In a strange set of occurrences, this writer was at the Jacksonville Jaguars vs Buffalo Bills playoff game. One hour before kickoff, a friend walked into my house waving tickets that her customer just gave her because she decided not to go.
The mad dash we embarked on was one that would’ve won the Great Race. Sometimes everything goes your way, from green lights to little traffic to finding the perfect parking spot because one person inexplicably left. We watched the first three drives on my phone as we walked from the car, and up the ramps. In one hour and ten minutes, we got dogs out, two females change (including make-up), stopped for cash and drove 23 miles. It was worth it!
These two teams haven’t been to a playoff game in so long, kids have been born and are in high school. For a Jags home playoff game? They graduated. Two teams new to the playoff with quarterbacks who also haven’t been in one. It’s going to be either a mess or a sign of good times ahead for the under 30 guys.
Head coach Doug Marrone is coaching his old team. That should make a difference, but teams change a lot in a couple years. What will definitely have an effect, is the fact that running back LeSean McCoy is far from 100%. That hurts not only their run game but their passing ability. He’s their second-leading pass catcher. They’re losing a day of practice and the Jags don’t have to change a thing.
I’m sure the Bills Mafia will be out in full force based on how quickly the seats sold out. They are ending their own playoff drought and are overwhelmingly and understandably excited about this game. However, Jacksonville is pretty stoked as well. It’s going to be a loud game. Believe it or not, Jaguar fans have caused delay of game calls due to the noise. Two of my sons will be there, as long-suffering fans who’ve been to a lot losing games, they’re beyond excited. And they’re raucous like their mama!
At the end of the last century, the Buffalo Bills were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs by the Tennessee Titans because of a play which is now known as the “Music City Miracle.”
Although the throw from tight endFrank Wycheck to wide receiverKevin Dysonappeared to everyone except Titans fans and, unfortunately, the referee, to be an illegal forward lateral, the resulting touchdown was allowed to stand. And the Bills lost by a score of 22-16.
So began the epic journey known around Western New York as “The Drought.” For 17 long, torturous years, the Bills failed to make the postseason. This annual exercise in futility was the butt of countless jokes and NFL Today graphics.
So, you may have heard, we had a little snow for the Bills/Colts game last Sunday.
For those unfamiliar with the white stuff, what you saw on TV is what is called a lake-effect snowstorm. It occurs when a cold air mass picks up moisture by passing over a large body of warm water, like a lake. Since Buffalo is situated between two (lucky us!) Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario, these storms occur frequently until the lakes freeze over.
Along with the turkeys, Christmas lights, and the shopping frenzy of late November/early December comes another seasonal hallmark: the posting of the NFL playoff rankings during the televised broadcasts.
You have your three columns: Division Leaders, Wild Card, and, the ever-hopeful, “In the Hunt.” Over the last 17 years, the Bills have become such regular members of the “In the Hunt” club, the players should be issued camo and a tree stand along with their helmets and pads.
Head Coach Sean McDermott stunned everyone at his morning press conference announcing he was making a change at quarterback, benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman. McDermott said it’s about “becoming a better team.”
When head coach Sean McDermott finally hangs up his whistle at the end of his football career, he should take a job in marketing. McDermott has a slogan for every situation. He has them printed on signs hanging around the locker room. They are sprinkled throughout his speeches to the players and the media. For home games, McDermott came up with the catchphrase, “Defend Our Dirt,“ and went so far as to give each player a little glass jar containing some of the rubber fibers from the playing field at New Era stadium mixed with sand from training camp.
As corny as that may be, the message was received. The Bills are a perfect 4-0 at home following Sunday’s 31-14 win over the Raiders. This is the first time they have been perfect at home since 1995.
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is one of five team captains that make up what Coach Sean McDermott calls his“Leadership Council.” Alexander, along with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, kicker Stephen Hauschka, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and center Eric Wood, are the players that McDermott says he depends on to be a “sounding board … in terms of what’s going on, how the team’s reacting to things.”
This sounding board was particularly valuable when the team was sorting out its response to the anthem protests going on around the league. Prior to the Bills-Broncos game in Week 3, a long meeting was held in which McDermott, all the Bills players, general manager Brandon Beane, and team owners Kim and Terry Pegula were able to respectfully discuss their viewpoints and work out a mutually agreeable solution. On Game Day, Alexander was one of 12 Bills players who knelt during the anthem, while McDermott and the remaining players linked arms along the sidelines in a display of solidarity.
Alexander commented on his reasons for taking a knee that day. “We have great privileges here but as … a U.S. citizen I [wanted] to call or bring attention to things that need change. With that, today I kneeled but I won’t continue to kneel. [Today] I kneeled to show those guys …that I am with them.”
A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.
A journey into a wondrous land of imagination…”
It began after the final second elapsed on the Bills 23-17 win over the (formerly) undefeated Atlanta Falcons. All around Western New York, a low murmur of voices were expressing wonderment. Disbelief. Excitement. Almost every caller to the local radio post-game shows began their comments with, “I know there’s a lot of the season left, but do you think…?” Or, “I know I shouldn’t be getting my hopes up yet, but…” Or, “The team wasn’t supposed to be any good this year. How do you explain…?”
It does feel as if we’ve entered the Twilight Zone. Staring at the AFC East standings, seeing the Buffalo Bills, 3-1, all alone at the top of the heap, is nothing if not surreal. The previous week’s win over the Denver Broncos was a terrific accomplishment for coach Sean McDermott’s team. But getting a win on the road, against last year’s NFC Champions is something else altogether.