The Happiest of New Years

2 Jan

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A leap. A catch. A spin. A dash. That’s all it took for December 31, 2017 to turn from just another Bills New Year’s Eve into one that none of us will forget.

Tyler Boyd, a depth chart wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, was our courier pigeon that day. He carried an ever-important parcel to safety, like a Christmas present delivered a week late.

The Bills had taken care of their end of the show Sunday. Miami tried to prove spoiler, even resorting to benching the ever-ambivalent Jay Cutler after one lifeless series behind center. They brought in the hungry David Fales, a journeyman QB with something to prove. He nearly did, bringing the Dolphins back to within a touchdown before heaving a ball destined for Jordan Poyer’s clutches. That was it for Buffalo & the fans; all they could do was wait and watch.

The bleakness of missing yet another postseason – watching another playoff round with someone else’s team having that slim chance of going to the Super Bowl – it was right there. You could taste it as Joe Flacco hit Mike Wallace to complete a Baltimore Raven comeback 15 minutes earlier. Many of us were more fixated on that contest than the cakewalk that it proved to be in South Florida. The Bengals had staked a two touchdown lead, only to watch the defense on which Marvin Lewis prides himself squander it away.

After the final seconds ticked off the clock in Miami, the feed switched to M&T Bank Stadium. There it was, all the hope of Western New York rode on quarterback Andy Dalton & the Bengals. The same team that beat Buffalo in Week 5 could save that very franchise from yet another “almost was,” or “might have been.” Without their help, Bills fans would be left wondering, “What if the Bills could have beaten that Bengal team?” Or, “What if Sean McDermott had started Tyrod Taylor against San Diego?”

The latter question was certainly valid, and was likely to be an albatross on the young Head Coach’s neck going forward into the offseason. Any stumble out of the gate in 2018 might have gotten the vultures, both in the Bills Front Office and the Buffalo media, looking for answers. And given the advanced metrics from the 2017 season, it’s not far-fetched to believe the Bills will have a tough time finding the 0.500 mark in 2018.

Back to the Bengals-Ravens game, though. After two helpful penalty flags on the Baltimore secondary, the Bengals had left themselves a daunting 4th down and 12 yards to go just inside Ravens territory. As Dalton wound up to throw, many things could come to mind. But all that was in my mind was blank. I just blankly stared at the screen as the perfectly-arced ball eclipsed the underneath linebacker’s swat, coming to rest in Boyd’s awaiting hands. The receiver spun to the outside and upfield, splitting not only the Baltimore secondary while galloping into the end zone, but also their hopes of the postseason as well.

Sure, the Ravens got the ball back down 31-27. And sure, as a Bills fan, it’s tough to do much true celebrating until the clock reads 0:00. But that moment changed our world.

Instead of constantly chasing our tail, constantly changing leadership and staff, constantly being a punchline for the sporting world, we’re back in the playoffs. The ghost of those Super Bowl losses, the Johnson/Flutie debacle, and the Home Run Throwback finally shed, Sean McDermott & Brandon Beane have earned a solid portion of time to reshape an aging team that was built to win 2 years ago.

But that’s something we can talk about in a week or three. We’ve got some playoff football ahead, boys and girls. It’s the happiest new year we’ve had as Buffalo sports fans in 17 years.

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