I nonetheless bear in mind it prefer it was yesterday. The Buffalo Payments took a playoff lead with 16 seconds left on the clock, after which … they blew it.

Chances are you’ll assume I’m referring to final 12 months’s divisional playoff between the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs and the Payments. I might have been, however on this case, I’m truly referring to the 1999 AFC Wild Card sport between the Tennessee Titans and the Payments. The Payments wouldn’t make the playoffs for an additional 18 years after this loss.

The Payments are, sadly, the solely crew within the final 30 years to lose not one, however two playoff video games after taking a lead with lower than 25 seconds remaining on the clock.

A lesser fan base might need deserted their crew after losses like these.

Harry Enten very clearly remembers the Tennessee Titans' 22-16 AFC Wild Card victory over the Bills on January 8, 2000.

What it is advisable to know is that you just don’t develop into and keep a Payments fan as a result of it’s simple. You develop into and keep a Payments fan as a result of within the phrases of former Buffalo Head Coach Marv Levy: “When it’s too robust for them, it’s excellent for us.”

Final 12 months’s loss towards the Chiefs made Payments followers like me much more desperate to see the Payments lastly win a Tremendous Bowl.

And while you appeared on the statistics a couple of weeks in the past, it appeared like that optimism would pay dividends.

Heading into Week 17, the Payments had been tied for the very best document within the AFC. They held the tiebreaker over the Chiefs for a first-round playoff bye and residential discipline benefit all through the playoffs.

Then, it occurred: the second during which soccer took a backseat and even the hardest of males grew to become visibly emotional.

The collapse of Damar Hamlin on national television was a shocking moment for millions of viewers.

The close to loss of life of Payments security Damar Hamlin in entrance of a nationwide tv viewers might be essentially the most shocked I’ve been watching a dwell occasion unfold on tv for the reason that September 11 assaults.

The occasion had many parallels for American viewers to the sudden collapse of Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen on account of cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 had for worldwide ones.

However for nevertheless tragic Hamlin’s close to loss of life expertise was – like Eriksen’s subsequent restoration – the times afterward have been much more uplifting.

His wonderful survival and restoration, together with how Buffalo and, actually, the world rallied round him, embodied Levy’s phrases.

The NFL ended up canceling the Payments sport towards the Cincinnati Bengals throughout which Hamlin’s harm occurred. Whereas that was the right name, it had the aspect impact of permitting the Chiefs to have yet another win than the Payments as a result of Buffalo performed one much less sport.

The Payments now must play within the first spherical of the playoff because the Chiefs get the first-round bye.

Nonetheless, I really feel extra optimistic than I’ve felt in all my years as a Payments fan. I think about it’s how Buffalo followers felt through the 1990/91 season – the one which ended up with the Payments shedding on a final second missed discipline purpose by Scott Norwood to an underdog New York Giants squad (A aspect be aware: I’m too younger to really keep in mind that sport).

Once more, as I stated earlier than, a lesser fan base might need deserted their crew after shedding like that. As a substitute, Norwood was cheered at a downtown rally following the loss. The Payments would go on to develop into the primary crew to make 4 consecutive Tremendous Bowls … and subsequently lose every of them.

So why do I really feel so good after such letdowns?

A part of it might blind optimism. A part of it might be the excessive I’m feeling after the Payments defeated the New England Patriots final weekend, a sport during which Nyheim Hines returned the opening kickoff for a landing after which grew to become the primary participant since 2010 to return two kickoffs for a landing.

It appears like destiny is lastly on our aspect. In any case, it was three years and three months for the reason that Payments had returned a kick for a landing; quarterback Josh Allen threw for 3 touchdowns; and the Payments protection had three interceptions towards the Patriots. Hamlin’s jersey quantity is, after all, No. 3.

Josh Allen is looking to lead Buffalo to its first Super Bowl victory.

After all, I’m not one who historically depends on destiny. I’m actually the one “information reporter” at CNN.

So let’s speak about chilly arduous stats.

This weekend, the Payments will play the Miami Dolphins within the Wild Card spherical. They’re favored to win by double-digits.

After that, the street possible will get trickier within the AFC divisional sport, the AFC Championship sport and the Tremendous Bowl.

The Bills are the NFL's best team this season according to many indexes and metrics.

I do know, although, we have now the very best crew. Whether or not or not it’s ESPN’s FPI, FiveThirtyEight’s Elo or Soccer Outsiders DVOA, the Payments are the highest crew within the league in response to the metrics. The final of these indexes has the Payments as solely the seventh crew within the final 40 years to complete within the high 5 leaguewide in offense, protection and particular groups.

To paraphrase one other well-known quote from Levy, there actually isn’t any place I might moderately be as a Payments fan than proper right here, proper now.

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