After a Thanksgiving day win more satisfying than any turkey feast, Bills fans have much to be thankful for as November turns to December. You’ll have to forgive me for continuing to use the “what are you thankful for?” gimmick (gratitude never goes out of style, after all), but here are just a few things that I’m thankful for in this memorable Bills season.
1.) Bills exorcise some demons in front of 32 million people. What else could lead off the list of things that I and other Bills fans should be thankful for? As we all know by now, on Thursday, the Bills rolled into Arlington, Texas for the latest stop on their “NFC East Super Bowl Revenge Tour”. Giants? check. Redskins? check. Cowboys? Most emphatically, check. In the most exciting turkey day game of the NFL’s 100th season, the Bills flipped the “usual heartbreak” script — silencing doubters, quieting pre-show pundits, and giving Bills Mafia a deeply satisfying Thanksgiving gift.
Leading up to the game, just about every Bills player said there was nothing special or different about this game. To them, it was just win number nine that they needed to achieve, and nothing else. One needed only to listening to the chirps of Jerry Hughes and Jon Feliciano as they left the field as victors, though, or to watch former Cowboy Cole Beasley be hoisted into the air and passed around the riotous locker room after the game, to see that this was NOT “just another game” for the Buffalo Bills. This was, as one analyst put it, the perfect marriage of a grand stage, a huge audience, and a team that absolutely no one picked to win and in whom nobody outside of western New York had any faith.
The results? Much needed tonic to soothe the souls of Bills fans tired of arguing that their team is anything but “the worst 8-3 team in NFL history”. The script couldn’t have been written better by any Hollywood professional: Josh Allen coming of age in front of America and showing everyone his giant heart with a mammoth 1st down pile-pushing Incredible Hulk maneuver; Ed Oliver awakening from his rookie slumber with not one, but two sacks in pivotal moments — one of which took the ball out of the hands of Dark Prescott; the defense dominating; John Brown throwing an arcing touchdown pass to Devin Singletary; former Cowboy Cole Beasley’s revenge game — in which he snagged 6 catches for over 100 yards and a score and got the hero’s treatment in the post-game locker room. This game had everything.
Any Bills win is exciting for Bills Mafia. But THIS win? In front of the largest Thanksgiving day football audience in 27 years, and against the hated Cowboys, in Jerry World? THIS win, causing Jerry Jones to sink his face into his hands in despair, and then to get up and walk out of the owner’s box while the game was still in progress? THIS win, which showed the football-watching world the mettle and toughness and resolve of Sean McDermott’s Bills and proved that maybe they’re more than just Paper Tigers after all? This had to be the most exciting and satisfying Bills win of the past 20 years. Waking up Friday morning, I had to pinch myself. Did that all really happen the way I remembered it? Yes, yes it did. A Thanksgiving miracle.
2.) Brandon Beane’s bounty a boon to building Bills. To say we are all thankful for the Bills’ big win should come as no surprise. What allowed the Bills to dominate the Cowboys so thoroughly? It is impossible to discern the answer without taking a look at the job Brandon Beane has done in building this roster.
The game’s leading receiver was Cole Beasley, a shrewd free agency acquisition if ever there was one. The quarterback piloting the offense, of course, was the young gunslinger that Beane and crew traded all around the board to acquire and on whom the front office has pinned their hopes of building a champion, Josh Allen. And who gave Josh Allen ample time to find his open receivers? An offensive line composed of two McBeane draft picks at tackle and an interior three of free agent acquisitions. And how about the defense? Recent young draftees Edmunds, Milano, Oliver, and White leading the way while free agency and waiver wire additions like Kevin Johnson, Jordan Phillips, and Trent Murphy also made big contributions.
