Buffalo Bills dominate Pittsburgh Steelers, join AFC’s elite tier of teams – NFL Nation

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Do you believe in the Buffalo Bills now?

Playing on national television for the second straight week Sunday, the Bills handed the Pittsburgh Steelers their second loss of the season in a 26-15 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests.

According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Bills’ chances to make the playoffs are at 99.8% and their chances to win their first division title since 1995 are at 97.3%. Buffalo can clinch a second straight playoff berth with a Cleveland win against Baltimore on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Buffalo faltered in its previous two games against elite AFC opponents but earned its spot in the conference’s top tier after putting on a clinic on both sides of the ball. Granted, the Bills’ 10th-ranked offense wasn’t as effective as it was against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13, but it gave their defense more than enough of a cushion, particularly in the second half.

And speaking of Buffalo’s defense, make that back-to-back impressive performances, as it forced two turnovers and held Pittsburgh to 1-for-10 on third down. At one point in the season, the Bills’ defense was their weakest side of the ball; now, it’s a key reason Buffalo has captured consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time since doing so in 1998 and 1999.

Sean McDermott also joined Marv Levy, Lou Saban, Chuck Knox and Wade Phillips as the only coaches in franchise history with multiple 10-win seasons.

The Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) are still the team to beat in the AFC, and after their win Sunday night, the Bills showed they’re not far behind.

Describe the game in two words: Halftime adjustments. After failing to move the ball efficiently throughout the first half, the Bills’ offense came alive in the third quarter, putting up more yards (144) and points (14) in that quarter than in the first two quarters combined. For a team that has struggled out of the break this season, Buffalo had its best third quarter of the season.

Pivotal play: The Steelers were marching downfield toward field goal range when Bills cornerback Taron Johnson made the play of the half — a 51-yard pick-six to give his team a 9-7 lead with less than a minute remaining in the first half. Johnson’s return marked his first interception since his rookie season in 2018, and it was the Bills’ first defensive touchdown since Dec. 24, 2017. The spark sent a lasting jolt of energy through Buffalo’s sideline, and the Bills never relinquished the lead after that play.

Promising/troubling trend: The Bills’ defense is officially back to its form from the past two seasons. Buffalo has been trending toward that level of play since Week 9 but completely stifled the Steelers’ offense in what amounted to its best defensive performance of the season. The Bills allowed less than 100 rushing yards for the third straight game and the fourth time in their past five games, as Pittsburgh mustered 47 yards on the ground and 177 more through the air. Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White said their defense is finally jelling after a truncated offseason and unprecedented regular season, and Sunday night’s results seem to back up that statement.

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