Bills offense can't come through in painful playoff loss

Houston pulls off the playoff comeback this time

Howard Simon
January 04, 2020 - 10:31 pm
Josh Allen

Photo: Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports


The theme of the 2019 Buffalo Bills season was a defense that carried the team and an offense that, most of the time, was able to do just enough to help them win.

More often than not, the offense wasn’t good enough to take the team on its shoulders if need be. The Bills were just 23rd in the NFL in scoring, averaging 19 points per-game.

They hit that average in Houston, but the offense needed to do more.  

The Bills actually opened the game with a fantastic touchdown drive, going 75 yards in just six plays. There was a 42-yard run by quarterback Josh Allen on a quarterback sweep, and a trick play touchdown as wide receiver John Brown took a toss from Allen and threw back to the wide-open Buffalo quarterback. It was the first time in nine games the Bills managed to score a touchdown in the opening quarter, but as it turns out, it would be their only touchdown of the game.

Over the next 10 possessions, the offense produced just 12 points with four field goals from kicker Stephen Hauschka. On three of those four field goal drives, the Bills moved the ball deep into Houston territory before stalling.

The offense just didn’t finish, a problem it had too often over the course of the season. The Bills were held to less than 20 points for the ninth time in 16 games (I’m not counting the meaningless regular season finale against the Jets when backups scored six points).

Here’s the rundown on the woulda, coulda, shoulda:

  • Leading 7-0 in the second quarter, the Bills had a first down at the Houston 22-yard line. A pass for Brown in the end zone was broken up. A designed draw for Allen went for no gain and on 3rd-and-10, Brown caught a pass from Allen by the sideline but couldn’t keep his feet in bounds. A field goal made it 10-0. 


  • Late in the second quarter, the Bills had a first down at the Texans' 23-yard line. A Frank Gore run gained just one yard. Why is he even running the ball anymore? If you want to use a running back, use Devin Singletary, who is quicker, more explosive and can get yards after contact too. Allen spiked the ball on second down because the Bills only had one timeout remaining. Allen made a great throw on third down, and it probably should have been a touchdown, but Duke Williams couldn’t hold on to the ball. Hauschka’s field goal made it 13-0 at the half, but you knew the Bills should have had more.


  • On their second drive of the third quarter, the Bills got into the red zone with a first down at the 14-yard line. Allen had Tyler Kroft open inside the 10-yard line, but the pass sailed way over him and landed out of bounds. Singletary ran for two yards, and then J.J. Watt beat Cody Ford clean for a sack on third down. Hauschka made it 16-0.

As the second half played out, you were probably thinking if the Bills could just squeeze out one more touchdown the game would be over, but they weren’t able to do it. After Houston took their first lead at 19-16 in the fourth quarter, the Bills had two more drives for a chance to go back in front, but different mistakes hurt them.

The Bills had a first down at Houston’s 25-yard line with 2:22 left when Allen threw the ball away because he was under pressure. For some inexplicable reason, the Bills opted to run Gore again and the play was blown up, causing a three-yard loss. On 3rd-and-13 at the 28-yard line, Allen messed up. He knew he couldn’t take a sack to hurt their field goal chances, but he was about to be sacked when he threw the ball to offensive lineman Jon Feliciano. The intentional grounding call cost the Bills a down and pushed them back to the Texans' 42-yard line. Even though the Bills had all three timeouts left, head coach Sean McDermott decided to go for it on 4th-and-27 and Allen was sacked again.

The Bills defense stopped four Texans runs, so the offense got the ball back. On their final two plays before Hauschka’s game-tying field goal, the Bills took a crack at a touchdown, but neither throw from Allen to Duke Williams was catchable.

On their lone possession in the overtime, the Bills actually got as far as the Houston 43-yard line before that drive died. Dawson Knox whiffed on a block on a quarterback sweep, Allen threw a ball too low for Cole Beasley to catch it, and then a questionable blindside block penalty on Cody Ford essentially killed the drive.

You know what happened after that.

It sure felt like the Bills were going to get the franchise’s first playoff victory since 1995, but the painful loss ends what was a fun season.

For the second straight offseason, I would expect general manager Brandon Beane to make some moves that will improve the offense. They need more weapons around Allen so they don’t have to rely so much on what is a very good defense.

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