Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson breaks up a pass to New...

Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson breaks up a pass to New York Giants tight end Darren Waller on the final play. Credit: AP/Adrian Kraus

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Improbable. Unexpected. Almost incredible.

The Giants nearly pulled off an unbelievable win over a Bills team that needed an entire half to find its footing Sunday night.

But close isn’t and wasn’t good enough.

The Giants, a team that hasn’t scored a touchdown in three games, got to the 1-yard line twice — at the end of each half — and came away with no points. That, basically, was the ballgame as they fell to the Bills, 14-9.

With 89 seconds to play and Buffalo leading by five, the Bills attempted a 53-yard field goal that was missed by Tyler Bass, giving the Giants the ball at their own 43.

With 45 seconds to play, the Giants called their third and final timeout. On third-and-1, Tyrod Taylor completed his sixth straight pass, this one to tight end Darren Waller for 5 yards to the Bills’ 32. With 32 seconds to go, Taylor found Darius Slayton, who stepped out of bounds at the 26.

Taylor then found Saquon Barkley for a 1-yard loss and Jalin Hyatt for a leaping catch that gained 12 yards to the 15. Nine seconds remained.

Taylor scrambled for 6 yards, and on third down, the scoreboard had two seconds remaining. His pass intended for Waller fell incomplete — but the Bills’ Terrel Bernard was flagged for pass interference in the end zone.

That gave the Giants one final untimed play from the 1 with no time remaining, but Taylor’s pass intended for Waller was broken up by Taron Johnson. Despite contact, there was no flag this time.

Giants coach Brian Daboll acknowledged there was discussion about running the ball with Barkley on the play, but because the Giants had been stopped on two third-and-1s earlier, he decided against it.

Asked if he saw a replay, Waller said he hadn’t.

“It was a physical game all night,” he said. “I think there’s positives you can take from every game, especially a game like this. They’re a good defense. I can speak to how their defense played, and they’re a good defense. But we want to win these.”

About that final, untimed down, he said: “I’m disappointed it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, the way our team wanted it to, but all you can ask for is an opportunity.”  

The Giants experienced similar frustration at the end of the first half. Holding a 6-0 lead and facing first and goal from the Buffalo 1 with 14 seconds to play, Barkley was stuffed for no gain and time ran out before the Giants could spike the ball. That failed opportunity to score a touchdown or at least kick a field goal would loom large.

The Bills didn’t score until the fourth quarter, with Josh Allen finding Deonte Harty with a 3-yard touchdown pass to give the Bills a 7-6 lead. It capped a 17-play, 89-yard drive that consumed 9:58 of game clock.

Graham Gano’s third field goal, a 29-yarder with 10:35 remaining, gave the Giants a 9-7 lead.

But Allen had time, plenty of time, to pull out the harder-than-expected win, throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Quintin Morris with 3:48 remaining to put the Bills ahead 14-9. That ended a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:47 off the clock.

In Daboll’s return to Buffalo, the Giants’ defense did everything it could. Barkley returned for the first time since the second game of the season and rushed for 93 yards, including runs of 19 and 34 yards in the fourth quarter.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

“It’s a tough one,” Daboll said. “They’re all tough. But this is a heck of a football team that we played. It’s a tough one.

“We didn’t get the job done. I thought we had a good plan, a lot of communication throughout the week. We knew how we wanted to play them and played them well.”

More Giants

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months