January 15, 2024 – 5:34 PM PST
Josh Allen passed for three touchdowns and rushed for another to lead the Buffalo Bills to a 31-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC wild-card game on Monday at Orchard Park, N.Y.
Khalil Shakir had a pivotal touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to help the second-seeded Bills win a playoff game for the fourth straight season. Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid also had touchdown catches for Buffalo.
Allen completed 21 of 30 passes for 203 yards and rushed for 74 yards on eight carries. James Cook had 79 yards on 18 rushes and Kaiir Elam snatched a key interception as the Bills recorded their sixth straight victory.
The Bills will host the third-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in next weekend’s divisional round.
Mason Rudolph completed 22 of 39 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the seventh-seeded Steelers. Diontae Johnson and Calvin Austin III had scoring catches for Pittsburgh.
The game, initially scheduled for Sunday, was pushed back to Monday after a massive snowstorm hit Buffalo and surrounding towns. The temperature at kickoff on Monday was 17 degrees (felt like 4).
Pittsburgh moved within 24-17 when Rudolph connected with Austin on a 7-yard scoring pass with 10:32 left in the contest.
Buffalo answered to restore its 14-point lead as the diminutive Shakir made a giant individual play.
On second-and-9 from the Pittsburgh 17-yard line, Allen threw a short pass to Shakir and Steelers star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was all over him at the 15. But Shakir shook off the tackle and broke another while weaving through traffic to complete the touchdown with 6:27 remaining that effectively defused Pittsburgh’s charge.
“He mans up right there and makes a heck of a play and gives us the spark that we needed at the end of the game,” Allen said of Shakir in a postgame interview.
Buffalo appeared on track to coast through the game when it scored the first 21 points.
Allen hit Knox for a 9-yard score with 7:02 left in the opening quarter. The Bills soon received a big break when Taron Johnson forced Pittsburgh’s George Pickens to fumble, and Buffalo’s Terrel Bernard recovered at the Steelers 29.
On the next play, Allen drilled a touchdown pass to Kincaid to make it 14-0 with 4:10 left in the quarter.
Pittsburgh had a chance to narrow its deficit, but Rudolph was intercepted in the end zone by Elam with 10:52 left in the first half.
Buffalo took advantage when Allen took the ball 52 yards for a touchdown on a designed run. He broke a tackle at the Steelers 35 and kicked his speed up while finishing the play.
Late in the second quarter, Rudolph tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Johnson to pull Pittsburgh within 21-7 with 1:39 left.
The teams traded field goals in the third quarter — Chris Boswell connected from 40 yards out for the Steelers and Tyler Bass kicked a 45-yarder for Buffalo — to keep the margin at 14 entering the final stanza.
The Steelers dropped their fifth consecutive playoff game dating back to the 2016 postseason. They also fell to 1-11 when star linebacker T.J. Watt (knee) misses a game.
“I didn’t think about it,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said of not having the three-time NFL sack champion. “We knew all week he wasn’t playing so we prepared with that mindset. So I didn’t waste any time thinking about what wasn’t at our disposal.”
Bernard, the Bills’ leading tackler, was carted off the field with a right ankle injury during the third quarter.
–Field Level Media