The three plays that convinced Peter King the Bills can win in the playoffs

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The Bills will win a playoff game in January. (One asterisk: As long as game one is not in Kansas City.) Three plays made me a Bills believer Thursday in Dallas, two consecutively late in the first half.

1. On fourth-and-one at the Dallas 30, Josh Allen took the snap and fumbled immediately; there was a scramble for the ball, and Allen, more eager than the Cowboys in the scrum, picked it up and scrapped and fought for three yards. First down.

2. Next play: Allen under center … wideouts John Brown and Andre Roberts split right … John Brown in motion, from right to left, gets set wide right … ball snapped under center to Allen as Roberts goes in motion to the left. Allen flips to Roberts … Brown comes back in motion to the right, and Roberts tosses to him, and Brown runs right, pausing at his 38 … Seven Cowboys in or near the box … Brown threw 31 yards in the air to a totally uncovered Devin Singletary, a strike. “Look at that throw—perfect spiral!” Tony Romo said on CBS. This was Brown’s first pass attempt in nine collegiate and NFL seasons. A perfecto.

3. Third play: Allen, from the Dallas 15 late in the third quarter, running around right end toward the end zone, one man (Dallas safety Xavier Woods) to beat—and John Brown, all 176 pounds of him, eliminates Woods, finishing the block at the goal line by wrestling Woods to the ground.

Three plays. The personality of this Bills team. A quarterback who’s a fighter, role players who do what’s asked even if it’s not their forte, imaginative coaches. All buttressed by a punishing defensive front that was gashed a bit too often against Dallas but still shows signs of being a January competitor.

John Brown. Three years, three teams (Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo.) “Great example of our guys: well-coached, fundamentally sound and we coach the fundamentals every day, and he buys into everything we ask,” coach Sean McDermott told me. “We tried getting him last year, and he chose Baltimore, and we went after his again this year. I’d be lying if we said we knew everything about him. You wonder why he goes to a team here, team there, and he never stays in one place. We’re glad he came to us—he’s so good for us.”

The pass, though. He’d never thrown a pass before, I told McDermott.

“It was one day in training camp,” McDermott said. “you know, you’ve got a lot of practices, you want to check some boxes, We thought, Let’s see who can throw it. Give the credit to [offensive coordinator] Brian Daboll. He comes to me after he has all his guys throwing the ball and he says, ‘Hey, John throws it pretty good.’ We think maybe he could do it. So the last maybe five weeks, we’ve been practicing it, waiting for the right time to run it. It’s a good gadget to have. Today, we said let’s trust these guys—they can do it.”

The block, though. He’s never been known for blocking, I told McDermott.

“That’s him,” McDermott said. “I know John’s been overshadowed by other guys who get more attention, but this is a great example of who he is. He fits Buffalo. He fits who we are. We ask all our guys to block in situations like that. He’s like our guys: unselfish, loves to work, loves football, does what it takes.”

I’m not sure if I touched a nerve with McDermott. This was just a short, seven-minute conversation, him on the airplane at DFW waiting to fly back home. But I asked him what he was thinking as he walked off the field after his team handled the Cowboys, with 90,445 watching, on national TV, in a game the Cowboys had to have, to advance the Bills to a totally unlikely 9-3, a little-engine-that-could team still breathing on the Patriots’ necks. He sounded a little emotional. Yes, this was a very good day for a coaching lifer.

“As we walked off the field?” McDermott said. “I was just grateful. I am a man of faith. I am blessed to be in Buffalo. We’re building something special. It’s humbling to be a part of it, for all of us.”

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here

NFL Week 12 key takeaways: Josh Jacobs is extraordinary

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This Josh Jacobs is a fabulous player. We’ve got 15 more pennant-racy things to talk about today than the 4-7 Raiders—the 49ers haven’t allowed a second-half point in five weeks, no one wants to win the NFC South, here comes Deshaun Watson, here come the Dolphins, Jalen Hurts could seriously challenge Patrick Mahomes for MVP, the NFL can’t be serious in keeping Denver on Sunday night in two weeks, Washington could dump the Giants into last place in the NFC East next week, what should we think of the North Little Rock Jerry Jones?—and I will get to every one, and more. But what happened in Decibelville Sunday, that 40-34 overtime win for the Raiders in Seattle, was extraordinary.

“It all started before the game,” Jacobs, the hero of Week 12 in the NFL, told me from the Raiders’ giddy locker room in Seattle. “This fan, when we came out of the tunnel, held up a sign: ‘3-7. NOT BAD FOR A TEAM WITH NO TALENT.’ And he was screaming at us, all this bad stuff. I just looked up at him and said, ‘Thank you for that. I needed that today. You turnt me up.’”

Jacobs needed it because he entered the game with a sore calf, and the Raiders didn’t know how long he’d last. Oh, he lasted. Never in his college or pro career had he touched the ball 39 times in a game. Never had he gained 303 scrimmage yards in a game. Never had he rushed for a touchdown as long as 86 yards. He did all of those things Sunday, the final winning one on his last touch of the day in overtime.

