Arrow Up/Arrow Down: Bills-Texans

Photo credit Photo: Bob Levey - Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills' 2019 season is over after dropping a 22-19 overtime decision to the Houston Texans on Saturday in the AFC Wild Card Round at NRG Stadium.

Let’s get to the last Arrows of the season:



  • Last offensive drive of the first half

The Bills had the ball up 10-0 and were driving on the Texans. A touchdown would have put them up three scores and made it extremely difficult for Houston to come back in the second half. After getting the ball to the Texans' 23-yard line with 30 seconds left and still holding one timeout, they ran Frank Gore for only a one-yard gain, then had Josh Allen spike the ball creating a 3rd-and-9 situation. They wasted a valuable down by doing that instead of calling their final timeout with about 20 seconds left and still time to run at least two plays. On third down, Allen’s pass fell incomplete and they were forced to kick the field goal. That means they went to the locker room with the timeout still on the board and only scored three points instead of seven. It was a mismanaged situation. 

  • Finishing drives

The Texans came into the game as the worst red zone defense in the NFL, but the Bills couldn’t capitalize when they were in close. They were only actually inside the Houston 20-yard line twice, and scored the first time, but were also at the 22-yard line twice and the 29-yard line once and came away with a field goal each time after that, finishing with the one touchdown overall. Just one touchdown on one of those trips would have most likely won the game. 

  • Conservative play calling as game went on

Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll did a great job on the opening drive, mixing a lot of creativity into his play-calling with plenty of different personnel usages and formations. After that, the play-calling got more conservative as the game went on, and it seemed he was just trying to minimize mistakes instead of attacking as he did early. 

  • Josh Allen’s mistakes

The Bills' second-year quarterback had some outstanding plays, but he also made too many critical mistakes that really hurt his team. After the first four games of the season, the coaches and Allen did a good job of flushing out his “hero ball” mentality of trying to do too much by himself. That completely manifested itself once again in this Wild Card game as Allen fumbled twice, losing one of them, took sacks at critical times when he tried to spin away and run around, and when he didn’t do that, had an intentional grounding that took the offense out of field goal range. 

  • 4th-and-27 on offense

With 1:41 left in the game and the Bills trailing by three points, they faced a 4th-and-27 at the Texans' 42-yard line. A field goal would have been a 60-yard attempt, which is too far for kicker Stephen Hauschka. They still had all three timeouts left and could have punted and pinned Houston deep, used the timeouts after each play, and got the ball back in decent field position with over a minute left. Obviously, that’s risky because giving up the ball there you know just one first down beats you. If the Texans had been pinned deep enough, they would’ve, most likely, been really conservative and the Bills defense is well-equipped to stop them in that situation. Instead, head coach Sean McDermott elected to go for an incredibly low percentage 4th-and-27. Allen was pressured and tried to spin away, but couldn’t. He was sacked for a huge 19-yard loss all the way back to the Bills' 39-yard line. 

  • 3rd-and-18 on defense

In overtime, the Texans faced a 3rd-and-18 from their own 19-yard line. Just keeping them from gaining 19 yards would give the Bills the ball and only needing one score to win the game, maybe even with excellent field position. However, quarterback Deshaun Watson threw the ball well short of the sticks and Duke Johnson ran for the 19 yards needed to get the first down, diving through a couple tacklers at the end of the play. It was a pivotal play to the outcome of the game. 

  • Tackling Deshaun Watson

The Bills had Watson stopped a few times late in the game, but he was able to escape and gain yards. The most critical was the play that ultimately put the Texans in position to win the game when both Siran Neal and Matt Milano converged on Watson, but ran into one another as they both hit the quarterback. By running into each other, neither was able to wrap him up, and that allowed Watson to stay on his feet and get away. He threw the ball to Taiwan Jones, who had clear sailing in front of him for a 34-yard gain. The Texans kicked the game winning field goal on the next play. 

  • Third down defense

The Bills allowed the Texans to convert 6-of-13 third downs. That’s 46% and too much. 

  • Second half scoring

The Bills had 13 points at halftime. They finished with 19. That’s six points the entire second half and overtime against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, statistically.  



