ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills called it a "must-win at home," and with their backs against the wall, they did just enough in Sunday's 30-21 victory over the Houston Texans to keep their season alive.
After allowing the Texans to claw back into the game and tie the score at 21 with less than 10 minutes remaining, a 20-yard run by LeSean McCoy and a 40-yard touchdown catch by Charles Clay two plays later allowed the Bills to escape with a win. It was a skin-of-their-teeth victory by a team that coach Rex Ryan had said this week was "backed up as far as you can be backed up."
Despite the win, the pressure is hardly off the Bills. At 6-6, they're already out of the AFC East race and still must be nearly flawless over the final four games of the season for their win over the Texans to have an impact in the long run and end the Bills' 15-year playoff drought.
But in the short term, the Bills took care of business when it counted most, giving fans a reason for excitement after Thanksgiving -- a rarity in Buffalo in recent seasons.
What it means: The Bills' season isn't over, as it would have effectively been if they had lost. Instead of dropping to 5-7 and needing an extraordinary amount of help from other teams to make the playoffs, the Bills improve to 6-6 and are back into the thick of the AFC wild-card hunt. It remains a tough climb to the postseason, however.
Did Hopkins push off? The Bills might have a case that Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins pushed off against cornerback Ronald Darby on his 19-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There was no offensive pass-interference flag on the play, and the Texans tied the score on the next play with a successful two-point conversion. It was another questionable call during what has been a rough stretch from officials across the NFL.
Ouch: The Bills lost cornerback Stephon Gilmore (shoulder) and McCoy (concussion protocol) in the third quarter; McCoy was cleared to return, but Gilmore did not return. Gilmore took a hit from Texans running back Akeem Hunt, and McCoy took himself out of the game following a 3-yard run. The Bills also lost rookie linebacker Tony Steward to a back injury in the first half. Cornerback Ron Brooks also left for the locker room with an injury late in the fourth quarter.
Fantasy watch: Sammy Watkins' three catches for 109 yards made him far and away the top performer among the Bills' group of receivers. It was a similar story to the first half of last week's loss to the Chiefs, when Watkins had six catches for 158 yards: If Tyrod Taylor throws the ball to Watkins, it doesn't matter whether Watkins is covered or not -- he'll more than likely catch it.
One reason to get excited: The Bills are still alive in the playoff race, even though they'll need to be nearly perfect over their final four games to ensure a playoff berth. Their schedule, with three NFC East teams with losing records next on the docket, is favorable for a run to the postseason if the Bills can avoid self-inflicted errors.
One reason to panic: The Bills still might be worse than they were last season. Even with a win Sunday to get back to .500, the team still needs three more wins to match last season's total. Like last December's win over the surging Green Bay Packers, Sunday's win was exciting, but looking more big-picture, it might not mean much for the outcome of the Bills' season.