It might be preseason, but you wouldn’t know it looking out into the crowd at Highmark Stadium during the Bills vs. Packers game on Saturday.
50,000 strong showed up to support the Bills, with many fans getting to see their team live in action for the first time in over a year.
While it was likely a thrill for the fans to get to see a win, it was also special for the players to see the fans back in the stands.
“It was the best feeling to see them fans coming out of the tunnel,” Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins told the media following the 19-0 win. “You know, the Mafia doing what they do. Just seeing all them faces, all that red white and blue. And I’m telling you, this is why Buffalo is so special.”
Dawkins was also excited for his teammates that have yet to get to experience the fan base in full force. Even during Buffalo’s playoff run last season, the crowd was at limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s just amazing that these guys can finally see why Buffalo is what Buffalo is. Like, Diggs ain’t ever feel that. Like all these young guys, they ain’t ever felt that. And today, it was just a short fuse, but I’m telling you, night games, first game of the season, it’s gonna hit, it’s gonna hit,” Dawkins said.
Sean McDermott shared a similar sentiment when speaking at halftime on the team’s television broadcast, saying “only in Buffalo” do you see 50,000 fans show up like this for a preseason game.
Bills safety Micah Hyde, who had an interception during the first half vs. his former team, was also glad to see Bills fans back impacting the game.
“It’s amazing to see fans out there ya know, screaming. It’s a homefield advantage for us,” Hyde told reporters. “We love to have them back. Not having them last year was kinda unique. A little weird, but getting out here on third down, hearing the crowd get into it. Fourth down, hearing the crowd get into it. It’s special, this place is special.”
Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who had a strong outing during his first preseason action of the season, acknowledged that these exhibition games aren’t just for the players.
“Forcing a timeout too and causing a false start or a delay of game, that’s huge… it’s reps for the fans too,” Allen said smiling. “Come regular season time, that’s what we’re gonna need from them too.”
Bills general manager Brandon Beane joined the broadcast in the booth to discuss a variety of topics, one of which was the Bills Mafia.
Beane mentioned leaving the facility late last night and seeing all the RVs in the lots. Then early this morning smelling the charcoal burning as fans tailgated. To him, there was no better feeling, because it meant that fans were really back.
One of the young guys who had his first chance to play in front of Bills fans today, was quarterback Jake Fromm who is fighting for a roster spot.
This could be Fromm’s only chance to ever play in front of the Mafia, but he made sure to enjoy the moment.
“It was unbelievable. Today, you looked in the stands and it almost looked like a packed house. It was fun,” Fromm said following the game. “Got to see them really have their mark on the game. It was a delay of game, or something when their (Packers) offense was coming to the locker room, but it was awesome. They kind of controlled the atmosphere. It was really just fun to be back out there.”
Bills fans will have many opportunities to make their presence felt as the team opens the regular season with three of its first four games at home.
As Josh Allen mentioned, the Bills will rely on that homefield advantage early and often. As always, the Bills Mafia appears up for the challenge.