ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Taron Johnson could’ve kept running into next week on a 101-yard interception that carried the Buffalo Bills to their first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.
Johnson’s pick-6 of Lamar Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter secured a 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.
The interception return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.
Jackson was sacked four times and did not return after being evaluated for a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored.
Facing second-and-10 at Baltimore’s 25, center Patrick Mekari snapped the ball over Jackson’s head. The quarterback turned and chased the bouncing ball down inside the 5, turned and quickly threw it away as Tremaine Edmunds had him by the legs and Trent Murphy fell down on top of him.
Jackson’s injury left Tyler Huntley to finish the game after being promoted off the practice squad.
Buffalo’s defense took the pressure off of a Josh Allen-led offense that was limited to 223 yards offense, and made up for rookie kicker Tyler Bass missing two of three field goal attempts — a 43-yarder that was wide right in the second quarter and a 44-yarder that sailed wide left with 5:30 remaining.
The game was decided in the third quarter, when the Bills went up 10-3 on Allen’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs to cap an 11-play, 66-yard opening drive.
Jackson responded by marching the Ravens 66 yards on 15 plays before throwing the interception while facing third-and-goal from the 9. Johnson jumped in front of the pass intended for Mark Andrews and took off up the right sideline. He followed teammate Tre’Davious White, who made sure Jackson didn’t have an angle to push Johnson out of bounds.
Johnson, who also returned an interception for a score in a 26-15 win over Pittsburgh on Dec. 13, said he initially thought about going down after catching the ball, before seeing no one in front of him.
“I caught the ball and kind of looked down, but then I looked up and saw a whole bunch of green grass to that side of me,” he said. “At that point, there’s one person I have to beat. And that’s No. 8 (Jackson).”
Johnson wasn’t touched until a mob of Bills players jumped on his back and brought him down in the end zone.
The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason game since the same year.
The Bills will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday.
Buffalo has won eight straight, matching its best streak since 1990. The 13 regular-season victories matched a franchise record set in both 1990 and ’91 in a season they set numerous single-season records on offense, including scoring 501 points.
The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year.
Baltimore clinched its third playoff berth in three years by winning its final five regular-season games. The winning streak came after a 1-4 skid capped by a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 in a game rescheduled three times due to COVID-19 issues.
Johnson’s interception return matched Packers defensive back George Teague’s 101-yard fumble return in Green Bay’s 28-24 win over Detroit in a wild-card playoff on Jan. 8, 1994.
Jackson finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.
The Bills also limited Jackson to just 40 yards on 11 carries in the Ravens’ 24-17 win at Buffalo in Week 14 of the 2019 season.
Huntley, who had attempted just five passes in two appearances this season, finished 6 of 13 for 60 yards on three drives, the final two in which Baltimore turned the ball over on downs.
Allen was 23 of 37 for 206 yards passing.
“You saw our defense. The game plan our coaching staff put for that offense was unbelievable,” Allen said. “You don’t get style points for winning in the playoffs. You either go home or you advance to the next round. We’re on to the next one.”
A game that was supposed to highlight two dynamic third-year quarterbacks instead turned into a defensive struggle with the score tied at 3 after the first half.
The Ravens came up empty on two drives that ended inside Buffalo’s 30, with Justin Tucker missing his first two field goal attempts. He hit the left upright from 41 yards on Baltimore’s opening drive, and then hit the right upright on a 46-yard attempt in the second half.
It marked the first time Tucker, the NFL’s most accurate kicker, has missed twice from inside 50 yards in the same game. Tucker finally tied the score at 3 by hitting a 34-yard attempt with 4 seconds left in the first half to cap an eight-play, 57-yard drive
Aside from Allen’s 4-yard scramble on an aborted pass play and an end-of-half kneel-down, the Bills had one carry in the first half on Devin Singletary’s 3-yard gain to open Buffalo’s final possession of the second quarter.
Buffalo became just the third team since the 1991 playoffs to have a running back have just one carry in the first half. The St. Louis Rams had one carry in a half in a 49-37 divisional-round playoff win against Minnesota on Jan. 16, 2000. The Raiders had one carry in a half of a 41-24 win over Tennessee in the 2003 AFC championship game.
Ravens: Season over.
Bills: Advance to AFC championship game for first time since 1994, where they’ll face Cleveland or play Kansas City for a second time this season following a 26-17 loss to the Chiefs on Oct. 19.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — The Bills just clinched their spot in the AFC Championship game.
Below you’ll see how they got there.
Check back with News 8 WROC for more stats, insight and analysis.
The Bills host the Ravens in the first divisional playoff game at Bills Stadium since January of 1994.
The weather is expected to be mostly snow free, but could be windy. The winds are noticeable and gusting a bit at kickoff.
The Bills won the toss and elected to defer. Ravens get the ball first.
Ravens open the game destroying the Bills on the ground. The first three carries are for 13, 10 and 9 yards. After A.J. Klein lined up offside to give Baltimore a 4th and 1 conversion, Levi Wallace sacked Lamar Jackson for an 11 yard loss on the next snap. The Ravens were forced to settle for a 41 yard field goal try that Justin Tucker stunningly missed, bouncing it off the left upright. Tucker is considered one of the NFL’s most dependable kickers, but this is the 5th game in the last eight where he has missed a kick. (Though most of the previous misses were from 50+).
Bills open their first drive with a first down catch by Stefon Diggs, but get four yards on their next three plays and have to punt. Ravens take over on their own 10.
