Josh Allen leads last-second drive; Bills move ahead in AFC East race
DETROIT — The Buffalo Bills might want to play on Thanksgiving every season. They improved to 3-0 in Thanksgiving games over the past four seasons, the latest a 28-25 thriller over the Detroit Lions.
After the Lions tied the game late, the Bills took over with 23 seconds left. Quarterback Josh Allen led a four-play, 48-yard drive to set up kicker Tyler Bass for a 45-yard game-winning field goal with just seconds left.
The Lions haven’t won on Thanksgiving since 2016 and have just six victories on the holiday since 2000.
The Bills’ win was overshadowed by a knee injury to pass-rusher Von Miller, who did not return after getting hurt in the first half.
After Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs struggled to connect for much of the game, the two got on the same page when the team needed them most.
For the first eight drives of the game, Diggs caught three of nine targets for just 12 yards. Allen’s lone interception in the game also came when targeting Diggs. But on the final two drives, Allen and Diggs connected on all five targets for 65 yards and a score. Allen finished the game 24-of-42 for 253 yards with two passing touchdowns and another one rushing.
With the win, the Bills went against their own recent history. The team was 1-9 when trailing in the fourth quarter over the past two seasons.
Describe the game in two words: Impact injuries. The Bills came into the game without center Mitch Morse and lost left tackle Dion Dawkins (ankle) while allowing 15 pressures on Allen. When Miller left the game, the defense gave up a first-half lead.
Buy a breakout performance: Yes, defensive tackle Ed Oliver broke out a long time ago, but this was his best performance of the season by far when the Bills needed it due to injuries on the defensive line. Oliver forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, sacked Lions quarterback Jared Goff for a safety and had two tackles for loss. His fifth-year option has already been picked up, and Oliver continues to show he’s a key part of this defense.
Troubling trend: Allen is throwing too many red zone interceptions. He has now thrown a red zone interception in four of the past five games and has the most red zone picks in the league with four. Before this stretch, he had thrown two in his career (first 67 games). No quarterback had thrown that many in an entire season since 2019 (Mitch Trubisky and Sam Darnold each had four). The trend started before Allen’s right elbow injury, but he has to find a way to be more careful with the football. — Alaina Getzenberg
Underrated statistic to know: Josh Allen now has 23 career games with a passing touchdown and a rushing TD, tied for the fifth most in NFL history.
Next game: at Patriots (8:15 p.m. ET, Dec. 1)
Detroit entered as 9.5-point underdogs and were on the verge of snapping their five-game losing streak on Thanksgiving, but despite going toe-to-toe with Buffalo — one of the league’s best teams — they couldn’t get a critical stop at the end of the game.
Buy a breakout performance: Have the Lions found another hidden gem in James Houston? The rookie linebacker was elevated from the practice squad the day ahead of the game and made the most of his opportunity with two sacks and a fumble recovery. He became the first player in team history to record a multi-sack game in his NFL debut. Ahead of the game, linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard said there would “be a place for James Houston here in the future,” once he was able to grasp the team’s schematic concept, thanks to his work ethic.
Bold prediction for next week: The Lions will activate rookie receiver Jameson Williams ahead of their next home game against Jacksonville. Williams, the 12th overall pick of the 2022 draft, was running routes at Ford Field ahead of the game, and if everything goes as planned throughout this week at practice, he could make his NFL debut next week. Williams reported to practice for the first time ahead of the Buffalo game, but the team didn’t do much during a short week. The Alabama alum told reporters he’s “real, real, real excited to put my cleats on and be able to put a jersey on.” — Eric Woodyard
Underrated statistic to know: Since the start of last season with Goff, the Lions are 4-10 when scoring first — as they did Thursday — that’s the worst mark in the NFL over that span.
Next game: vs. Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 4)