  • K - Stephen Hauschka

"Hausch-Money" came through when his team needed him, converting his lone extra point and all four field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder that sent the game into overtime. 

  • Short-yardage stand

The game, and Bills season was on the line when the Texans had the ball with a 4th-and-1 at the Bills' 30-yard line with only 1:20 left. The Bills had no timeouts left, which meant one yard and the game was over. However, the defense did a great job to bottle up the middle of the line and stop Deshaun Watson from gaining that yard, giving the offense the ball back and a chance to win or tie tie the game, which they ultimately did. 

  • Third down offense

The Bills were excellent on third downs in the game, converting 11-of-21 attempts (52%). 

  • RB - Devin Singletary

The Bills' rookie had an outstanding game in his first-ever postseason contest, catching six passes for 76 yards, and running for another 58 yards, while averaging 4.5 yards per-carry. He touched the ball 19 times for 134 yards.  

  • John Brown to Josh Allen

On the very first drive of the game, Daboll dialed up an excellent trick play. Wide receiver John Brown took an end-around handoff and threw the ball all the way back to the other side of the field where Allen caught it and dove into the end zone for a touchdown. It was an excellent call, great design, and perfectly executed. It was also Brown’s second touchdown pass this season. 

  • Seven sacks

The Bills defense was able to get to Watson seven times.  

  • DE - Jerry Hughes

The sack parade was led by Jerry Hughes, who became the first Bills player ever to record three sacks in one playoff game. Hughes was also credited with four quarterback hurries during the game.   

  • Bills fans

As has been the case all season, Bills fans showed up huge in the opposing city. In Houston, there were so many Bills fans and they were so loud, the Texans offense had to use a silent count at times - in their own stadium. Bills fans deserve a lot of credit for their loyalty, commitment, and passion.



In 1993, there was The Comeback.

In 1999, it was The Music City Miracle.

I’m not sure what this one is going to be called, but, once again, the Bills and an organization from Houston (where the Titans came from just a few years before the 1999 game) played a wild Wild Card playoff game that will be remembered for years. For the second straight time, not positively for Bills fans. The 24-year payoff win drought will continue, at least, for one more season, and this one will be remembered for a long time.

The Bills had a season that exceeded expectations for many. They had a lot of success and great times that shows they are going to be a team to deal with for the foreseeable future.

However, they also should have won this game, and everyone knows it. They blew a 16-point lead, couldn’t finish off a team they were better than, made too many critical mistakes, and now will have to sit with it for an entire offseason. This one is going to hurt fans and the organization for a long time.

In the locker room after the game, there was no talking about what a good season they had. There was no settling for just getting into the playoffs and saying how nice it was. There was anger, frustration, and disappointment that they didn’t win a game they should have, and rightfully so.

They can't go back and replay the game, or change the outcome. All they can do is think about what happened at NRG Stadium, figure out why it happened, do what they can to fix it, and come back next year ready to take another step, because as much as this one hurts, they are in position to do just that.

General manager Brandon Beane has really set this franchise up to have a great chance for plenty of success. After winning 10 games and making the playoffs, the Bills will now go into the offseason with about $90 million in salary cap space and nine draft picks through seven rounds in this year’s draft. They also have a very young nucleus of players at key positions, such as quarterback, linebacker, left tackle, and running back.

Over the next couple months, we’ll talk a lot about free agency and who the Bills can and should sign. Then we’ll talk about the draft and who they should take. It’s the circle of life in the NFL. The difference is this year we’ll be doing it a bit later than we’ve been used to, and we’ll also be talking about higher expectations that will now come with all of it.

Saturday was, and will be tough to take for many reasons. Fans will be hurting, but hurting because of a loss means that the game mattered. That’s a lot better than not mattering because there were no playoffs, and because the expectations are changing.  

Every week I write this column after the game. I always start with the Arrows pointing up after a win and down after a loss. I got to start with the Ups 10 times, and the Downs only seven, including this one. That’s been good and fun. Reading your feedback on Twitter, whether agreeing or disagreeing with me, has been a fun ride, too.

This is the last one for the 2019 season. Thanks for coming aboard for the ride, which I have a feeling is just starting and about to get a bit more wild in 2020. 

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