ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen threw two touchdown passes and safety Taron Johnson returned an interception 51 yards for a score in the Buffalo Bills’ 26-15 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
“Glory to God for the win and all the blessings in our building and for our fans,” said Sean McDermott following the game. “We wish the fans could have been here tonight. All the way through the season, this was for you guys.”
The Bills won for the sixth time in seven outings, and inched closer to claiming their first AFC East title since 1995 and third playoff berth in four seasons. Buffalo can clinch both as early as Monday night if Baltimore loses to Cleveland.
“We persevered,” said Allen. “Obviously the numbers aren’t going to be super pretty but at the end of the day we got the win.”
The AFC North-leading Steelers (11-2) have lost consecutive games in six days following a 23-17 loss to Washington, and dropped a game behind the AFC-leading Kansas City Chiefs (12-1). Pittsburgh was still able to clinch its first playoff berth in three years before kickoff by virtue of the Miami Dolphins’ 33-27 loss to Kansas City earlier in the day.
The Bills have won at least 10 of their first 13 games of a season for the first time since 1991.
Allen broke the game open by throwing touchdown passes 3:21 apart on Buffalo’s first two drives of the second half to put Buffalo ahead 23-7.
He opened the third quarter by capping Buffalo’s eight-play, 68-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs. After the Steelers went three-and-out, Allen marched the Bills on a four-play, 57-yard drive ending with him hitting rookie Gabriel Davis for a 13-yard touchdown just inside the left sideline of the end zone.
Allen upped his season total to 35 combined touchdowns (28 passing, six rushing and one receiving) to break the team’s single-season record of 34 set by Hall of Famer Jim Kelly in 1991. His 28 TDs passing rank second most on the team list, and five behind the single-season record set by Kelly in ’91.
Allen finished 24 of 43 for 238 yards and an interception. Diggs had 10 catches for 130 yards. Acquired in a trade with Minnesota in March, Diggs now has 100 catches to match the Bills’ single-season record set by Eric Moulds in 2002.
“He was juiced at halftime,” said Allen. “He wanted the ball and he really took over for us.”
Buffalo’s second-half eruption came after Allen and the offense managed just six first downs and 102 yards on seven possessions.
Johnson, however, provided the offense by stepping in front of Ben Roethlisberger’s pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster and returned it 51 yards to put Buffalo up 9-7 with 52 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Steelers continue to resemble nothing of the team that set a franchise record by winning its first 11 games. Pittsburgh has been held under 20 points in three straight games, and was coming off a loss to Washington in which coach Mike Tomlin called out his team’s sluggish running attack and receivers for their dropping passes.
The drops continued with Diontae Johnson having two passes glance off his hands in the opening quarter. The Steelers also finished with 47 yards rushing despite the return of James Conner, who missed the past two games on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The game was decided midway through the fourth quarter after Buffalo’s Tyler Bass hit a 23-yard field goal to put the Bills up 26-15.
“We’re going to enjoy it for 24 but like Tremaine Edmunds brought it full circle, ‘we’re not complacent’,” said Diggs. “There’s a lot of football left and we’re chasing bigger goals. We’re starving for more, we want more.”
On Pittsburgh’s third play from scrimmage, Roethlisberger’s deep pass up the right sideline intended for James Washington was intercepted by Levi Wallace.
Roethlisberger finished 21 of 37 for 187 yards with touchdown passes to Washington and JuJu Smith-Schuster and two interceptions.
Steelers: Continue run of prime-time games in traveling to play Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 21.
Bills: Travel to play Denver Broncos on Saturday.
The Bills host the Steelers in a monster AFC matchup. A Buffalo win could give them a real shot at a two seed in the AFC and keep faint top seed hopes alive. It would certainly stamp the Bills as a legit AFC Super Bowl contender.
A pretty quiet weather night. Temperatures will be in the 30s, but the high winds from during the day should die down. Very little precipitation is expected, if any at all.
The Bills won the toss and elected to defer. Pittsburgh will get the ball first.
Former Bills receiver Ray-Ray McCloud took the opening kick from six yards deep in his end zone and could not even return it to the ten yard line. The first Steelers pass was dropped (an ongoing problem in Pittsburgh) and they quickly go three and out.
The Bills committed a holding penalty on the Pittsburgh punt and took the ball for the first time at their own 33. Josh Allen sandwiches a pair of incompletions around a six yard run and the Bills punt it back just as quickly.
Steelers manage a first down on their first snap, but a second (already!) drop on third and seven kills the drive. Another punt heads back to Buffalo.
The Bills get a first down, but the next throw is tipped at the line. On the throw after that, Cam Heyward got his hand on Allen’s arm and disrupted the follow through. The pass was woefully underthrown and Mike Hilton made the interception. It was a deep attempt, so the play works as a short punt and Pittsburgh will take over on their own 27 yard line. Mitch Morse injured his left arm on the interception, but should be able to return.