Whether it be offense or defense, Brandon Beane and his staff have built this roster with purpose. They have tuned out the outside noise, stuck to their plan, and in just under three seasons, they have built what looks to be an exciting young core that should compete for titles for years to come. They have cleaned up the salary cap, accumulated talented players at all levels of the roster, and still have 18 draft picks over the next two seasons and $90 million to spend this coming offseason. Beane’s front office has done a masterful job building these Bills, and we should all be thankful.
3.) Sean McDermott sets example of hard work, attention to detail, and resilience. Brandon Beane may have done a heck of a job buying the groceries, but the ingredients have all been expertly combined by a masterful “chef” by the name of Sean McDermott.
Put simply, a football team is a reflection of its head coach. He sets the example and the players follow it, for better or for worse. We’ve seen the “for worse” play out in Orchard Park: It looks something like Rex Ryan’s Bills trotting out only 10 players on a game’s most pivotal defensive play. Now we’re seeing the “for better” with the current Bills head coach. McDermott is smart, meticulous, strong willed, resilient, even-keeled, consistent, tough, and incredibly hard working. Wouldn’t you know it? So is his team. Witness Josh Allen bullying his way through an entire offensive line for a game-changing 1st down conversion. Behold the sight of young Ed Oliver staying mentally strong despite a recent trip to the bench, working at his craft, and seeing that hard work pay off in the form of two sacks.
The real hallmark of this Bills team? They love each other. Love is not a word we hear often in football. Since his first day at One Bills Drive, though, coach McDermott has been adamant that he was going to build a team for whom love for one another was a key component. I heard multiple players after the game mention, in way or another, that it was their love for their teammates that allowed them to fight so hard, to never give up. I heard Cole Beasley in his “Mic’d Up” video tell his teammates on the sideline, during the game, “I love y’all boys”. The players are tough, sure, and resilient, and strong willed, and all the things I mentioned above — but it is their love for each other and their not wanting to let each other down that counts most when the going gets tough. It may be a foreign concept to football fans, but the love this team has for each other is real, it’s important, and I’m thankful that it’s a key component of McDermott’s team-building strategy.
4.) Josh Allen has his best day on his biggest stage. Beane supplied the roster ingredients and McDermott combined them into a potent concoction, but one thing was still needed: a straw to stir the drink. An on-field example to whom everyone could look. A field general. A leader of men. Enter Josh Allen.
All of Bills Mafia is well aware at this point of all the negativity, insults, and defamatory comments that have been slung the way of #17. From the day he entered the draft, he has been derided, demeaned, and laughed at. On Thanksgiving day, though, in front of 32 million people, Josh Allen got the last laugh.
With a 79% completion percentage and a 120.9 quarterback rating, Josh Allen had his best day as a pro against the Dallas Cowboys. He ran well, he threw well, and he got the team in and out of plays efficiently and effectively. He piloted a near flawless no-huddle attack, setting protections and calling audibles. He scored twice and did not turn the ball over. And most impressively, on a crucial 4th down play, he found a way to convert using sheer strength of will, stubbornness, and grown man strength. Strangely but not surprisingly, it may have been his signature play as a pro. It showed the nation that despite his giant frame and giant arm, Josh Allen’s most impressive and important attribute is his giant heart. I am thankful that such a man leads the Buffalo Bills, and I believe he will do so for the next decade and beyond.
5.) Defense thoroughly stifles league’s #1 offense. What would a list of “things to be thankful for” be without mentioning the calling card of the 2019 Bills: the dominant defense? Whether it was the getting-better-every-week Ed Oliver arriving on the scene with two sacks, Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds completely eliminating the middle of the field in the passing game, Tre’Davious White blanketing receivers on every down, or Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer patrolling deep center field — The Bills defense had another in a long line of memorable games. This time, it came in the form of just about completely shutting down the league’s number one offense, led by a potent combination of Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott, and Amari Cooper. They limited the run, they flustered the quarterback, they collected turnovers. The Cowboys offense moved the ball, sure, but it didn’t put points on the board. This is nothing new to Bills fans, of course. Buffalo’s defense may bend, but it rarely breaks.
