In what was billed as a battle of quarterbacks, it was the defence that was the difference for the Buffalo Bills in a 17-3 victory over the visiting Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round playoffs on Saturday.
Neither Josh Allen nor Lamar Jackson were able to impose their usual brand of dominance onto the game, which was played in windy conditions in Orchard Park, N.Y. The wind played havoc not only with the Bills' passing game in the first half, but also with both teams' kickers — the first three field goal attempts were misses (two by the Ravens, one by the Bills).
Baltimore kept the ball on the ground for much of the contest, but the Jackson-led running game was met by an eager Bills defence that continually made things miserable for the visitors. Four well-timed sacks by Buffalo largely negated the brilliance of Jackson, who was limited to 34 rushing yards before being forced out of the game with concussion-like symptoms at the end of the third quarter. The 24-year-old did manage 162 passing yards before leaving the game, but the defining play of the night was an interception on a long Jackson pass that was returned 101 yards for what proved to be the final touchdown of the contest.
For Allen's part, the Bills QB ended with decent numbers — 206 passing yards with a TD on 23/37 completions — but it was nowhere near the output the third-year pivot has made Bills fans accustomed to over the course of the season.
Regardless, a big third quarter by the Bills proved to be the difference — the score was deadlocked at 3-3 to start the second half — as they advanced to next week's AFC Championship game.
Buffalo will face the winner of Sunday's Browns-Chiefs matchup.