ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills basic supervisor Brandon Beane was coming off three straight days spent on the hospital with Damar Hamlin as the security continued his restoration.
On the finish of an emotional week for Beane, he sat down with the media by way of Zoom.
The Bills had reached half of the objectives they set out for themselves earlier than the season: make the playoffs, win the division, get home-field benefit and win the Super Bowl. However a brand new precedence arose that trumped these: the well being of Hamlin after he suffered cardiac arrest through the first quarter of the “Monday Night Football” sport in Week 17.
When Beane was requested in regards to the adversity his group had skilled, his emotions had been exhausting to struggle again.
“I probably get emotional if I talk too much about it, but I’m so proud of our organization, our team, just so many people the way we’ve dealt with so much this year. Definitely not the way you draw it up,” Beane stated. “I don’t know what’s going to happen the rest of season on the field, I really don’t. This is a group of winners, and I will forever remember this team, this season, the moments of it. I’m still hopefully optimistic that we can make a run. But I don’t know if there’s ever a team I’ll be more proud of than this.”
The Bills have confronted all types of obstacles alongside the best way, starting from the very critical — together with Hamlin’s damage and a lethal historic blizzard in western New York — to a season-ending ACL damage for star linebacker Von Miller.
Regardless of these, they Bills notched 13 wins for the fourth time (2020, 1991 and 1990) in group historical past, gained the AFC East for the third season in a row and earned the No. 2 seed within the playoffs — all without having but performed an entire sport.
Buffalo is getting wholesome on the proper time, too — beginning security Micah Hyde might be returning quickly from a neck damage that has pressured him to overlook many of the season — which ends up in the query: Because the Bills enter the postseason for the fourth time in coach Sean McDermott’s 5 seasons main the group, may this be the 12 months they break by means of and attain the Super Bowl for the primary time because the 1993 postseason?
The group nonetheless has loads of query marks that must be sorted out, however some issues are working within the Bills’ favor.
Whereas the No. 1 seed fell out of attain after enjoying simply 16 video games (their sport towards the Cincinnati Bengals was canceled following Hamlin’s life-threatening damage), Buffalo not has to fret about going to a different group’s stadium in the event that they get to the AFC Championship Recreation. If the Chiefs and Bills each make it, the sport shall be performed at a impartial web site — Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta — and in every other situation with the Bills in that sport, they’re internet hosting.
The Bills can boast having one of many NFL’s most well-rounded groups. The offense ranks No. 2 in factors per sport (28.44), effectivity (67.92) and QBR (71.0). The protection ranks No. 2 in factors allowed per sport (17.88) and is tied for fourth in takeaways (27). Additionally they led the league in particular groups EPA (39.78).
The group has been in 5 playoff video games over the previous two postseasons, so nothing at this level is new to it.
“It might be a little bit more attention to detail, but again, this is the standard that we set for ourself and Coach McDermott sets for ourself with ‘playoff caliber,’ and now that we’re here it’s ‘championship caliber,’” quarterback Josh Allen stated. “There is always going to be that little ‘up’ in effort or attention to detail. … We’re playing for each other; we love each other, and we know we’ve got a job to do.”
The Bills have already overwhelmed three of the opposite six AFC playoff groups, though they break up the season collection with their opponent Sunday, the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). That have ought to assist the Bills of their preparation.
“We just have history,” left sort out Dion Dawkins stated. “It’s just the history that comes with it. And sorry to keep that answer so simple, but it’s just the history, like, if you go on a date with somebody three times, you should know that she or he, whoever you’re with, likes a lemon drop or a Shirley Temple.”
Together with Hyde, the Bills may get again huge receiver Jamison Crowder. Each had their 21-day follow home windows open Wednesday whereas remaining on injured reserve after every spent months recovering from damage.
Crowder and Hyde won’t play towards the Dolphins, however their eventual return ought to give the Bills a lift. Hyde would presumably return to the beginning lineup — a place Hamlin crammed with Hyde out — and group up once more with Jordan Poyer. Hyde and Poyer have began 79 video games collectively — by far probably the most of any security pair over the previous six seasons, based on the Elias Sports activities Bureau.
