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Four Downs with David: Buffalo Bills History in Prime Time

Welcome back to “Four Downs with David.” In this week’s article, we are going to look at how the Bills have fared in their last four prime time games. The Bills vs. Steelers week 15 game has been flexed by NBC, and it will be the first time the Bills have appeared on Sunday Night Football since 2007.



Conversely, the Pittsburgh Steelers have appeared on SNF a whopping 31 times since 2007. Since Sunday Night Football transitioned to NBC in 2016, the Steelers are tied for the 5th most appearances (33) of any team in the NFL for this prime time slot.

From a general “prime time” perspective, the Bills have been chugging along with their usual one “courtesy” game a year. In their last four prime time games, the Bills have a 1-3 record, and we’ll take a closer look at each game below.

1st Down: Bills @ Cowboys, 11/28/2019 (Thanksgiving, CBS)

The Bills’ most recent appearance on prime time is still fresh on many minds. Their “signature” 2019 regular season win to date came on the road against a heavily favorited (touchdown favorite) Dallas Cowboys team on Thanksgiving Day. After the Cowboys marched down the field on the game’s opening drive, the Bills essentially controlled the game for a vast majority of the contest.

The Bills defense forced two early Dak Prescott turnovers, and Josh Allen played one of his best and most efficient games as a pro in a Bills 26-15 victory. The Bills stayed committed to the running game, even though they only average 3.6 yards per carry. The balance the Bills showed on offense, along with a killer trick play, led to scoring on five out of six drives after starting the game with two straight punts.

The expectations now are slightly different than they were on Thanksgiving. The Bills could plan all year for the Thanksgiving game, but getting flexed into the Sunday night slot this late in the season indicates the importance of this upcoming battle with the Steelers.

There will be much more pressure on the Bills in this week’s primetime game than what followed them into the Thanksgiving matchup against the Cowboys. Let’s hope they come ready to play, and clinch their 2nd playoff berth in the last three years. 

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😏#BUFvsDAL | #GoBills

2nd Down: Patriots @ Bills, 10/29/2018 (MNF)

In what was the Bills’ first home Monday Night Football game since 2008, the game lacked some of the expected sizzle due to Josh Allen’s absence (injury). Even though the Bills were playing at home, they entered the game as massive 13.5 underdogs. With all the odds against them, the Bills played with heart and passion through the first three quarters of the game.

With an offense led by Derek Anderson, the Bills could not sustain any meaningful drives for the entirety of the game. The defense played a truly inspiring game, but when Tremaine Edmunds exited the game early in the 2nd half due to a concussion, the air eventually came out of the sails.

The Bills valiantly hung with the Patriots for nearly three full quarters…trailing only 9-6 towards the latter stages of the third quarter. A late third quarter field goal put the Patriots up 12-6, and two fourth quarter touchdowns (one of which was a defensive score), eventually sealed the Bills fate in a 25-6 loss.

The positive spin on the outcome of this game was that the Bills defense had elite potential, a trait that has carried into 2019.

3rd Down: Bills @ Jets, 11/02/2017 (TNF)

Entering a week nine prime time matchup at Met Life Stadium, the Bills were riding high with a 5-2 record. The Bills offense fell flat and the run defense parted like the red sea in what ultimately led to an embarrassing loss.

The running back duo of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell each cleared 70 yards on the ground, and Josh McCown played game manager in an outing that saw the Jets eat up time of possession. On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Tyrod Taylor absorbed seven sacks, and the Bills ground game could only muster 63 yards on 23 carries. LeSean McCoy accounted for a paltry 25 of those total yards on 12 totes.

This Bills loss on Thursday Night Football started an ugly three-game losing streak, which all but dashed the Bills playoff dreams in 2017. Surprisingly, the Bills ended their losing streak with a road win against the Chiefs, which ultimately propelled them to a 4-3 finish down the stretch…squeaking into the playoffs thanks to a now-infamous Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd touchdown.

4th Down: Bills @ Seahawks, 11/07/2016 (MNF)

In what might have been one the Bills best-played games in 2016, they still, unfortunately, came up short in a tough road spot against the Seattle Seahawks. In a bit of head-scratcher, all of the box score statistics would lead you to believe that the Bills won this game handily.

Unfortunately, the quick-strike Seattle offense was able to put enough points on the board to derail any potential for a Bills upset bid. The Bills jumped out to an early 7-0 lead thanks to a blocked punt by Jerry Hughes on the opening possession of the game. This block set up the Bills at the Seahawks three-yard line, and in one play, Tyrod Taylor scooted into the end zone.

One of the most memorable (for the wrong reasons) plays of this game was a controversial play just before halftime. On a Bills’ field goal attempt, Richard Sherman came rushing off the edge on a play where he was clearly offside. That penalty was called, but the one that wasn’t was the clear and obvious malicious hit on kicker Dan Carpenter.

Carpenter fell to the ground injured, but because the roughing penalty wasn’t called, Carpenter had to leave the field for a play. The Bills were forced to take a delay of game to get Carpenter back on the field for the retry, which he ultimately missed.

The Bills desperately tried to make a comeback late in the game, but came up just short, losing 31-25.