William and Mary Bowl


Monday, Jan. 15, the Buffalo Bills (11-6 AFC East) defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7 AFC North) 31-17 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. The AFC Wild Card playoff game — colloquially dubbed the “William and Mary Bowl” — marked the first Super Bowl-era match in which two former college teammates coached against each other in the National Football League postseason.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Bills head coach Sean McDermott graduated from William and Mary in 1995 and 1998, respectively.

Tomlin — who has coached the Steelers for 17 seasons and won Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 — played wide receiver for the Tribe. Tomlin was a co-captain for the team his senior year and received All-Yankee Conference honors. Tomlin ended his college football career with 20 touchdown catches and 101 receptions for 2054 yards.

McDermott has served as the Bills’ head coach since 2017, leading the team to four consecutive AFC East championships. At William and Mary, he played defensive back in all 46 games of his college football career, co-captaining the team his senior season. In 1997, McDermott also won All-Atlantic 10 and All-Eastern College Athletic Conference honors.

Though postponed by a day due to inclement winter weather conditions, the game saw several strong offensive plays, especially from the Bills.

Bills tight end Dawson Knox scored the first touchdown of the match in the eighth minute, receiving a nine-yard pass from Bills quarterback Josh Allen in the end zone. Bills kicker Tyler Bass earned the extra point, putting Buffalo in the lead 7-0.

Roughly three minutes later, Bills cornerback Taron Johnson forced Steelers receiver George Pickens to fumble. After Bills linebacker Terrel Bernard recovered the ball, Buffalo regained possession. With four minutes, 15 seconds left to spare in the first quarter, Bills tight end Dalton Kincaid scored the second touchdown of the game off a 29-yard pass from Allen. Bass earned a second extra point, securing the Bills’ lead 14-0.

In the second quarter, Pittsburgh attempted to narrow the Bills’ lead 14-7, but Bills cornerback Kaiir Elam intercepted Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s pass. After regaining possession, Buffalo continued capitalizing on its offensive opportunities; in the 23rd minute, Allen scored off a 52-yard rushing touchdown, the longest in Bills postseason history. Bass’ third extra point extended Buffalo’s lead 21-0.

The Steelers managed to cut the Bills’ lead 21-7 at the end of the second quarter. Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson caught Rudolph’s 10-yard pass just outside the end zone, earning six points for Pittsburgh. Steelers kicker Chris Boswell won the extra point for Pittsburgh with one minute, 39 seconds left in the first half.

Boswell scored a 40-yard field goal in the 37th minute, racking up another three points for the Steelers. With one minute, 36 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bills responded with a 45-yard field goal by Bass, extending Buffalo’s lead 24-10.

In the 50th minute, Pittsburgh picked up offensive momentum, scoring another touchdown. Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin III received Rudolph’s seven-yard pass just outside the end zone, and Boswell won a second extra point, narrowing Buffalo’s lead 24-17.

Four minutes later, Bills wide receiver Khalil Shakir scored his first career playoff touchdown. After receiving a short pass from Allen, Shakir evaded three Steelers players, pivoting and running into the end zone. Following Shakir’s 17-yard touchdown, Bass’ extra point cemented the Bills’ 31-17 lead.

Buffalo’s victory earned the team a spot in the Divisional Round, ending the Steelers’ postseason. The Bills faced the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Jan. 21 at Highmark Stadium and came up short, 27-24.


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