The National Football League is all about competition. It is rare when you find one coach rooting for another, or players on one team rooting for players on another team.
But playoff dreams make for strange bed fellows.
The Buffalo Bills had not been in the playoffs since 1999, the longest drought in the league. And, when today began, it looked like the Bills would be on the outside looking in, once again.
In order to make the playoffs, Buffalo needed to beat Miami, and the Bills needed help. Baltimore would have to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals, a team the Ravens beat 20-0 in the opening game of the season. Of such things dreams are made.
The Bills held up their end of the bargain, knocking off the Dolphins by a score of 22-16. But, when they looked up at the scoreboard, Cincinnati was trailing Baltimore by a score of 27-24 with less than three minutes remaining. The Bengals had the ball at their own 10-yard-line, and things did not look good.
But then good Andy Dalton finally showed up again. He moved the Bengals to midfield with less than a minute to play, and found Tyler Boyd moving from left to right. He hit Boyd in stride, just over the outstretched arms of Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, and Boyd did the rest. Cincinnati had pulled out an improbably 31-27 victory.
Bills coach Sean McDermott was quick to express his gratitude.
“I’m so excited for our players and fans,” McDermott said. “Everyone has sacrificed so much to be here. Thank you to the Bengals. It’s such an emotional moment. No one gave this team a chance all year long. Our fans have been great all season long and I’m looking forward to seeing them at our playoff game.”
Sean McDermott: Thank you Bengals https://t.co/9frKUIskpP— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 1, 2018
McDermott was not the only one to offer a word of thanks to the Bengals. Chris Brown of the Bills' official website spoke for Bills fans everywhere, and the Bills personally thanked their sometime rivals in the AFC:
Bill’s defensive tackle Kyle Williams has been with Buffalo since 2006 and has never played in a playoff game. He celebrated the Bengals’ victory with his family and teammates.
And, although their season did not go the way they had hoped, the Bengals enjoyed playing the role of spoiler.