The Buffalo Bills had to overcome the jet lag of two round trips to Detroit in four days, as well as a feisty Lions team riding a three-game hitting streak, but survived the game with a 28- 25 on a last-second field goal. by Tyler Bassi. Although the team appeared to run out of gas in the third quarter, when they punted three straight and gave the lead away to the Lions, the Bills found a second wind when it counted over and came out on top.
Though both teams started the game with consecutive three-pointers, the two vaunted offenses warmed up from there. For the Lions, a 12-play, 61-yard drive took nearly six and a half minutes of the first quarter, mixing up runs and short passes before Jamaal Williams rushed from left tackle for a two-yard touchdown run. The Bills answered with their own TD drive, set up by a 21-yard scramble by Josh Allen that put them in the red zone. Allen hit Isaiah McKenzie off a deep crosser to level the game at seven apiece.
On Detroit’s next drive, the Bills forced a turnover: Ed Oliver was part of a Bills crew that tackled Williams in the backfield, and as the ball flew free, Oliver dove on the fumble and recovered it for Buffalo. Buffalo mixed six runs and four short passes on another touchdown drive, which ended in a minor mishap: Allen fumbled the snap, but as he recovered the ball, the unexpected fumble knocked enough shots out of position defenders to open up a scrum lane. the center in the end zone.
Down 14-7, the Lions aggressively attacked the Bills in the second quarter. Dan Campbell kept his offense upfield on fourth and one from his own 33-yard line, and the gamble paid off on a first down conversion. The Lions carried that momentum all the way to the goal line, where they faced another quarter-and-one. Campbell composed a rushing play that scored a game-tying touchdown.
Detroit had enough time on the clock for a two-minute drill by the Bills, and while Allen had some early success hitting some deep side shots, the Lions locked him up once the team got into the red zone. The teams went into halftime with Buffalo leading 17-14 after Tyler Bass’s field goal shot.
After halftime, the Bills offense ran out of gas in another pathetic third quarter. Although their first drive came to the Detroit 10-yard line, Allen threw an interception when his pass was tipped on the line, killing the drive.
Buffalo’s defense made a huge stoppage on their next possession: a tackle for loss, an incomplete pass, and a sack safety from Oliver that gave them a 19-14 lead. But none of those emotions were carried by the Bills offense, who would punt on three consecutive drives, with a total of 32 yards gained on those three drives. The Lions were unable to avoid their mistakes, with a long drive ending in a shanked field goal attempt, but in the final minute of the third quarter, Kalif Raymond had a 41-yard punt return to spark the his team’s attack. One pass interference penalty later, the Lions were at the 22-yard line and it didn’t take much more effort to get past the Bills and quickly regain the lead.
Ultimately, the Bills worked out their woes well enough to string together another scoring push in the fourth quarter. It was an impressive 14 play, 80 yard drive that featured highlights and the reemergence of Stefon Diggs, who had been nearly invisible throughout the game as Allen faced accuracy issues and exceptional pressure for three quarters. Diggs caught the touchdown pass to give the Bills a 25-22 lead, but as Tyler Bass went on to make it 26-22, his extra kick hooked too far left, and that left the game with a difference of three points.
With 2:40 full and three timeouts remaining, the Lions had ample time to win (or force overtime). They moved 22 yards on the first three plays, and even when the Bills had a tackle for loss on the next play, the Lions were able to gain enough yards to set up a vital fourth and one. Campbell made a strong playcall with a receiver pass that gained seven yards, but the Lions ultimately failed to run the remaining passes to secure a win. They had a chance when DJ Chark opened up deep, but he and Jared Goff weren’t on the same page during the roll. Lions kicker Michael Badgley redeemed his earlier error with a 51-yard score to tie the game, but the Bills had 23 seconds and three timeouts to try and retake the lead.
Allen came out and tore an icy 36-yard rope to (who else but) Diggs, which immediately put the Bills at the pinnacle of field goal range. Strategic use of timeouts, coupled with two QB runs that gained 12 yards, set up Bass for his redemption arc. He nailed a 45-yard field goal to seal the victory for the Bills.
The Bills, at 8-3, temporarily regain sole possession of first place in the AFC East. The stage is set for the last third of their season: Win their divisional games and they’re in the playoffs (and probably very top seeded).
- Von Miller left the game in the second quarter after a Lions defender landed on the back of his right leg and rolled it up. He was classified as having a knee injury and early projections were that it could be a sprained MCL, but Miller will undergo an MRI to confirm the severity.
- Dion Dawkins injured his right ankle early in the third quarter. David Quessenberry came in at left tackle and Dawkins was listed as questionable to get back into the game.
- Josh Allen became the first quarterback to win in all three timeslots on Thanksgiving with today’s win. He beat the Cowboys in 2019, then crushed the Saints last year.
- In the third quarter, Ed Oliver sacked Jared Goff for a safety to put the Bills up 19-14. It was Buffalo’s first save since 2019, when Browns QB Baker Mayfield was sacked in his own end zone. For Detroit, it was their first save since 2014.
- Oliver wasn’t cast as one of the game’s leads, but he deserved the honor. He had six tackles, a sack that led to a safety, two TFLs, two QB hits and a fumble recovery. He came in huge when Miller couldn’t play.
- Somehow, Isaiah McKenzie ended up as a key focal point today, being targeted ten times and catching six for 96 yards and a touchdown. He gave the Bills some life up front.
- Stefon Diggs finished the first half with two catches for 15 yards on five targets. But he and Allen were back on the same page late in the game, as Diggs finished with eight team catches on 15 targets, amassing 77 yards and a touchdown.
- The Bills defense gave up a 27-yard run to Jamaal Williams, but overall held Detroit down to 96 yards gained on 28 rushing attempts.
- The passing game, however, was still problematic. Amon Ra St. Brown caught nine of ten targets for 122 yards and a touchdown. Jared Goff had a 98.9 passer rating on the day.
- Jim Nantz did his best to ward off a hex, but to no avail: In the third quarter, with the Lions lined up for a field goal, he shared how the Lions kicker hadn’t missed any kicks this season. Then, of course, Michael Badgley deflected his field goal attempt into left field.
- Badgley wasn’t the only kicker to suffer the commentator’s curse today. He was delayed, but after Nantz mentioned Tyler Bass’ perfect run of extra points, Bass missed an extra kick that would have given the Bills a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
It’s time for the first of two scheduled Bills-Patriots games! The Patriots will host the Bills on Thursday Night Football and, in a strange quirk of the schedule, both teams will get seven days off, because both teams are playing today. The Patriots are 6-4 as of press time, having pulled off a 10-3 win against the Jets on Sunday from a last-minute punt return touchdown.