The Bills defensive players are young, they are fast, they are smart, they are disciplined, and they are extremely talented. While Josh Allen and his offense have been coming alive of late, it is the defense that sets the tone for this team, and it is the defense that should make them a legitimate contender for years to come.
6.) The reason any of this is possible? The Pegulas. The reason we can sit here today and discuss the Bills’ big win, the brilliant front office, the impressive head coach, the exciting young quarterback and defense? Terry and Kim Pegula.
It seems like a lifetime ago that Ralph Wilson passed away and the Buffalo Bills were up for sale. It’s easy to forget now, basking in the recent success and security of our favorite team, that our team was in danger of being taken away for good. It’s easy to forget that the Jon Bon Jovis and Donald Trumps and Rogers Investment Groups all loomed large, each with a plan to extract and transport the heart of the Buffalo to sunnier and more financially lucrative environs. So when you’re watching Josh Allen highlights or re-living the Bills-Cowboys game or piling the family into the car to head to New Era Field for a Sunday kickoff, take a moment to remember one thing: the Pegulas saved our team. I don’t need to go on at length about what the Bills mean to the city of Buffalo and mean to all of us fans, so I’ll just say this: imagine a world where the Buffalo Bills are, say, the Toronto Somethings. Or the Los Angeles Whatsits. Where greed had won out instead of the steadying hands of the Pegulas. Where The Buffalo Bills are nothing more than a memory.
To my eternal and limitless gratitude, we do not have to face such a reality. Instead, we get to face a reality where our favorite team is secure in western New York. Where the Bills have world class training facilities, a cohesive and bright front office, a brilliant coaching staff, and an exciting, young, and talented team. Thank you, Terry and Kim Pegula. Thank you a million times.
The Extra Point
So — that game on Thanksgiving day. That certainly was fun, wasn’t it?
The offensive fireworks, the defensive dominance, the Josh Allen coming-out party, the Jerry tears…what a day!
I don’t remember a time in the past two decades that a win was that satisfying, that enjoyable to witness. I also don’t remember the Bills going into any kind of statement game, any kind of prime time spectacle, any kind of big match-up with a big, national audience, and dominating so thoroughly and winning the game. For too long, the Bills saved their WORST performances for these types of games. On too many occasions, as the eyes of the football watching world turned toward the Bills on a Sunday night, a Monday night, or a Thursday night, the team folded like a cheap tailgate table, crushed under the pressure of the national spotlight.
Not on Thursday. Instead, the Bills had arguably their best and most complete game of the season. Impressively, they had just HAD their best and most complete game of the season the PREVIOUS week against Denver. They topped that performance this week against Dallas. What does that mean? It means the Bills are getting better, week by week. It means the offense is coming alive at just the right time, finally ready to complement the strong efforts of the dominant defense. It means the burgeoning young franchise quarterback is coming of age and appears ready to lead his team into the future. It means things are changing in Orchard Park.
As November turns to December and the Bills embark on an exciting and challenging slate of regular season games and then, if we’re lucky, postseason games — remember to take a moment to be thankful. Be thankful that they beat the Cowboys on national TV in a giant game for the franchise and the fans. Be thankful that Brandon Beane has done a masterful job building this team, and that McDermott is doing a masterful job coaching it. Be thankful that the Bills have a captivating field general with a giant heart and a disciplined and dominant defense. Be thankful to be part of the best fan base in sports. And most of all, be thankful to the Pegulas, for without them, none of this would be possible
It’s going to be an exciting December, Bills fans. You deserve it.
Just remember to be thankful.
Editor’s babble: That about sums it up. What a wild Thanksgiving weekend. Watching Tom Brady’s dying arm was just icing on the cake :) Thanks to Matthew Rule for his terrific contributions to our blog. You can find Matthew on Twitter @MatthewtheRule and posting on twobillsdrive.com’s Stadium Wall message board.