Another three and out for Pittsburgh off the turnover. Two runs for three yards and a Tre White pass knock down at the line of scrimmage to kill the drive. Buffalo will start their third straight possession between their 31 and 33 yard line.
With Mitch Morse on the bench, the Bills run twice and then a throw to a tightly covered Gabriel Davis is knocked down. We are at five punts and two first downs in a “thriller”.
The Steelers actually get two first downs (really!) and cross midfield. No points for that, however. Jerry Hughes gets pressure on a third down and forces a throwaway. After the game’s sixth punt, Buffalo will start on their own 15.
The Bills get their second first down of the game by catching the Steelers with 12 men on the field during a substitution. They end the first quarter facing a 3rd and 11. Allen is hit as he’s throwing by a DB blitz and loses control of the ball. The refs blow the play dead as an incompletion, but replays seemed to show the ball was out of Allen’s hand before the hand was moving forward. Instead of a possible recovery in Bills territory, the Steelers take over on their own 20 after another Bills punt.
Pittsburgh crosses midfield again, but Eric Ebron drops a third and three pass and Buffalo gets another punt. They start at their own nine this time.
After a first down, Dawson Knox can’t handle a quick pass over the middle. It bounces off his hands twice and ends up, officially, a fumble (think that’s the right call) and recovered by Cameron Sutton of the Steelers. Three plays later, Ben Roethlisberger hits James Washington for a 19 yard TD and we have points in this game for the first time. Pittsburgh up 7-0.
The Steelers get pressure on the first Bills play and force an Allen fumble. Morse recovers (he returned this drive), but it goes as a sack. That’s the 70th game in a row with a sack for the Steelers, a new NFL record. Allen hits Davis with a deep ball on 2nd and 18, but he’s pushed out of bounds. After a harmless Allen scramble on third and 18, the Bills punt for a 4th time. That ties the season high for Corey Bojorquez this year.
Three plays and out for the Steelers. Bills get it on their own 25. Stefon Diggs finally makes his presence felt by making a 3rd and 3 catch that turned into a 23 yard gain when he bounced off a big hit. Diggs made catches on the next two plays and the Bills got into the red zone for the first time at the two minute warning. Allen throws three straight incompletions, the first two to Diggs, and Buffalo has to settle for a 33 yard Tyler Bass field goal. None of the three passes really had a chance to be caught, but the Pittsburgh lead is now trimmed to 7-3.
The Bills defense steps up where the offense has been struggling. After a Steelers first down, Taron Johnson steps in front of a short, floated Roethlisberger pass and runs it back 51 yards for a touchdown. Bass missed the PAT, but Buffalo has their first lead at 9-7. Pittsburgh elects to run out the first half clock and Buffalo, surprisingly, takes their lead to the break.
Andre Roberts runs the opening kick of the second half to the Bills 32 and the offense comes to life. It was pretty much all through Diggs. The Bills star receiver caught 4 passes for 42 yards and scored from 19 yards out to make it a 16-7 lead for Buffalo. He was able to shake both Pittsburgh starting corners to the ground on separate catches. Buffalo has gone from struggling to controlling this game in the span of about 30 real time minutes.
After another quick three and out, the Bills go right back down the field for another TD. Diggs again is the catalyst. The first two plays are throws to him for 41 yards combined. Two plays later, Allen finds Davis in the corner of the end zone for a 13 yard TD. The Steelers look ready to go home after falling behind 23-7.
Three plays and punt again for Pittsburgh. The Bills don’t do much with their turn on the ball, either. One first down and they punt it back.
The third quarter ended with the Steelers on the move after a 17 yard throw to Ebron got Pittsburgh past midfield. The Bills also lost Taron Johnson for the rest of the game with a concussion. Roethlisberger kept on motoring Pittsburgh down the field through the air and cashed in on a 3-yard TD pass to Juju Smith-Schuster. The Steelers went for two and got it on a throw to Ebron. The Bills lead back down to one possession at 23-15.
Buffalo may have dealt Pittsburgh the final nail when Knox drew a 35 yard pass interference penalty that put the ball on the one yard line. The Bills take a loss of four on first down and then throw two incompletions before settling for a field goal. The three points still make it a two score lead again at 26-15 with eight minutes to play.
Levi Wallace follows with an interception on a deep heave from Roethlisberger on third down and all that’s left is the crying. Bills with the ball, up 11 and seven minutes to play.
Bills 26, Steelers 15
Josh Allen completed 24 of 43 passes for 238 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, plus 28 yards on six carries on the ground.
Stefon Diggs became the first receiver in the league to reach the 100-catch milestone this season, as he led Buffalo with 10 catches, 130 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills are now 10-3 and in a great position to reach the postseason for the third time in four years.