Bills keep playoff hopes alive with narrow win over Chargers
Allen did his part Saturday night by rushing for two TDs and throwing for one, but it took a 29-yard field goal by Tyler Bass with 28 seconds remaining for the Bills to escape with a 24-22 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Allen became the first player in NFL history with four consecutive seasons of 40 combined touchdowns and the second quarterback to reach 50 career rushing scores.
“It’s tough because when you’re playing a team with nothing to lose, that’s a dangerous team. We gutted it out and we found a way,” said Allen, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 237 yards with an interception. "This is our playoffs. It didn’t matter how we get them done, just get them done.”
The Bills (9-6) have won four of their last five. Buffalo's playoff chances got some help earlier in the day when Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati.
Indianapolis and Houston are both 8-6 and hold the tiebreaker over the Bills by virtue of a better conference record. If either team loses, Buffalo would control one of the AFC's final two spots heading into the last two weeks of the season.
Buffalo fell behind 10-0 early in the second quarter but rallied from a double-digit deficit to win for the fourth time since Sean McDermott became coach in 2017.
The Bills turned the ball over three times to keep the short-handed Chargers in the game in their first outing under interim coach Giff Smith. Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco were fired on Dec. 15, one day after the Chargers were pummeled 63-21 at Las Vegas.
“(The Chargers) were doing some things that they hadn’t shown (this season). They came in well-prepared,” McDermott said. “I thought our guys settled in and responded. We did a good job in the red zone and had some big plays on third down to help us out.”
“I think we went into this game thinking it was going to be a heavyweight fight, and we wanted to have a chance at the end for a knockout,” Smith said. “We were going to play it a little close to the vest. Get points on the board and give ourself a chance to win, and that’s the way it went. Came up a little bit short.”
Allen had four completions on the 13-play, 64-yard game-winning drive, including a 15-yard reception by Khalil Shakir on third-and-4 at the LA 28 line with 2:29 remaining. Shakir got up after making the catch and ran to the end zone, and officials signaled a touchdown, but a replay review determined he was down by contact.
“As an offense we want to score a touchdown and put them in an even more difficult situation. Obviously not scoring there allowed us to run down the clock down and they wasted their third and final timeout,” Allen said.
Allen leads the league with 40 total touchdowns (27 passing, 13 rushing). His 2-yard run off right tackle with 38 seconds remaining in the second quarter gave the Bills a 14-10 lead.
Allen had a 1-yard sneak late in the third quarter — his 51st career rushing TD — to make it 21-13. Allen benefited from a late push by running back Latavius Murray.
Gabe Davis, who had not caught a pass in the past two games after having six receptions for 105 yards against Philadelphia, had four receptions for a season-high 130 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to get the Bills within 10-7.
Allen scrambled right and found Davis open downfield. Davis hauled in the pass at the Chargers 19 and beat linebacker Kenneth Murray into the end zone. It was Allen’s second-longest completion of the season.
STICKING WITH IT
Stick, making his second NFL start in place of the injured Justin Herbert, was 23 of 33 passing and rushed for a touchdown.
The fifth-year quarterback directed the Chargers to scores on two of their first three drives. He rolled right and scored from 1 yard out early in the second quarter to give Los Angeles a 10-0 lead.
“We were able to get the ball into the end zone and take the lead, that’s the way that you want to play it. We just have to consistently execute better so that we feel better at the end," Stick said.
James Cook finished with 70 yards on 20 carries and became the first Bills running back to reach 1,000 yards since LeSean McCoy in 2017.
Bills: LB Terrel Bernard missed part of the first quarter due to a non-contact foot injury. ... S Damar Hamlin (shoulder) missed part of the first half but was cleared to return. ... RB Ty Johnson (shoulder), S Micah Hyde (neck) and DE A.J. Epensesa (rib) were inactive.
Bills: Host New England on Dec. 31.
Chargers: At Denver on Dec. 31.
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