo was no longer in real trouble. Not even after the interim 17:24 in the 50th minute. Four minutes later came Khalil Shakir’s winter waltz. The Bills wide receiver was actually stopped at the 15-yard line by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick after a pass from Josh Allen.

But Shakir still kept digging and scurrying, outdid a few other Steelers defenders and rewarded himself for his relentless effort with a 17-yard touchdown. “What an effort. The play of the evening,” CBS commentator Jim Nantz shouted into his microphone. “I had already stopped looking and looked into the crowd,” Romo added. It was the fourth Bills touchdown of the game – by the fourth different player. More team performance on offense is hardly possible.

“We’re a resilient team and have a lot of experienced leaders – I really don’t think any other team in the league can keep up,” said Josh Allen. After twelve games, his Bills had a disappointing interim record of 6:6. The chance of reaching the playoffs was five percent. Since then, Buffalo has won in Kansas City and Miami, beat the Dallas Cowboys at home, and now, with its sixth win in a row, reached the playoff quarterfinals for the fourth time in four years.

Buffalo’s group of lucky ones

Allen attributes the improvement in performance over the past few weeks to team chemistry. “We like each other, love each other, are there for each other and are really happy at work every day,” said the 27-year-old. For this group of lucky ones it’s now against Kansas City – and therefore revenge. Buffalo narrowly lost to the Chiefs in 2021 and 2022. First 24:38 in the AFC Championship Game, then a year later 36:42 after overtime in an epic quarterfinal slugfest.

This time the Bills have home advantage – which in turn can be attributed to the immensely important 21:14 victory on January 7th in Miami. The game is played on Sunday. It’s supposed to get cold again. “We need every single person on the team and we need our fans,” says Allen.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, are heading into the offseason with a lot of questions. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth time since 2018, meaning they have not won a knockout round game in seven years. Mike Tomlin’s future in particular seems uncertain. Following Bill Belichick’s release from the New England Patriots last week, Tomlin is the longest-tenured coach.

He has been in charge of the Steelers since 2007. His contract is still valid for the coming season. But when he was asked about it at the press conference in Buffalo, he reacted frostily – and left the podium without a word.

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