If I told you a Buffalo Bills playoff game featured multiple missed field goal attempts, a catastrophic second-half red zone pick-six, and a game-icing penalty, you would’ve surrender-cobraed and wondered how on earth the Bills managed to lose yet another postseason game in heartbreaking fashion. The funny thing is, all of that happened and it all went in Buffalo’s favor.
It’s been said that this season just feels different in Buffalo, and there isn’t a game more emblematic of that than Saturday night’s Divisional Round matchup between the Bills and Baltimore Ravens. Justin Tucker, widely regarded as the NFL’s best kicker, missed two crucial field goals that demoralized a Ravens offense that struggles to put up points. Lamar Jackson threw his first career red-zone interception, and it was returned 101 yards by Taron Johnson for a touchdown. A running into the kicker penalty coming out of the two-minute warning put the Bills in victory formation.
In years past, the Bills—in their sporadic playoff appearances—found creative and devastating ways to lose close games. This time, they survived a wide-right field goal attempt (and a wide left one too), some overthrows, and an overall slow start to earn a spot in the semi-finals for the first time since the 1993 season.
While the Bills got the 25-year playoff monkey off of their backs with a win over the Indianapolis Colts last weekend, the bar was set higher than that. The AFC East champions were and are Super Bowl contenders—anything less than an AFC Championship Game appearance would’ve been a disappointment. To get there, they had to beat one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Riding Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and a speedy, opportunistic defense, the Bills punched their ticket to the AFC Championship Game with a 17-3 victory.
Simply put, these aren’t the same ol’ Bills. If that’s not evident by now, you’ve got your head buried in the sand. The forward strides taken by Allen this season are almost too good to be true and have ascended the third-year passer into the category of being Buffalo’s first franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. The trade for Diggs has not only aided in Allen’s progress, but made the Bills’ passing offense one of the most dangerous units in the NFL—Diggs had eight catches for 106 yards and a score on Saturday. From Sean McDermott to Brian Daboll to Leslie Frazier, the Bills are well-coached and prepared to face any challenge put in front of them. Winners of eight in a row, it feels like there is no team in the NFL Buffalo can’t beat when they play their best.
The Bills have three losses in their 18 games this season. Their first, and worst loss of the season, was to the Tennessee Titans in a road game played under tough circumstances on a Tuesday night. A COVID-19 breakout in the Titans organization set forth a series of on-again, off-again, maybe-we’ll-play scenarios that would take any team out of its rhythm. Buffalo’s second loss was to the NFL’s best team, the Kansas City Chiefs, a team they may very well face again with a Super Bowl appearance on the line. The Bills’ third loss was on the “Hail Murray” in Arizona.
From mid-September to this very moment—including the aforementioned hiccups that every top franchise faces over the course of a season—the Bills have been playing like an elite NFL team. The logo on their helmet and the demons from their past no longer apply. Whether they make it to their fifth-ever Super Bowl or not, this Bills team is simply different—simply special. The greatest mental hurdles placed upon them through no fault of this current squad have now been cleared. The greatest physical hurdles still remain.
Whether they play the Chiefs or Cleveland Browns next, or the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl, Buffalo will be in for a battle of a lifetime. But it’s a battle the Bills have earned, prepared for, and deserve to be in. Given how revered their fan base is and the playoff history associated with the franchise before this season, the Bills will have a lot of NFL fans in their corner for the final steps of their journey. Buffalo is halfway home.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022