Maybe this IS the Bills’ year.
Could it be that all of the bad fortune which had descended upon Buffalo’s teams in recent seasons is taking a sabbatical?
Another example came Sunday afternoon at Nissan Stadium where Bills fans seemingly took over Nashville and saw their team grind out a gritty victory over the Titans that was sans style points, featuring a dozen punts and 11 Buffalo penalties.
The Bills’ 14-7 triumph was reminiscent of another NFL era and needed a major contribution from Tennessee kicker Cairo Santos but, as the cliche goes, “It’s not how … it’s how many.”
And, inartistic though it was, on this rainy afternoon in Music City, 14 points were enough.
Best of all, Buffalo’s playoff hopes got a major boost heading into its bye week.
At 4-1, the Bills, incredibly, have the second-best conference record behind East division leader New England at 5-0.
If the post-season started today, Buffalo would be the No. 1 wild card, a full game ahead of Oakland (3-2) and possibly Cleveland, pending tonight’s game at San Francisco.
Better still, after a week’s rest, the Bills head into a friendly six-game stretch: Miami (0-4), Philadelphia (3-2) and Washington (0-5) at home, at Cleveland (2-2) and Miami and home with Denver (1-4).
Most realistic Buffalo fans could see their team emerge from that stretch with at least four, and possibly five wins. And, given the conference’s struggles this season, eight or nine victories would look awfully good heading into the schedule’s final five games.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS from the win over Tennessee:
Sunday’s goat for the Titans — in this case, it doesn’t mean Greatest of All Time — was kicker Cairo Santos who missed four field goals. Having 50 and 53 yarders sail wide is no crime, kicks from those distances are lower percentage. But he also missed a 36-yard chip shot and had a 32-yarder blocked by rookie defensive end Darryl Johnson.
It would be shocking if Santos is still on Tennessee’s roster come the Titans’ next practice on Wednesday.
His disastrous performance recalled a similar long afternoon by Buffalo’s Scott Norwood back in December of 1991.
The Bills played the Raiders, then based in Los Angeles. Norwood missed all three field goal attempts in regulation — 32, 36 and 49 yards — before hitting a 42-yarder in overtime for a 30-27 win.
When the team got back to Buffalo, running back Thurman Thomas was asked about Norwood’s tough day and responded, “It’s a good thing he hit that last one or we’d have thrown him out of the plane over Iowa.”
He was kidding … presumably.
Luckily for Santos, he was kicking in a home game.
ONE OF Bills’ icon Marv Levy’s favorite anecdotes went, “Coaches who listen to the fans are destined to sit with them.”
But while it’s an apt message delivered in an amusing fashion, there’s another side of it.
Ever since the preseason, the Buffalo faithful has wondered why Duke Williams, the former Auburn and Canadian Football League star who signed as a free agent, didn’t make the original 53-man roster.
Indeed, the wide receiver was cut, passed through waivers, then re-signed to the practice squad.
While he was there, wideout Zay Jones, a second-round pick in 2017, in the first four games was targeted 18 times and caught a mere seven balls for 69 yards and no touchdowns.
On Saturday, with an open roster spot and no need to activate practice squad QB Davis Webb with Josh Allen out of concussion protocol, Buffalo not only promoted the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Williams, he was also one of the 46 active players for the Tennessee game. And he didn’t disappoint the team in such desperate need for a big-body receiver.
Williams was targeted four times and caught all four balls for a modest 29 yards, but one of them was a 7-yarder for the winning touchdown.
Jones was also active, but never played a down on offense.
Coach Sean McDermott, when asked about Williams’ performance, admitted, “He did a good job … like the rest of us there are some plays he’d like to have back. I loved his juice … the toughness he brings. He’s earned it. The way he practices, his habits one practice through another the first four weeks, he made plays and made them consistently.”
But he added, “It’s one game, and we’ll take it one game at a time … it’s important that he improves. We have to manage our expectations, he’s a young player but he gave us something today. We’ll see what happens as we continue to move forward.”
Of course, the more cynical Bills fans have lit up social media wondering why Williams was languishing on the practice squad while Jones was on the active roster contributing virtually nothing. The persistent conclusion was that McDermott was reluctant to concede that his second-round pick from two years ago was trending toward “bust.”
McDERMOTT’S final question at his press conference was whether he saw his team benefited from some good fortune — two Tennessee touchdowns were called back on the same fourth-quarter drive, besides the missed field goals — in escaping with the win.
He admitted, “One of my mentors, the late, great Jim Johnson said ‘You need some luck’ and he was right.”
(Chuck Pollock a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)