Hyde stated the choice on his return from a neck damage is in his physician’s palms. He initially thought following surgical procedure he wouldn’t return till subsequent season.
“It’s given me a different perspective on this game,” Hyde stated. “I’m grateful. I’m very, very grateful to be in the position I am now and to see my teammates throughout this whole season, all the things that we have been through, you name it — the weather, the injuries, D-Ham’s situation — just seeing my boys, my teammates go out there and continue to fight. … I have to make it, I have to give it a go.”
Including Crowder to the huge receiver corps would additionally profit an offense that has struggled with drops this season — ending the common season with a league-leading 34 — and wishes extra consistency on the slot place. Crowder’s absence was a part of the explanation the group introduced again huge receiver Cole Beasley to the follow squad and this week to the lively roster. Crowder’s return would create a surplus of receivers within the playoffs, which might be a very good downside for the Bills to have.
The Bills’ exterior cornerbacks have been a priority. They’re going to be challenged towards the likes of huge receivers Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill after they face the Dolphins.
Whereas cornerback Tre’Davious White is again on the sphere, he’s nonetheless working his method again from the torn left ACL he suffered on Thanksgiving in 2021. He’s coming off his finest sport of the season towards the Patriots final week, per McDermott, together with his first interception in over a 12 months, however groups have been testing him at a excessive degree with a 20.4% goal charge, highest amongst Bills exterior corners who’ve performed important snaps.
“The confidence that I and we have and Tre has never waned at all,” McDermott said. “I mean, there’s a process that you go through when you come back off of an injury like that. And he looks to be really rounding [into] form as we get through towards the back half of the season.”
The opposite lingering difficulty is who begins reverse White. Currently it has been a rotation of 2020 seventh-round decide Dane Jackson and 2022 first-round decide Kaiir Elam, however Christian Benford, a sixth-round decide this season, has the potential to even be again within the combine after spending time on injured reserve. He was inactive final week. McDermott has stated it will be splendid to have a set No. 2 nook, however whoever will get the decision must step up.
Elam, who’s again within the rotation after enjoying sparingly from Weeks 10 to 14 due to an ankle damage suffered in Week 9 after which was a wholesome scratch towards the Patriots in Week 13, is incomes again his spot within the rotation partially because of liberating himself some mentally.
“Not trying to be perfect has definitely made me just play a lot faster, allowed me to trust my keys and just play,” Elam stated. “I wouldn’t say pressure, just putting too much like expectation on myself, like I just, now I’m just playing.”
Deep passes particularly have been an issue for the Bills protection, which allowed a 41.8% completion charge on passes of 20 or extra air yards (twenty fourth) and 6 touchdowns on such throws (tied for twenty first). Hyde’s potential return may assist there.
One other downside the Bills have struggled with is turnovers. Buffalo completed the season ranked thirtieth in turnovers (26) with six of these dedicated by Allen within the pink zone, probably the most by any participant since DeShone Kizer in 2017 (eight). Defending the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line has been a problem for Allen in a method it was not earlier in his profession. The quarterback threw 5 pink zone interceptions within the common season, probably the most within the NFL, together with one towards the New England Patriots in Week 18.
Within the first 4 years of Allen’s profession, together with playoffs, he threw solely two interceptions on 311 pink zone makes an attempt.
“Decision-making, I think, is No. 1,” Allen stated earlier this season on lowering the turnovers. “Trusting the game plan, trusting the guys around me and not trying to do too much, and getting back to playing smarter football.”
Final postseason, Allen went on an ideal run, throwing 9 touchdowns to zero interceptions. Limiting the errors will go a good distance towards getting previous more durable opponents.
“You find a balance between knowing what works, what got you to where you are, but also understanding that mistakes might be heightened,” middle Mitch Morse stated of the postseason. “The stakes are very high, the highest in the sport, but not letting that make you too rigid. Still having your personality, still having the fluidity of a conversation or practice and not being uptight because that’s when you play outside of yourself.”