BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills consider they will be again.
The Payments are younger; most of their core gamers are both signed to multiyear extensions or nonetheless on their rookie offers. Their teaching workers, whereas not fully away from uncertainty with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey drawing curiosity from different groups, ought to stay largely intact for the fourth straight 12 months.
And now, they’re skilled — even when that have is the ache of falling wanting one thing the franchise has by no means completed.
“It stings to get this far. Generally the additional you go, the more durable it’s to lose,” Payments coach Sean McDermott mentioned. “It is a studying expertise for us as a company. We have got to clearly get again to work.”
Buffalo has little to be ashamed of after profitable its first AFC East title since 1995 and its first two playoff video games because the flip of the century. The Payments entered the playoffs arguably the most well liked crew within the NFL, profitable 9 of their final 10 video games en path to the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
Quarterback Josh Allen, though he had his lowlights in Sunday’s recreation, blossomed into the franchise quarterback normal supervisor Brandon Beane hoped for when he traded as much as draft him in 2018. Allen set single-season franchise data in each main passing class and earned his first Professional Bowl choice and presumably an MVP vote or two. Vast receiver Stefon Diggs couldn’t have envisioned a greater Buffalo debut season as he completed because the NFL’s chief in receptions and receiving yards.
However the league’s subsequent nice quarterback-wide receiver duo wasn’t sufficient. The Payments aren’t at Kansas Metropolis’s stage fairly but.
“They’re the reigning Tremendous Bowl champs for a purpose and so they had been the higher crew tonight,” Allen mentioned.
Final season’s playoff loss felt totally different. A blown 16-point lead in opposition to the Houston Texans caught within the Payments’ minds all offseason and was a part of the rationale for the crew’s offensive renaissance. It was apparent Buffalo wanted reconstruction on that facet of the ball, and till it occurred no one may say to any diploma of certainty that the Payments would win the AFC East in 2020.
However now, barring a serious commerce — Houston’s Deshaun Watson to the Miami Dolphins, maybe? — the Payments ought to enter the 2021 season as favorites to defend their division title. They do not want main development on both facet of the ball; however that is to not say they’re able to run it again subsequent season.
The backfield duo of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss was not efficient sufficient in 2020. Beane might want to give the pair one other go subsequent season or tackle the place this offseason. Cody Ford‘s return from a torn meniscus ought to assist solidify the offensive line, however Beane will doubtless must determine between re-signing Jon Feliciano or Daryl Williams, each of whom can turn out to be free brokers quickly.
Linebacker Matt Milano is Buffalo’s largest pending free agent and ought to be excessive on Beane’s precedence listing. The Payments may take into account adjustments in an effort to tailor their protection to stopping Kansas Metropolis, which is clearly the looming impediment standing in the best way of any AFC crew’s hopes of reaching the Tremendous Bowl.
“On the finish of the day, that is our measuring stick,” McDermott mentioned. “In case you lose within the AFC Championship Sport, that is the crew we have got to beat. So, we have got to do every little thing with that in thoughts this offseason.”
It obtained them this far — Beane traded for Diggs and drafted two large receivers final offseason in an effort to maintain up with the AFC’s different high-scoring groups. Perhaps meaning including much more weapons and pace on offense. Buffalo tied with the Tennessee Titans for the league’s second-best offense behind Kansas Metropolis this season, however nonetheless appeared prefer it was on a very totally different tier.
Chiefs tight finish Travis Kelce and large receiver Tyreek Hill, specifically, did no matter they needed all through Sunday’s AFC title recreation, combining for 290 yards and two touchdowns on 24 catches.
“They’re an amazing soccer crew for a purpose, they’re defending champs for a purpose,” Payments security Micah Hyde mentioned. “They have weapons all around the subject. Clearly, lots of people attempt to restrict them, giving up explosive performs up prime, so they simply run the ball. We tried to cease the run, and so they’ve obtained guys on the surface [Kelce) and [Hill] who can kill you.
“You noticed tonight, [Kelce] was open, [Hill] was simply catching these little brief balls or no matter and going off. It was troublesome.”
Beane most likely did not sleep a lot Sunday evening; the concept he hasn’t given McDermott and his teaching workers sufficient to work with retains him up at evening, and the Payments actually did not appear like that they had sufficient in opposition to one of many NFL’s finest groups.
However they’re shut.
Stefon Diggs is on the sector after the Payments’ AFC championship loss to observe the Chiefs’ trophy presentation.
And as Diggs stood by himself after the sport, watching the Chiefs have fun their second consecutive convention title, it is not troublesome to think about crimson and blue confetti surrounding an elated Payments crew at the moment subsequent 12 months.
“It may gasoline us. I’ve little question in my thoughts that we’ll be again,” Allen mentioned. “We’re nonetheless younger and we’re solely going to get higher. That is one factor I take from this. We’re shut. The outcomes weren’t good tonight, however I am tremendous happy with how our crew fought all season and the way we bonded collectively.”