But there were losses for Jacobs too. This was a gnarly, feisty game. You think when a guy rushes for 229 yards and walks off in triumph that it was a game of joy with few trials. Not so. Seattle’s got a puncher’s defense, a physical Joe Frazier-type of D that makes you earn every inch. Jacobs was waaaay down when he failed to convert a fourth-and-one run with nine minutes left, leaving Seattle a short field; that touchdown gave the Seahawks a 34-27 lead. But the Raiders came back to force OT. And on the first play of the Raiders’ second overtime drive, the call was a Jacobs burst over right guard.

“We were running outside zone a lot, and I saw the linebackers pointing outside. So we ended up running inside zone, and I knew if I got through the line, it was a foot race after that,” Jacobs told me.

I asked Jacobs if he thought he was the best running back in football, and he demurred, saying he loved watching and learning from Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry. Let’s compare the three men who lead the NFL in rushing entering December:

Jacobs: 1,159 yards, 5.4 per rush, nine touchdowns.

Henry: 1,048 yards, 4.2 per rush, 10 touchdowns

Chubb: 1,039 yards, 5.2 per rush, 12 touchdowns.

Yes, Jacobs has a 111-yard lead for the rushing title with six games left. On Sunday, he cared more about the win. He also cared about the fan with the sign.

“He’s the first one I wanted to find after we won,” Jacobs said. “I went over to him and said, ‘Thank you.’”


The 10 stories in the NFL that interest me the most entering the home stretch of the regular season:

The NFL’s Denver problem. With the Broncos locked into one high-profile stinker in a standalone Christmas-afternoon game at the equally moribund Rams, the league has till tomorrow to flex out of the Week-14 Sunday nighter, KC at Denver.

Should Jerry Jones be publicly flogged for a 65-year-old photo? Jones, thanks to some digging by The Washington Post, is smack dab in the middle of a story of race and culture and the NFL’s bad head-coach hiring practices.

Did Odell Beckham wreck his chances to be a rare late-season playoff vaccine for a contender with his weird Florida airplane story Sunday? Probably not. The Cowboys, Bills and Giants will be the judges of that.

Doug Pederson and Brandon Staley made ballsy calls to go for two instead of playing for OT Sunday—or did they? Our sporting society is so messed up. Pederson and Staley are geniuses for going for two and converting and winning Sunday. If they’d failed? My guess is Stephen A. Smith and the Mad Dog would have them on the public grill today for bad calls.

Mike White did Robert Saleh a solid. In seven days, the Jets’ coach went from saying he wasn’t even thinking about a quarterback change from Zach Wilson, to benching Wilson for White, to watching White play the best-quarterbacked game by a Jet this season. Controversy over. There really never was one.

Well now, Jordan Love. With Aaron Rodgers sidelined by thumb and oblique injuries, and the 4-8 Packers out of any realistic playoff contention, the more-than-encouraging performance by Love should earn him a start next week at Chicago. And perhaps four more after that.

Lord, San Francisco’s defense over the past month looks like something out of the Noll days. The Niners had the league’s fourth shutout of the season Sunday. How great a clash of styles would it be to see the Niners against Dallas or Philly or the Vikes in the playoffs?

Matt Rhule’s coaching Nebraska. Mike Rozier’s not walking through that door. But the King of the Reclamation Project should have a chance to make the ‘Huskers competitive. If you can win at Temple, you can win in Lincoln.

Deshaun Watson’s back. With his mates off Monday and Tuesday after the Browns stunned Tampa Sunday, Watson will be in the facility digesting and contributing to the gameplan for next Sunday’s game in Houston. Weird and somehow fitting: Watson’s first NFL game in 700 days will come in NRG Stadium Sunday at high noon CT.

Justin Jefferson cracks my MVP top five. Part of the reason is what he does without the ball.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

What Deshaun Watson return means for Cleveland Browns

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The Browns are 4-7. They’ve lost six of the last eight, but the return of Deshaun Watson gives them a prayer that, if he hits the ground running (certainly no sure thing), they could be a factor in the playoff race. Cool thing that coach Kevin Stefanski gave Jacoby Brissett, who has kept the seat warm for Watson, a game ball for engineering the comeback to beat Tom Brady and the Bucs in overtime.

Brissett’s been an excellent leader and okay player, and 4-7 is about what the public thought the Browns would be when Watson returned. “Y’all feel like I’m about to die or something,” Brissett told reporters Sunday. “I still have a job to do.” But that job now morphs into helping Watson win six games down the stretch. I still think asking Watson to play great after 23 months out of the saddle is a huge ask, but we’ll see. Who sits for two years, then has to play the most important position in the game for the six most important games of the season, and can do it at a winning level week after week?

The players are off till Wednesday. Watson will be in the building Monday and Tuesday working out and getting a start on the gameplan. He’ll take over the offense Wednesday in a 10:45 a.m. walkthrough practice, then a real practice at 1:15 that afternoon. Will the circus be around for the game in Houston—protests or vociferous booing? Likely. And with Cleveland being on the road for four of its last six games (also at Cincinnati, Washington and Pittsburgh), Watson can expect road crowds to remember exactly why he was suspended for 11 weeks in the first place.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column