For the third-straight time and fourth time in five years, the Buffalo Bills are heading back to the playoffs. A fate that seemed unfathomable back in 2017 with the team in the midst of a historic postseason drought.
“It’s pretty special, man,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said following the game. “Being here since 2017, being with this guy right here [Micah Hyde] and seeing how everything’s… obviously, jobs not finished and we’re going to continue to work, but to be where we came from and to be leaders on this team and have us go to the playoffs… this is our third, three out of four years? Four out of five? S—, I’m getting old. Four out of five? It’s truly special. Guys work hard, man. It’s a special group. Great teammates. Guys come in and work hard so definitely feel like we’ve earned it.”
Poyer’s fellow safety Micah Hyde shared the same sentiment, but reminded us all that the job isn’t done just because the Bills are going to the playoffs.
“It’s remarkable,” Hyde said. “It’s remarkable to see where we were at when we first got here to where we’re at now. But obviously, still a bunch of goals in place for us that we want to accomplish this year. This is just one of them.”
While making the playoffs is one thing, it’s another to change the fabric of a football team to come to expect the postseason year in and year out. Something a team like the New England Patriots has become accustomed to over the years. Poyer said the mindset shift starts with the guys in charge.
“Yeah and I think, you know, ever since, you know, Sean (McDermott) and (Brandon) Beane they took over here they brought the right guys in to set that standard,” Poyer continued. “Guys come into the season understanding what those expectations are on both sides of the football and that is the standard. We want to continue to build off of that.”
It’s easy to take the team’s recent success for granted, something Poyer said he reminded the young players of.
“Was in there telling the young guys, ‘hey, don’t take this for granted.’ Some of the young guys come in here, been in the playoffs for two years in a row now and this is my fourth year out of my nine years and so some of those guys don’t really get to feel the hardships of what, you know, what it takes… it takes a lot to get to the playoffs and a lot of those guys haven’t felt not making it,” Poyer said. “So really, just enjoying the moment and obviously jobs not finished. We’ve got to handle business next week, but definitely feels good.”
With all of the team’s success the last couple of years, the Bills haven’t actually clinched the playoffs at home in front of their devoted fans. Something they were able to change today at Highmark Stadium.
“It means a lot,” Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips told the media after the game. “So you’re saying, what? Early 90s was the last time that happened, to clinch at home? Anything we can do to these fans, you know how much our football team cares about them. Not only did we clinch today, but we have an even greater opportunity next week, to win the division. We’re obviously going to take our 24 hours here and then get focused on that, but it was great to do it at home.”
When asked how they’ve gone about accomplishing all that they have of late, Phillips, like Poyer before him, pointed to the ability to identify guys with the right DNA.
“I think we’ve said it a lot. The organization does a great job of bringing in the right people,” Phillips continued. “And that goes from our cafeteria people, our equipment, our training room… everybody around it that has that playoff caliber that you guys see us talk about and stuff. It’s not just something we talk about, it’s something we walk the walk with. It’s been a great success and an ownership that cares a lot about winning. And yeah, all the pieces have kinda been falling.”
While it is certainly not inappropriate to credit the entire organization for the turnaround that we’ve witnessed in Buffalo, the guy at the top who takes most of the criticism when the team struggles, also deserves a good chunk of praise when the team succeeds.
“Sean is everything,” Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins said during his postgame press conference. “Sean is our, our head sphere. That’s our leader board. He’s our leader. It just shows that Sean is Sean. He’s a stone cold killer in the face, but he knows exactly in what he’s doing and he knows what to do. He’s know how to like fuel his players and he knows how to honestly lead the right way. And when you treat your guys right, your guys rally and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re rallying behind a leader that treats his troops right.”
Bills quarterback Josh Allen has been a huge part of the last three playoff teams and credited the consistency of the organization overall in breeding the results set before us.
“You look at the culture we’ve got going on here, Allen stated. “I think it just kinda shows that the groundwork and the foundation that has been set the last few years is paying off. From top down, Kim and Terry, what they’ve been able to do, who they’ve hired. They’ve brought in the GM that we’ve got, the head coach that we’ve got. The camaraderie that we’ve had the last few years and the coaching staff too, I think that all pays dividends.”
While the ultimate goal is not to JUST make the playoffs, it’s the first step in the process.
“Again, that’s our goal at the start of the year, is to give yourself a chance to win the Super Bowl and you can’t do that unless you make the playoffs,” Allen continued. “So, everything we wants in front of us. I know a few weeks back it seemed pretty dull… we gotta keep things going.”
As I said earlier, McDermott deserves part of the praise, but if you know the coach, you know he is going to point to every other person before himself.
“Yeah, it means a lot. This is… I’m just one piece of it,” McDermott told reporters. “I think it says a lot about Terry and Kim and what they give us. And the resources they’ve provided us over the years. The partnership I have with Brandon and then the coaches doing a phenomenal job. A lot of good players through those four or five years now. It’s been a team effort, the fans included. It hasn’t all been the highest of highs all the time, but that’s to be expected around the NFL. Them [the fans] sticking with us has been important and it’s great to see them again today.”
When asked what it means to make the playoffs four out of five years now, McDermott didn’t allow himself to get too wrapped up in the moment.
“That’s what we expect,” McDermott continued. “That’s what we’ve talked about since day one. But, I don’t want to get too far ahead of us, you know? Lets keep our focus right where it needs to be, which is in front of us, this past game obviously and moving forward into next week.”
While the playoffs are now a lock for the Bills, the first ever week 18 in NFL history, will decide the ultimate fate of the team heading into the postseason.
In terms of seeding, a Titans win in Week 17 ended Buffalo’s long shot at the No. 1 seed and a bye week, but a win at home vs. the New York Jets, guarantees the Bills a repeat as AFC East champs.
With the division would come either the second, third or fourth seed and a home playoff game in the Wild Card round.