Taron Johnson makes ‘franchise altering play’ as Bills punch their ticket to AFC Championship game

NFL Buffalo

Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson, left, runs away from Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) after intercepting his pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – We always hear the Bills talk about playing “complimentary football” and while that might sound cliche, it’s something this team does very well and Saturday’s 17-3 win over the Ravens to advance to the AFC Championship game, was another example of that.

On a night where the offense wasn’t off to a fast start and only found the end zone once, the defense was there to help lighten the load as defensive back Taron Johnson intercepted Lamar Jackson in the third quarter and took it 101 yards to the house for his second pick-six of the season.

“I’m just doing my fundamentals, staying square, looking at the quarterback, he’s taking me to where he’s about to throw the ball and I just make the play,” Taron Johnson said after the game.

It happened on the Ravens’ first drive of the second half. It looked like the Ravens were about to score and tie the game up at 10. The Bills had just scored a touchdown as Josh Allen found Stefon Diggs on the previous drive, their first of the second half to take a 10-3 lead.

“After I caught it I definitely thought for a second maybe I should kneel it you know. I saw that open grass over there and at that point I’m just like OK it’s one person I gotta beat and that’s number eight on the other side so just having Tre [White] over there running with me just helped out a lot. He got in his way and let me be able to run it all the way in,” Johnson explained.

Johnson’s play not only saved a potential seven points in favor of the Ravens, but gave the Bills a 17-3 lead in a game where the offense couldn’t get much going.

“That was huge, he made a similar play against Pittsburgh. That was a huge play and a big stop for our defense. I thought Leslie Frazier and our defensive staff and the players executed at a high level and that play was huge in terms of momentum,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said after the game.

And it wasn’t just Johnson who came up big on that play, but Tre’Davious White’s block on Jackson who was the last guy Johnson had to beat, was huge too.

“I saw him come out of the end zone. Usually when there’s a lot of bodies around you want to stay in so I was like dang it he’s gonna get tackled at the five or the ten and I’ll tell you what, Tre White to go up and get a block on Lamar, it’s unbelievable,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen said.

“You practice for those situations, I’m gonna pat myself on the back in practice I go behind him and I try to punch the ball out so Taron had that extra sense to kind of look back and feel someone else coming and hold on to the ball to finish the score. Just an unbelievable play, just one of those plays that’ll be remembered for a really long time.”

The Bills drafted Johnson in the fourth round back in 2018 and so far his career has had its share of ups and downs. He’s been hammered with injuries and had season ending shoulder surgery in December of his rookie year. But this year he’s made some clutch plays with this pick-six and he had one against the Steelers as well, and says part of his success comes from the impact the other defensive backs had on him.

“I mean they all did. I feel like it was part of me maturing as well as a football player the last two years and really just taking care of my body and having those guys around, just seeing what they do every single day to make sure they can last a full season it helped me this year. I made the changes I needed to make,” Johnson said.

“Our main goal when we get in the red zone is a three and out or a takeaway and we were playing Cover 2 you know it did seem like Lamar read it very well and Taron was just in his spot and he made a play on the football, he made a hell of a play on the football,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said.

“That play definitely changed the game I tell Taron all the time he’s the best nickel in the league and I truly believe that from the bottom of my heart. He does so many things for this defense, he tackles well in coverage, he makes plays on the football so we’re lucky to have a guy like Taron. “

“A play that people are going to remember for a long time in Buffalo, one of those potentially franchise altering plays,” Allen explained.

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