The Patriots and Bills both have had length-of-the-field touchdown drives that took less time than it took to play the final 1 minute, 48 seconds of the Bills’ 34-31 victory.
Let’s just say it got complicated.
Things started getting wacky when the Bills’ Fred Jackson caught a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick coming out of the backfield. He was in the clear, and he turned on the speed, heading straight upfield looking to score. When he got inside the 5-yard line, he was upended by Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty, but he reached out with the football and the ball crossed the goal line.
The officials on the field called it a touchdown, which would have put the Bills up 37-31 pending the extra point, but the replay official buzzed the on-the-field officials for a review. Only the replay official can request a review in the final two minutes.
After a lengthy review, it was ruled that Jackson’s knee was down and the ball was at the 1-yard line as he went down. The Bills were given a first and goal at the one.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick then called time out to keep the clock from restarting. Belichick was conferring with the officials, so there was some doubt if he wanted the time out, but in his postgame press conference, he said he did want it.
“I went down to take the timeout,’’ he said. “The officials were waving me back, and I was going down there to call it.’’
He didn’t elaborate more, but it would be logical that he wanted to stop the clock to preserve time for his offense when it got the ball back after a Bills’ touchdown.
But Bills’ coach Chan Gailey had different plans.
“I’m so glad they made that ruling,” he said. “I want to score, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t want them to have the ball back. I knew that. We knew what we wanted to do. We had time to talk about it (because of the review), we knew what was in front of us and what we needed to get done.”
He had Fitzpatick, take a knee for a 1-yard loss. That forced Belichick to use his final timeout with 1:43 left.
The Bills’ were planning to run as much time off the clock before kicking a field goal. If Fitzpatrick took two knees, there would have been some time left for New England. However, on the second kneel-down, New England’s Vince Wilfolk was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. That moved the ball to the 1-yard line, but it also gave Buffalo a first down and assured the Bills they could run all the time off the clock.
It didn’t go smoothly, however. Buffalo was called for a false start on second down and the ball was pushed back to the nine-yard line. There was plenty of pushing and shoving after each knee down too.
At last, the clock ran down and the Bills called time out with three seconds left. Rian Lindell then kicked the winning field goal from 28 yards as time ran out.