Like so many seasons before it, the Buffalo Bills saw their season end in utter heartbreak. Another year of Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback play wasted, another season where an administration that arrived in 2017 could not get the job done.
Time might be running out for the core at the center of Buffalo’s success, but as long as quarterback Josh Allen is under center, the Super Bowl window remains open.
Until Week 1, though, the only Bills victory can be a moral one.
Buffalo safety Jordan Poyer joined “The Pat McAfee Show” during Super Bowl week to reflect on the chaotic season. It may have started – and ended – in disaster, but the Bills’ home stretch of the regular season will be one the veteran remembers fondly.
“We were 6-6 midway through the season,” Poyer said. “A lot of people counted us out, didn’t think we were going to make the playoffs, let alone host a playoff game. And it just comes to show that the culture that we built out there since Sean [McDermott] has taken over, our backs are against the wall, everybody telling us this, that, and the other about the type of football team we are. Nobody blinked.”
Buffalo didn’t just have some run-of-the-mill injuries derail their season. The punches just kept on coming. Allen’s four turnovers blew the Bills’ nationally televised Week 1 game against the New York Jets, who had their starting quarterback for all of four plays.
Before the end of Week 5, their best player at each level of the defense – defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, linebacker Matt Milano, and cornerback Tre’Davious White – all suffered long-term injuries.
Only Jones would return before the season’s conclusion.
Poor turnover luck, special teams gaffes, and defensive inconsistencies put them on the brink of elimination before the bye week. Buffalo continued to embarrass itself in prime-time games, and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired after Week 10.
The sky was falling in Western New York, and that was before McDermott had to call a press conference to apologize for a speech that evoked the coordination of the 9/11 hijackers.
The Bills’ season could have ended there, before a Week 14 trip to Kansas City. Instead, that week kicked off the first of five consecutive wins to not only make the playoffs but topple the Miami Dolphins and claim an AFC East Championship.
“We were able to really hone in and say whatever’s happened, happened, it doesn’t matter, and we fought back,” Poyer said. “Obviously came up short, one team gets to win every single year. But you look back and you’re just proud of the moments that you’re able to overcome, the adversity that you’re able to overcome, all the stuff being thrown at us.
“We stuck together and that’s really what I’m most proud of. To be able to stick together in those specific moments.”
With free agency looming for veterans like safety Micah Hyde, Jones, receiver Gabe Davis, and more, Buffalo may find itself stripped for parts in a desperate attempt to surround Allen with talent as his cap hit increases. There’s no guarantee that Poyer, or several of his teammates, survive that roster turnover.
If this was the end of his seven-year tenure with the Bills, the safety would leave without a ring. But that’s a privilege only so many players get to experience. They came up short, but the journey to that fateful AFC Divisional Round won’t be lost on Poyer.