They needed a while to get going, but once they did, the Buffalo Bills would not relinquish control of their AFC divisional round playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens Saturday night.
And once the Ravens lost reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson to a concussion on the final play of the third quarter, the verdict was just about guaranteed.
Bills 17, Ravens 3.
The win puts the Bills back in the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the 1993 season. That game will be at Bills Stadium if the Cleveland Browns beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. If the Chiefs win, the Bills will travel to Kansas City.
Both of Buffalo's touchdowns came in the second half.
The first came when Josh Allen hit Stefon Diggs with a 3-yard pass to finish off a 66-yard drive following the opening kickoff of the third quarter.
But their defense, which baffled Jackson and contained Baltimore's overpowering running game all evening, delivered the biggest blow when Taron Johnson returned an interception 101 yards for a touchdown.
Jackson (14-for-24, 162 yards, one interception, nine carries for 34 yards) banged his head hard off the turf as he went to the ground while releasing a pass on which he was flagged for intentional grounding. That came after a wild snap forced him to pick up the ball and try the desperation maneuver with his team trailing by 14 points.
Baltimore was limited to 340 total yards and 19 first downs and Jackson was completely baffled as a runner and a passer, thanks to a series of blitzes that punctuated a disciplined pass rush that rarely allowed him any escape routes. He was sacked three times.
The stage was set for this defensive battle early.
Baltimore ran the ball six straight times to open the game before Jackson hit Willie Snead for a 1-yard gain on a play fake. But it went right back to the ground on the next play and kept going toward a 41-yard field goal attempt by Justin Tucker that was rejected by the left upright.
The key play for the Bills in that series was an 11-yard sack of Jackson by blitzing cornerback Levi Wallace that came immediately after a neutral-zone infraction by A.J. Klein wiped out a fourth-down stop, giving the Ravens a first down at the Bills' 25.
The Bills' defense forced a three-and-out on Baltimore's next series, which was followed by a shanked punt by Sam Koch that went for just 23 yards, setting the Bills up at the Ravens' 38.
That led to a 28-yard field goal by Tyler Bass they were forced to settle for after Gabriel Davis dropped a pass that hit him in stride in the end zone.
The Bills had a chance to add to the lead in the second quarter after crossing into Ravens territory. But Bass pushed a field-goal attempt from 43 yards wide right.
Not to be outdone, Tucker clanged a 46-yard attempt off the right upright as the Bills maintained their advantage.
The defensive scrum continued. Allen lost the ball on a sack on Buffalo's ensuing possession. But the Bills recovered to be able to punt it away.
Tucker did make good on his third attempt, which came from 34 yards with 4 seconds remaining, sending the teams to intermission locked in a 3-all tie.
Not until the start of the second half did the Bills discover any kind of offensive momentum, putting together the touchdown drive that gave them the lead for good.
They added to the lead just when it looked like Baltimore was closing in on a tying touchdown. Johnson stepped in front of a pass intended for Mark Andrews in the end zone and took it to the house.