Nothing could reasonably prepare a football player, at any level, to play in the conditions that the Bills and Colts played in today. Visibility was low for much of the first half shutting down any legitimate chance to pass the football.
If fans were hoping for creativity in this game, there would be little to find. The passing game was reliant entirely on exploiting mismatches and taking risks. Even on the ground, big plays would require a clean shot through an open hole to generate chunk plays. There simply was not enough traction to be elusive laterally.
The upside for the Colts early in the game was that Frank Gore and Marlon Mack could be a dangerous duo, even in snow. The downside for Mack is that his best attribute is the ability to make players miss and to use his speed to get the edge. Downhill running inside the tackles simply made more sense. Although it is fair to say that he was more likely that Gore to break a long run if he found daylight.
In the first half, Jacoby Brissett did not turn the ball over and he even put some touch on a short dump-off pass to Marlon Mack. While the officials reversed an initial call they made when Brissett threw the ball away to intention grounding, it was nice to see that he recognized throwing the ball away was a solid option with the pocket starting to break down.
The downside for the Colts in the first half is that there was no plan to generate any offense through the air. Gore and Mack had success running the football but odd attempts to get a deep roster tight end involved in the passing game was the only effort made in the first half
The entire first half offense for either team was really summed up on one drive for the Bills to close out the half. It took Kelvin Benjamin utilizing his size to catch jump balls over Kenny Moore and LeSean McCoy breaking a couple of big runs to get on the board. Benjamin caught the lone first half score to put the Bills up 0-7 going into half time.
The second half started with about as much offensive action from both teams as the they displayed in the first quarter. Both teams attempted to get something going on the ground and failed to get anything meaningful going through the air. A Bills offense that was already lacking its starting quarterback suffered another blow with Nathan Peterman making a poor decision to dive for yards head first. A collision with Antonio Morrison sent him into the tent to be examined for a concussion. He would not return to the game.
On what could have turned out to be one of the biggest plays of the game for an Indianapolis victory, Barkevious Mingo was able to knock the ball loose from Mike Tolbert, just when he was breaking free on a long run. This turned the field position in the Colts favor and put them in a position to put together a scoring drive.
On third and five on this important drive, the Colts dialed up a passing play that did not work out. This was an interesting decision given that the ground game was grinding out yards and two rushes for five yards seemed like a pretty solid bet. On fourth a five, Indianapolis threw a second incompletion in a row and turned the ball back over to the Bills.
It comes as no surprise that Joe Webb was unable to get anything going for the Bills offense in the fourth quarter. Buffalo was forced to go back to rudimentary offense with no real time to prepare Webb for game action. This gave the Colts one final chance to get something going on offense and try to get into the end zone. Somehow Indianapolis found some third down efficiency on Indy’s final offensive drive. Brissett found Jack Doyle in the end zone for a touchdown cutting into the lead 6-7.
What happened next is one of the most ridiculous calls I have ever seen watching a football game. Indianapolis chose to go for the win by trying to a two-point conversion. Going with what just worked, the Colts dialed up a short out to Jack Doyle to the left. The play worked beautifully and Doyle celebrated what was likely to be the winning play of the game.
Well after the the play was over and the 2-point conversion was called good the officials decided to throw a flag and call offensive holding on Kamar Aiken to push Indianapolis back and negate the conversion. The problem is that Aiken was engaged with the defender within one-yard of the line of scrimmage and before the ball was even thrown in the air. This is a legal block and should not have resulted in a penalty.
It is pass interference by either team when any act by a player more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders an eligible player’s opportunity to catch the ball. Pass interference can only occur when a forward pass is thrown from behind the line of scrimmage, regardless of whether the pass is legal or illegal, or whether it crosses the line.
In what might be one of the biggest moments for Adam Vinatieri in one of the least important game situations of his career, he managed to boot a long extra point against the wind in a blizzard in Buffalo. This tied up the game and gave Indianapolis a shot to win the game in overtime.
Despite this likely outcome, Buffalo put the ball in quarterback Joe Webb’s hands and he threw up a pass that hung in the air and was intercepted by safety Matthias Farley. This gave Indianapolis a chance to pick up only 10-15 yards to put Vinatieri into a great position to win the game.
With time counting down in the fourth quarter and no timeouts, the coaches chose to run the ball only once. There was time to run at least to rushing plays to pick up some extra yards and get Vinatieri into the best position possible for a game winning field goal. Head coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski chose to let over 20 seconds to run off of the clock and even surrendered a yard with a late spike by Jacoby Brissett to back them up one more yard. Not surprisingly, Vinny was unable to connect on his second try in such difficult conditions.
In overtime, the Bills won the toss and elected to receive. In what would be a decidedly conservative offense, only Webb and McCoy were real threats to keep the ball on the ground. They were able to get the ball into Colts territory and head coach Sean McDermott made a controversial decision to trot out his punting unit on 4th and 1. While it makes sense to keep field position on your side, if the Colts only needed to get into field goal position to win the game.
It turned out that his strategy worked out his his favor. The Colts stopped running the football for much of their final possession in overtime. A couple of incomplete passes, including a throw behind T.Y. Hilton, who could have taken a catch for a significant gain, forced the Colts back into a punting situation.
Buffalo found to punish Indianapolis for failing to capitalize on their offensive opportunity. On their final drive of the game they hit on a long pass that again went to a receiver covered by Kenny Moore with a significant size advantage. On third down deep in Colts territory, with a plan to get a couple of final yards to shorten the field for Steven Hauschka, LeSean McCoy was able to run behind a great block made by Richie Incognito to get the ball into the end zone.
7-13 was the final score.