When the power went out in Bills coach Sean McDermott’s house Friday night, the generator kicked in, but then the generator went out. So McDermott, snow above his waist, went out to try to fix it. “An NFL head coach in a blizzard, trying to fix his generator,” he said Sunday. “Crazy.” Finally, a repair guy came around 10:30 and fixed it so the McDermotts could go to bed. Good thing, because the power went out again. This time the generator worked through the night.
The Bills set up a system to get all the coaches and players to the stadium so they’d be able to fly to Detroit late in the afternoon on Saturday. A couple of players had to walk, with luggage, a half-mile to get rides to the buses.
A retired farmer from Orchard Park, Dave Winter, aka “Squirrel,” has a John Deere tractor with an eight-foot-wide bucket on the front, good for clearing eight-foot-wide swaths, like driveways, in short order. So Squirrel was out in Orchard Park Saturday afternoon being the good neighbor he is, when he came upon a neighbor at the end of one of the longest driveways in town. A small plow was no match for this driveway, with maybe 55 or 60 inches. “Oh, quarter-mile long, I’d say,” said Squirrel. “Maybe more.”
Squirrel stopped. “I said to my neighbor Norm, who was there, ‘You need a path blown through?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, ask that guy.’ Well, I don’t know that guy, an older gentleman, but he says he went to school with my cousin, and so I asked if he needs help here and he says, ‘Sure!’ So I did the driveway, cleared a good path there, and I get up to the garage and the door opens and Josh [Allen] is standing there. Probably the whole thing took a half hour. Got out, shook his hand. Told him, ‘Good luck tomorrow.’
“I introduced myself. ‘Dave. Dave Winter. When you think of snow, think of me, Winter.’ I says, ‘We got that red machinery shop, the farm just down the road.’ Looked like he was in a hurry. Didn’t have time to chit-chat. So that was it.”
“What would have happened if you didn’t come along?” I asked this man known as Squirrel.
“Oh, my guess is they woulda put him on a snowmobile, taken him down that long driveway and out into the street, and somebody woulda come and got him,” Squirrel said.
When the Bills finally boarded buses after 4 for the trip to the airport, the two main roads were closed. So the Bills had to crawl through town streets that had been plowed. “Classic western New York towns,” McDermott said. “Orchard Park, West Seneca, a few more.” Depew, Lancaster, Cheektowaga. “It was so great. People on the side of the road, giving us the thumbs-up, taking pictures, waving, cheering. Just awesome.”
Ever hear of barn-raising? In Amish communities, when a farmer needs a barn built, or some other project done, people from miles around come in for two or three days to do the building or the job. That’s Buffalo. That’s what happened here, with the Bills, and with the neighbors. Raise your hand if you need help.
“This weekend is a reminder that there’s a lot of good in this world, still,” McDermott said.
Now for the game. After no practice Friday or Saturday, the Bills got to Detroit around 7 Saturday evening. Cleveland went up 10-3 as the Buffalo offense sputtered through the first 25 minutes of the game. But a late second-quarter TD pass from Allen to Stefon Diggs in the back of the end zone gave Buffalo the lead, 13-10. The Bills rolled to a 28-10 lead and the game was over midway through the fourth quarter.
Stefon Diggs has entered the chat.
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— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) November 20, 2022
The Bills decided to go home after the game instead of staying in comfier, snow-less Detroit. Seemed smart. They could sleep in their beds for three nights before returning at midday Wednesday. As much as we think, Just stay and practice in Michigan, so many of the players and coaches have families who need them. It was the right move to go back.
Allen, for his part, wanted to give a shout-out to his new pal Squirrel after the game. Squirrel, he said, “came with a big old tractor and dug me out. When I was going down the driveway, the radar in my car was beeping, like I was about to hit something.”
Squirrel’s going to be famous after this, Allen was told.
“He should be. He’s the man.”
In Buffalo this weekend, the community was the man.
Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column