HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson spun out of a would-be sack and coolly completed a pass that set up the winning field goal in overtime as the Houston Texans rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half for a 22-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.
Each team punted on its first possession of overtime, the first extra period in an AFC wild-card game since January 2012. On Houston's next drive, Watson evaded a sack by wriggling away from one defender and bouncing off another before rolling out to find Taiwan Jones for a 34-yard reception that set up first-and-goal.
Watson flexed both arms as the crowd at NRG Stadium went wild, knowing the home team was in position to add another comeback win to Houston's playoff history.
"I told myself to stay up. I mean, it's do-or-die now. I just had to make the play," Watson said.
Ka'imi Fairbairn then kicked a 28-yard field goal to lift Houston to the victory.
The Texans (11-6) got a boost from the return of star pass rusher J.J. Watt, who had a sack that helped spark the AFC South champions. Houston scored 19 straight points to take the lead before Stephen Hauschka's 47-yard field goal tied it with five seconds left to force overtime.
"We never quit, regardless," Watson said. "Whatever it takes to get the win. I mean, we're going to keep fighting."
It was Watt's first game after sitting out since October with a torn pectoral muscle.
"This is why you come back," Watt said. "I don't know if I meant to come back for these many plays or this much extra time, but these feelings, these emotions, these fans, these players, Deshaun Watson and all the guys on this team, this is why you come back."
The win gives the Texans their first playoff victory since the 2016 season and extends Buffalo's postseason losing streak to six games, with the Bills' most recent playoff win still in 1995. Saturday's contest was the first wild-card overtime game since the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 seven years ago.
Houston hits the road for the divisional round, visiting AFC West champion Kansas City (12-4) at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 12.
Saturday's game also conjured memories of another huge comeback in a wild-card game. The last time teams from Houston and Buffalo met in the playoffs it was in a game known as "The Comeback." The Bills set an NFL record for the largest comeback in NFL history by rallying from a 32-point deficit on Jan. 3, 1993, for a 41-38 overtime win against the Houston Oilers, who later moved to Tennessee and became the Titans.
This time quarterback Josh Allen and the wild-card Bills (10-7) used a dominant first half to build a 13-point lead and were up 16-0 in the third quarter.
Watson finished 20-for-25 passing for 247 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, and he had 14 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown as he led the Texans in rushing. Houston's DeAndre Hopkins had six catches for 90 yards.
Allen was 24-for-46 for 264 yards, ran for 92 yards on nine carries and caught a touchdown pass on a trick play in the first quarter, but the second-year pro often looked rattled late in his playoff debut.
Houston couldn't get anything going on offense before halftime and had 81 yards at the break after Hopkins didn't catch a pass in a first half for the first time since Week 16 of the 2017 season.
The Texans were finally able to sustain a drive on their second possession of the third quarter as Hopkins had receptions of 14 and 10 yards to help move the ball. The Texans cut their deficit to 10 when Watson dragged two defenders into the end zone on a 20-yard run.
Watson then dived into the end zone for a 2-point conversion that got Houston within 16-8 with about two minutes left in the third.
The Bills were driving early in the fourth quarter when Allen was sacked by Whitney Mercilus and fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Houston's Jacob Martin at the Buffalo 47. The Texans cashed in on the miscue with a 41-yard field goal that cut the lead to 16-11 with about 11 minutes to go.
Watson connected with Carlos Hyde on a 5-yard touchdown pass and Hopkins on a 2-point conversion with about five minutes left to put the Texans on top 19-16. Hopkins had a 41-yard reception on the drive.
The Bills were in field-goal range on their next drive when Allen got a 14-yard penalty for intentional grounding and Buffalo lost a down to bring up fourth down. The Bills went for it, and Allen was sacked by Jacob Martin for a 19-yard loss to give Houston the ball back with 1:41 left.
The Texans trailed 13-0 at halftime, and Hopkins fumbled on their opening drive of the third quarter to give Buffalo the ball at the Houston 32. Watt sacked Allen for a loss of 8 yards on third down, and the Bills settled for a 38-yard field goal to extend their lead to 16-0.
Allen had scrambled 42 yards for a first down on Buffalo's first possession of the game for its longest rush of the season. Two plays later, the Bills used some trickery to take the lead when John Brown threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Allen for the game's first points. Brown's pass was wobbly, but Allen was wide open despite having to slow down to make the catch.
It was early in the second quarter when Allen appeared to fumble. Houston recovered the ball, but the play was reviewed and overturned, giving Buffalo possession at the Houston 32. The Bills were unable to move the ball after that and kicked a 40-yard field goal to make it 10-0, and they added another 40-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter.