Josh Allen’s elbow looks just fine to us. The Buffalo Bills’ mutant quarterback was the best when his team needed him the most, leading two go-ahead drives in the game’s final six minutes to deliver a much-needed 28-25 victory over the Detroit Lions in a Thanksgiving feast.
But the most significant moment came a couple hours earlier, when All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller went to the locker room seated on a medical cart, the result of an alarming knee injury that could have major implications for the Bills’ championship aspirations.
Von Miller Hurt in Buffalo Bills’ Win
The initial belief, according to NFL Media, was that Miller avoided the worst-case scenario. Doctors on location diagnosed Miller with a knee sprain, per Ian Rapoport, although a more significant injury had not been ruled out. An MRI Friday will determine the true nature of the injury.
So it could be a sleepless night for Sean McDermott even after an impressive comeback victory.
Miller is almost as important to the Bills’ defense as Allen is to their offense.
The Bills’ most likely path to the Super Bowl includes at least two, and perhaps three, games against the Chiefs, Dolphins, Bengals, and Ravens. Those teams through Week 11 ranked first, second, fourth, and ninth in EPA per play.
Buffalo without Miller last January could not get the stop it needed against Kansas City in the AFC Divisional Round. And after needing Allen’s late heroics to escape against a gritty but talent-inferior Lions team Thursday, there’s reason to believe history could repeat itself this postseason.
Signing Miller was the Bills’ most important offseason move, and it has been a huge success.
Miller leads the Bills in every major pass rushing metric. Heading into Thursday’s game — which Buffalo had to pay without its No. 2 and 3 edge rushers in A.J. Epenesa and Greg Rousseau — accounted for eight of the Bills’ 28 sacks, 15 of their 30 hurries, 10 of their 57 tackles for loss and 25 of their 96 pressures.
Miller’s impact on the defense is so obvious, Lions coach Dan Campbell at halftime didn’t even pretend to downplay it.
When asked by the CBS broadcast team about Miller’s injury at halftime, Campbell replied:
“It certainly helps us, I know that,” Campbell said. “I wish him the best, but for us, that’s a good thing.”
Without Miller on the field late, the Bills almost choked away another late lead.
If Jared Goff had not overthrown an open D.J. Chark on a would-be touchdown on Detroit’s final offensive play, the Bills very well could be 7-4 right now and in a bit of trouble in the AFC playoff race.
Instead, they’re 8-3, currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC and 57% to win the AFC East, per Five Thirty Eight.
Should Miller’s injury be more significant than originally believed, the Bills’ hopes of a third-straight divisional title will rest squarely on Allen’s shoulders.
Allen answered the bell Thursday, completing 24 of 42 attempts for 253 yards and two scores. But there’s been enough slippage in his play, particularly since his UCL injury, to wonder how sustainable that is.