Although it hasn’t generated a lot of discussion over wild card weekend, a big hit that Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham put on Bills quarterback Josh Allen on Saturday could have put the Bills in range for a game-winning field goal in overtime.
The hit took place on the Bills’ first possession in overtime. The Texans had already had a possession and punted, which means the Bills just needed a field goal to win. Allen ran the ball and was drilled by Cunningham at the Texans’ 42-yard line. Cunningham went helmet first, with the crown of his helmet hitting the side of Allen’s helmet and knocking Allen to the ground. No flag was thrown.
Allen was a runner, which means he isn’t entitled to any special protection the way he would be if he were passing. But even runners are supposed to be protected from opponents lowering their helmets to initiate contact. That’s been a major emphasis of the NFL’s in recent years, and what Cunningham did was a clear example of what is supposed to be penalized.
If it had been penalized, it would have given the Bills first-and-10 at the 27-yard line. They would have been in range for a game-winning field goal.
Instead, it was the Bills who picked up a personal foul for a blindside block two plays later, and they ended up punting. The Texans drove down the field for the game-winning field goal after that. The missed call was costly for the Bills.