The Bills will win a playoff game in January. (One asterisk: As long as game one is not in Kansas City.) Three plays made me a Bills believer Thursday in Dallas, two consecutively late in the first half.
1. On fourth-and-one at the Dallas 30, Josh Allen took the snap and fumbled immediately; there was a scramble for the ball, and Allen, more eager than the Cowboys in the scrum, picked it up and scrapped and fought for three yards. First down.
2. Next play: Allen under center … wideouts John Brown and Andre Roberts split right … John Brown in motion, from right to left, gets set wide right … ball snapped under center to Allen as Roberts goes in motion to the left. Allen flips to Roberts … Brown comes back in motion to the right, and Roberts tosses to him, and Brown runs right, pausing at his 38 … Seven Cowboys in or near the box … Brown threw 31 yards in the air to a totally uncovered Devin Singletary, a strike. “Look at that throw—perfect spiral!” Tony Romo said on CBS. This was Brown’s first pass attempt in nine collegiate and NFL seasons. A perfecto.
3. Third play: Allen, from the Dallas 15 late in the third quarter, running around right end toward the end zone, one man (Dallas safety Xavier Woods) to beat—and John Brown, all 176 pounds of him, eliminates Woods, finishing the block at the goal line by wrestling Woods to the ground.
Three plays. The personality of this Bills team. A quarterback who’s a fighter, role players who do what’s asked even if it’s not their forte, imaginative coaches. All buttressed by a punishing defensive front that was gashed a bit too often against Dallas but still shows signs of being a January competitor.
John Brown. Three years, three teams (Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo.) “Great example of our guys: well-coached, fundamentally sound and we coach the fundamentals every day, and he buys into everything we ask,” coach Sean McDermott told me. “We tried getting him last year, and he chose Baltimore, and we went after his again this year. I’d be lying if we said we knew everything about him. You wonder why he goes to a team here, team there, and he never stays in one place. We’re glad he came to us—he’s so good for us.”
The pass, though. He’d never thrown a pass before, I told McDermott.
“It was one day in training camp,” McDermott said. “you know, you’ve got a lot of practices, you want to check some boxes, We thought, Let’s see who can throw it. Give the credit to [offensive coordinator] Brian Daboll. He comes to me after he has all his guys throwing the ball and he says, ‘Hey, John throws it pretty good.’ We think maybe he could do it. So the last maybe five weeks, we’ve been practicing it, waiting for the right time to run it. It’s a good gadget to have. Today, we said let’s trust these guys—they can do it.”
The block, though. He’s never been known for blocking, I told McDermott.
“That’s him,” McDermott said. “I know John’s been overshadowed by other guys who get more attention, but this is a great example of who he is. He fits Buffalo. He fits who we are. We ask all our guys to block in situations like that. He’s like our guys: unselfish, loves to work, loves football, does what it takes.”
I’m not sure if I touched a nerve with McDermott. This was just a short, seven-minute conversation, him on the airplane at DFW waiting to fly back home. But I asked him what he was thinking as he walked off the field after his team handled the Cowboys, with 90,445 watching, on national TV, in a game the Cowboys had to have, to advance the Bills to a totally unlikely 9-3, a little-engine-that-could team still breathing on the Patriots’ necks. He sounded a little emotional. Yes, this was a very good day for a coaching lifer.
“As we walked off the field?” McDermott said. “I was just grateful. I am a man of faith. I am blessed to be in Buffalo. We’re building something special. It’s humbling to be a part of it, for all of us.”