OPINION: Let the magical ride continue

The Bills defense played the starring role and propelled the team to a win over Baltimore

The magical ride that has been the 2020 season for the Buffalo Bills will continue for, at least, one more game.

For the first time in 27 years, the Bills will play for the AFC Championship.

For those of you who were around in the early 1990s, you know what this feels like. Isn’t it great to feel that way again?

For those of you that are first timers, congratulations! This is what it feels like when the Bills are one win away from playing in the Super Bowl.

You didn’t even have to sweat this one out, right?

Cornerback Taron Johnson carved out a spot for himself in Bills history with one of the biggest postseason plays the franchise has ever seen. His 101-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter was the decisive play of the game.

That play came on a night when Johnson and his defensive teammates were the main reason for the Bills’ triumph over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round.

Johnson read the eyes of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and stepped in front of a pass intended for tight end Mark Andrews. Despite me yelling at my TV for Johnson to go down in the end zone for the touchback, he wisely decided to run the ball out. Johnson was untouched, and instead of the Ravens possibly tying the game at 10-10, the Bills had taken a 17-3 lead.

The Bills played their base 4-3 defense more than they normally do and blitzed more often. It was all part of defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s game plan to keep Jackson and the potent Ravens running attack from being the determining factor.

The Ravens did run for 150 yards on 32 carries, but the total was 41 yards below their season average. The 4.7 yards per-carry was well-below the 5.5 yards per-carry they averaged coming into the game.

Jackson, who left at the end of the third quarter and was diagnosed with a concussion, had just 34 yards on nine runs.

In addition to not letting Baltimore run wild, the Bills defense stiffened when it had to. The Ravens were 0-for-3 in the red zone, 0-for-2 on goal-to-go situations, and 0-for-2 on fourth down. Five of the Ravens’ 10 drives advanced inside the Bills’ 30-yard line, and all they had to show for it was one field goal.

Justin Tucker did, uncharacteristically, miss a pair of field goal attempts, with both hitting an upright and coming back into the end zone.

Not only were the three points the fewest scored by Baltimore since Jackson took over as their starting quarterback, it was their lowest point total since 2009. The Bills defense outscored Baltimore’s offense 7-3.

It truly was a team effort, but I should single out one other individual.

Jerry Hughes was a monster in this game. He had a team-high seven pressures, and played a key role in helping contain Jackson’s runs/scrambling ability.

The biggest play from Hughes was probably on the play right before Johnson’s pick-six. Wide receiver Marquise Brown was open near the goal line, but Jackson’s pass was affected by Hughes’ pressure and it bounced incomplete.

The Bills offense was held to its lowest point total since Week 7 against the New York Jets, its second-lowest yadage total of the season, and for the first time all season had fewer than 20 first downs (17).

However, they put together a critical touchdown drive to open the second half, which gave the Bills a 10-3 advantage. Stefon Diggs had another big game, topping 100 yards receiving for the ninth time in 18 games this season.

Two down, two to go, Bills fans.

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