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Taron Johnson's 'franchise altering play' sends Bills to AFC Championship

Taron Johnson's 'franchise-altering play' sends Bills to AFC Championship
Posted at 2:36 AM, Jan 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-17 02:37:59-05

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. [WKBW] — Taron Johnson's 101-yard pick-six will be forever immortalized in Buffalo Bills franchise history. It's right up there with Carlton Bailey's touchdown against the Broncos in the AFC Championship game and Steve Christie's game-winning field goal to complete the greatest comeback in NFL history. Those plays will always be remembered -- and so will Johnson's.

Quarterback Josh Allen called it a franchise altering play. Left tackle Dion Dawkins said it was a game-changer and swung the momentum of the game. But for Johnson, it was just him doing his job.

"Coach made a good call with a cover two play and I'm just reading the eyes of the quarterback," Johnson said after the game. "He didn't see me and the ball came, so I took it and made a play."

That he did -- the 101-yard return for a touchdown ties an NFL record for the longest interception touchdown in postseason history.

"After I caught it, I definitely thought for a second I should kneel it, but I saw that open grass and at that point, I'm like okay, there's just one person I've got to beat and that's No. 8 [Lamar Jackson]," Johnson said when explaining the play. "Just having Tre'Davious running with me helped out a lot and he got in [Jackson's] way and that let me run it all the way in."

After the game, Johnson's play was the hottest topic during postgame interviews. Everyone had a different perspective of the play but none were more entertaining than Dawkins.

"Honestly when the play happened I didn't know what was going on. I saw the pick, then he kind of slowed down, and then he just took off. Nobody knew what was going on. All we could see is the last name Johnson running down the field. I'm like, 'what the....then I'm like, hey, let's go, let's go' and then everyone was jumping, and I could barely see and then it's like man look, TJ just scored and that was the game-changer, the momentum changer and we just ate off of that energy and kept it going."

For fellow defensive back Jordan Poyer, it wasn't a surprise that Johnson was the guy to step up and make a play.

“I tell Taron he’s the best nickel in the league & I believe that in my heart," Poyer said. "He tackles well, he covers well... that play changed the game. It gave us momentum and confidence."

“Well, 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 going to get tackled at the five or the ten and I’ll tell you what, for Tre White to go up and get a block on Lamar, to spring him free, it’s unbelievable,” Josh Allen said. " It was just an unbelievable play and it's one of those plays that will be remembered for a really long time."

Perhaps Johnson just likes playing on national television. Earlier in the season against the Steelers, Johnson picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned it 51-yards for a touchdown.

"It was a big-time play for us," head coach Sean McDermott said. "Our red-zone defense the last couple of weeks has been improving and that's good to see."

Johnson couldn't help but smile when asked about the magnitude of his play. He said he realized during the return that he would be able to put points on the board and help lift his team.

"We're excited but we're not done yet," Johnson added. "We're trying to get to the big show."

Thanks to Johnson they're just one win away from the Super Bowl -- but regardless of what happens in the AFC Championship, Johnson has found catapulted himself onto the list of all-time great plays in Bills history.

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