After an amazing scramble by Jackson on third and 5, he hits rookie J.K. Dobbins for a first down… and Dobbins drops the ball. Sam Koch then shanks a 23 yard punt (he’s the NFL’s 8th best punter) and the Bills take over their next possession on the Baltimore 38 yard line.
Bills get on the board first with a field goal. The first two plays are a 16 yard pass to Diggs and a gift roughing the passer flag for 15 more (Allen took a dive on the play like he normally does, but this push was late and getting a penalty no matter what the QB does). From there, the Ravens stiffen. Allen came close to finding Gabriel Davis on third and 9 from the 10, but the ball was just off his hands. Tyler Bass hits from 28 yards to make it 3-0.
Three and out for the Ravens after three straight runs. The third and 4 play was a QB sweep that Buffalo smothered. The Bills take over on their own 37.
Allen opens this drive by missing a wide open Diggs for a touchdown. The throw really wasn’t close. Buffalo got into field goal range with 11 and 21 yard completions to John Brown, but Bass misses a 43 yard field goal well right. That end was the same end where Tucker missed and it’s also the end with the wind in the face of both kickers. It’s clearly an issue. Still 3-0 Bills.
A Jackson scramble turns into backyard football and he finds Dobbins for a 31 yard completion. Matt Milano breaks up a third down throw to Mark Andrews and the Ravens are forced to try a 46 yard field goal. This one is with the wind, but it’s not a straight wind. Tucker bounces it off the outside of the right upright. It’s the first time in Tucker’s career he has missed two field goals in a playoff game and only the fourth time it’s happened in all games. Buffalo still leads 3-0.
The Bills get into Ravens territory with a couple of throws for first downs, but then, they have to avoid disaster. A Ravens blitz becomes an Allen sack and a fumble. Dion Dawkins recovers. Allen is shaken up a bit on the play, but does come off the field on his own. Corey Bojorquez punts into the end zone.
Baltimore starts sack, holding penalty, false start, false start. They have 2nd and 28 from their own two… and pick up a first down on a 19 yard catch to convert 3rd and 18. After another first down, Trent Murphy stops Jackson for a four yard loss on first down and two incompletions follow to stop the drive. After a punt, Buffalo will start just inside their own 20.
This drive begins with the first Bills run play of the game–a three yard carry by Devin Singletary. Buffalo converts their first third down on a 19 yard catch and run by Diggs. The drive ends on the next possession when Calais Campbell gets a piece of Allen’s third down throw at the line. Bojorquez has to handle a low snap and only hits a 23 yard punt into the wind. Ravens have the ball at their own 27 with 63 seconds left in the half.
The Ravens actually put together a good drive, highlighted by a 30 yard throw to Marquise Brown. Baltimore gives Tucker a 34 yard try to tie it at the half and he makes it. Tucker has never misses three field goals in a game. It’s 3-3 at the break and the Bills have to be disappointed.
Bills open the second half with the game’s first TD and Brian Daboll was scheming winners the whole way down the field. The drive got going on a third down conversion where Allen faked a run inside and flipped a pass to Dawson Knox leaking outside for 14 yards. The next 3rd down conversion came when Singletary motioned inside two receivers and then went out to the flat behind a two-man pick. It’s something the Bills haven’t done before and got the ball down to the Baltimore three yard line. The TD came when the Bills showed three receivers left and Baltimore answered with only two defensive backs. Allen may have seen this and taken matters into his own hands, but either way, the throw went quick to Diggs and he bulled in for the TD. 10-3 Bills.
The Ravens answered with an impressive drive, converting multiple third downs. On the last third down–third and goal from the Buffalo 9–Taron Johnson picked off Jackson and took it back 101 yards for a Bills touchdown. It’s Jackson’s first ever red zone interception and the distance on the return is believed to have tied an NFL record. The Ravens had salted away the rest of the one quarter Buffalo had the wind at their back this half and even a field goal would have been a good drive. Instead, the Bills are 15 minutes away from the AFC Championship with a 14 point lead on a team that isn’t known for passing or comebacks.
The third quarter ends with a snap that went way over Jackson’s head. He picked it up at the two and threw it away, but it’s an obvious intentional grounding that puts the ball all the way back at the two yard line. Jackson also stayed on the ground after taking a hard hit. He left the game to go into concussion protocol.
Jackson went to the locker room and Tyler Huntley came in. He scrambled 19 yards, but it was 3rd and 33. Ravens punt and Buffalo gets it back at the 25 after a good bounce 54 yard punt.
The Bills moved the ball 37 yards and chewed 5 minutes off the clock, but got stalled just inside the Baltimore 40 yard line. Allen and Diggs connected on back to back snaps for 24 yards to highlight the drive. Buffalo punts and buries Baltimore at the 10. With Jackson out of the game, Buffalo can afford to play it conservative.
Baltimore nearly got themselves back in the game. Forced to go for it on 4th and 8, Brown smoked Tre White and was loose down the sideline, but Huntley overthrew him by a couple yards. A completion would have been a walk in touchdown. Instead, Buffalo takes over on the Baltimore 29 yard line with just under seven minutes between them and their first trip to the AFC Championship in 27 years.
Tyler Bass missed a 44-yard field goal with less than six minutes remaining, but with a two-possession lean the Bills are still in good shape.
Bills 17, Ravens 3
Josh Allen completed 22 of 37 passes for 206 yards and the game’s only offensive touchdown.