No one was watching the last game of the NFL's regular season more closely than the Buffalo Bills. There wasn't much pending on the outcome of the Cincinnati Bengals-Baltimore Ravens game — only a playoff spot, the hopes of a team and the dreams of a city and its long-suffering fans.
The Bills did their part, beating the Dolphins in Miami. All the Bills needed to secure a playoff spot was a victory by the Bengals, who were playing the Ravens in Baltimore, but nothing was as simple as that sentence makes it sound. The Ravens were up late, 27-24, and the Bills, many still in uniform, watched anxiously in their locker room as, for the Bengals, the game came down to a fourth-and-12 play at the Ravens 49 with 53 seconds left.
Andy Dalton, the oft-maligned Andy Dalton, fired a pass to Tyler Boyd and the locker room erupted as Boyd broke free for the touchdown that lifted Buffalo to its first playoff berth since 1999 even as it crushed the Ravens.
This was about more than a simple playoff berth, though. "This win is for the city of Buffalo," Richie Incognito told SI.com's Peter King. "This is for the people from all walks of life, the average Joes who show up at all our games, in rain, sun, wind, snow, sleet, everything. And all they do is root their [butts] off for us. The city's the butt of jokes, everybody makes fun of us. But these people, they just keep coming and supporting us, week after week. They're amazing. The city's amazing. I am just so excited for them, for everyone in the city."
When the excitement had settled, the Bills did what would make any parent proud: They sat down and wrote a nice thank-you note to the Bengals before turning their attention to the wild-card game against the Jaguars on Sunday (1:05 p.m. EST, CBS) in Jacksonville.
After we handled business in Miami, we needed you and you came through for us big time. On behalf of this team, the City of Buffalo and Bills fans around the world, thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU!
Wings on us. (No, really, we're sending wings.)
The Buffalo Bills"