In what was supposed to be a showdown between quarterback’s in Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Taron Johnson stole the show.
The fourth round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft returned an interception for a touchdown (101 yards) to help propel Buffalo to its first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.
“We’re excited. It’s not done yet, we’re not done yet,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s just a blessing. Our defense stepped up to the challenge.”
Johnson’s return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.
Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP, was sacked three times and did not return after sustaining a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored. He finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.
Allen, an MVP candidate this year, finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards and a touchdown.
In a season in which the Bills relied mostly on their dynamic Allen-led offense to outscore opponents, the third-year quarterback was gratified to see Buffalo’s defense make a difference in a game the pass-happy attack was kept mostly in check.
“I can’t say enough words for what that game was for our defense,” Allen said. “Taron Johnson’s is a play that people are going to remember for a long time here in Buffalo, potentially a franchise-altering play.”
The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason game since the same year.
The Bills, have won eight straight to match their best streak since 1990 and will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday.
The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year.