After 17 years, the emotions are real

Buffalo Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) shows the ball after he intercepted a pass late in the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 22-16. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Like the Buffalo Bills did after their 22-16 win over Miami, I watched with interest the end of the Cincinnati-Baltimore game.

When teams need help in end-of-year playoff scenarios, they and their fan base often become fans of a certain team, if only briefly. I’ve never seen anything quite like Sunday though, as the members of Bills Mafia might as well have painted black and orange stripes on themselves.

And can you blame them?

It’s been 17 years since they last played in a playoff game, so when Andy Dalton connected with Tyler Boyd on a 49-yard touchdown on 4th-and-12 with 44 seconds left to lift the Bengals to the win, you can understand the reaction.

It was 17 years of frustration being let out by longtime fans. It was college-aged fans who have never seen a Bills’ postseason game reveling in the fact that they will finally get the chance to do so.

Like many of you, I spent my New Year’s Eve out and about, and I couldn’t help but notice the excitement among the many Bills’ fans I encountered.

I liken it to 2013, when the Pittsburgh Pirates ended 20 years of futility by qualifying for the postseason.

Only passionate fans who have suffered through years of disappointment can understand that feeling. It’s almost like winning a championship. Not quite, but close.

And how can you not feel just elated for a guy like Kyle Williams, a cornerstone player who has spent his entire 12-year career in Buffalo? It’s only fitting that the defensive tackle scored what would be the game-winning touchdown in the Miami game with a 1-yard plunge. He earned that moment, just like he’s earned the right to run out of the tunnel for a playoff game as the leader of a football resurgence in Buffalo.

And how about Sean McDermott? Not bad for a first-year head coach.

It almost doesn’t matter if they beat Jacksonville (a team that also ended a long playoff drought) or not, certainly not this year anyway. That’s not saying they won’t or can’t, but this isn’t New England or Pittsburgh, where playing deep into January is the norm. The fact that the Bills are crashing the party is enough reason to celebrate.

Next season, the expectations will be raised, but for now, Buffalo can enjoy simply getting in. They deserve to.