So much of what you can draw from the outcome of a single NFL game can really depend on what happens in just a few seconds. The conclusions to take from a game can be radically altered in an instant. Any positives to take away can be lost when something goes terribly wrong.
That is certainly the case with the Bills’ 32-30 loss vs. the Cardinals on Sunday. What appeared to be a memorable come-from-behind win that would have vaulted them to 8-2 and still a comfortable distance ahead of the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East instead turned into one of the most gut-wrenching losses in the history of the’ franchise.
And that’s saying a lot considering some of the gut-wrenching losses this team has had over the years.
The Bills were just 11 seconds away from an incredible victory that would have been one of the leading stories around the NFL this week. They would have been 8-2 for the first time since 1993 and in great shape heading into the bye. But instead, they suffered a loss that could have huge ramifications.
By now, everyone has seen the unbelievable, 43-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Cards QB Kyler Murray to receiver DeAndre Hopkins that will be replayed by ESPN and NFL Films until the end of time. The play was a true microcosm of how things unfolded. The two teams were pretty much neck and neck with each other the whole way, but just when it appeared the Bills had things in hand, they couldn’t stop Murray.
Murray ran for two touchdowns in the third quarter to put the Cardinals in the lead after trailing by 14. Bills quarterback Josh Allen appeared to have the final response as he directed a go-ahead touchdown drive that concluded with 34 seconds to go on a beautiful pass to Stefon Diggs for a 21-yard touchdown that put the Bills back on top. But Arizona pulled out a miracle.
Hopkins played the role of Superman as he leapt above Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde, all of whom were in position to make a play, to snatch the ball out of the air with two seconds left.
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opponent when they pull off something incredible. That was certainly the case here.
But the wounds of this loss could linger as the Bills will be stuck with seven wins now until they take the field again on Thanksgiving weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers. When they take the field, they may be tied for first place in the AFC East with a fast-charging Miami team that is taking advantage of a favorable schedule and piling up the victories. Suddenly, the Bills’ first division title since 1995 is in peril and may come down to what happens in Week 17 when the Dolphins and Buffalo meet.
With that, here are four things we learned from one of the most shocking defeats in the history of the Bills:
A Perfect Play Can’t Be Stopped
There will be a ton of anger in Western New York over the next week about the end of Sunday’s game. There will especially be anger within the walls of One Bills Drive. The Bills defense simply needed to knock a Hail Mary pass down to fly home with an 8-2 record. Yet, they couldn’t do it.
But that really undersells just how incredible this final play was by Murray and Hopkins. Bills fans may not want to accept it, but this was a once-in-a-decade kind of play. While it hurts, the Bills really shouldn’t feel any shame.
Hopkins might be one of only a couple of receivers in the league who could have come down with that ball. One of the others was standing on the other sideline and had just caught a touchdown to put his team ahead. If that ball is intended for any other receiver on the Arizona roster, it falls incomplete. The way Hopkins high-pointed that ball was otherworldly. White had a hand on the ball as well. If you watch the replay (something Bills fans might not want to do), you can see how close that ball comes to being ripped out of Hopkins’ hands. The catch could have only been made by one of the elite receivers in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Bills, that’s who happened to be waiting for the ball in the end zone.
It was also an incredible play by the quarterback just to get the ball down there. Murray scrambled away from a collapsing pocket and evaded Bills’ rushers, something he had done all day. Murray is the fastest quarterback in the league and perhaps one of the quickest of all. Again, we’re talking about an elite set of skills on the player responsible for beating the Bills here. Mario Addison had a chance to trip up Murray for a sack that would have ended the game, but came up with nothing. Murray escaped as he has done so many times before. Then came the throw.
Murray’s throw down to the end zone defies the laws of physics. Murray was running full speed to his left and was able to stop and sling the ball from an angle you never see a QB throw the ball. And yet, the ball had plenty of height and loft on it.
Only an all-time great play could have beaten the Bills in that spot. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t a coverage breakdown. It wasn’t a botched play in the secondary. It was simply an amazing play by Murray and Hopkins.
It was also extremely unlikely. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Hail Mary passes have only been successful on 9.7 percent of attempts since the 2010 season. And even that number is inflated by how good Aaron Rodgers has been at completing Hail Mary passes over his career. Even with the extraordinary talents in this league now at quarterback and receiver, you should not be anticipating one of these plays working. Yet, it happened here, because of the incredible efforts of Murray and Hopkins. Sometimes there’s just no stopping a perfect play.