VIDEO: Bills Mafia greets division champs upon return to Buffalo

Precipitation and the wee hours of Sunday morning were no match for Buffalo Bills fans welcoming their team home.

The Buffalo Bills received a welcome fit for division champions as they arrived home from Denver early Sunday morning.

A contingent of fans, many of whom appeared to adorned in masks and face coverings, braved darkness and rain to greet the Bills at Buffalo Niagara International Airport upon their return from a Week 15 win in Denver. The victory allowed the Bills (11-3) to clinch their third playoff berth over the last four seasons and their first AFC East division title since 1995.

Bills fans, known as “Bills Mafia”, have been known to gather at the airport after big victories on the road, most recently doing so when the team returned from a Sunday night win in Pittsburgh last season. Social distancing protocols in the wake of the ongoing health crisis have prevented Bills Mafia, often referred to as one of the most entertaining and passionate fanbases in the NFL, from visiting Bills Stadium in Orchard Park this season. But they apparently sought to capture the game day experience, if only for a short while, after this monumental occasion.

With games in Orchard Park staged in front of empty stands, many newcomers to the team experienced the passion of Bills Mafia for the first time.

Among the chants uttered by the crowd were “Super Bowl” and “MVP”, the latter in reference to quarterback Josh Allen, who referred to the gathering as “wild” in his Instagram story. In other social media shares, Dion Dawkins and Josh Norman documented their drive out, where some overzealous, unmasked fans get somewhat close to their open windows. Trumaine Edmunds also shared his exit, though he kept his windows up.

Despite this, many fans appeared to be masked at the event. A socially distanced viewing party of Saturday’s game, a 48-19 win over the Denver Broncos, was held at the Transit Drive-In, which also hosted a viewing of the University of Buffalo’s football tilt in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game in Detroit the night before. The Bulls fell to Ball State 38-28.

The Bills return to action next Monday night against the New England Patriots (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) before their regular-season finale in Orchard Park on January 3 against Miami.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills seek to awaken run game, bolster defense as bye commences

The Buffalo Bills are off to their best start in literal decades, but they know that there’s room to improve as they hit their bye.

For fans of a team that hasn’t won a playoff game a Bad Boys movie came out…the ORIGINAL Bad Boys movie…you’d think Buffalo Bills fans would be perfectly content with a 7-3 mark in a season whose mere existence is seen as a miracle by some.

Still, concern reigns in Western New York football circles as the Bills hit their late bye week. By now, even those who haven’t touched a football in their lives have seen how the Bills’ most recent endeavor ended in the form of a collaborative miracle between Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. While the rest of the world marvels at the sight, the victimized Bills have to live with it for two weeks, powerless to stop the endless stream of replays that will inevitably come with the Arizona Cardinals set to play on national television on Thursday.

“It sucks going into the bye week because it’s going to be the only thing on our mind for a week and a half, two weeks,” quarterback Josh Allen remarked to Adam Unger of WKBW. “But at the same time, it’s fuel on the fire.”

From one perspective, heartbreaking losses are almost refreshing in Buffalo, which suffered through a playoff drought that would be allowed to see an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian, but they’re starting to pile up. Sure, the resurgent Bills are in a healthy spot when it comes to the slow-forming playoff picture, but the quest toward ending another drought, that in earning an AFC East title, is no longer assured thanks to the rise of the red-hot Miami Dolphins.

To their credit, the Bills have moved on in a mature fashion, knowing that nothing can be done about the Cardinals game and that there’s no better time than the present. That maturity also stems from knowing that the game was far from being decided by a single play. Buffalo held a 23-9 lead in the second half before allowing Murray to run wild.

“They made the play, the special play they had to make to win the game and beat us,” head coach McDermott said, per Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports. “But that game should not have come down to that play and, unfortunately, it did. So, we take our lumps, we live by it and we learn from it and it’s got to drive you harder, man. It’s got to drive us all harder to want it more. We felt like we came here, we made enough plays to win the football game, just didn’t make one more. It’s unfortunate.”

“I think we do have some good momentum, but we can also use this game as great teaching tape,” defensive end Jerry Hughes added in Unger’s report. “You gotta finish teams off in this league. Whenever you have a team on the ropes, you gotta finish.”

The bye week has given the Bills a chance to regroup as they gear up for what many believe could be a Super Bowl run. There’s certainly time to revel in the good accomplished during this stretch…after all, 7-3 is their best 10 game start since 1996…but the Bills know they’re reaching a point where a mere playoff trip isn’t a milestone of success. With that power, however, comes major responsibility.

Buffalo’s defense certainly took their share of criticism in defeat, especially with the aforementioned highlight still making its rounds. All things considered, one could certainly call Sunday’s output respectable after Josh Norman missed the game with a positive COVID-19 test and fellow starting cornerback Levi Wallace was also rendered absent due to contact. Seventh-round rookie To hold Murray in check as long as they did was almost a miracle, but they still let up 453 yards in defeat, the third time in the five that they’ve let up at least 400 yards. Buffalo has done a better job in forcing punts and turnovers (earning two on Sunday in Glendale), but defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has vowed to do some soul-searching during the bye.

“That game was such a unique game and even the game plan going in where we were very concerned about giving up plays over the top of the defense and yielded a little bit in the run game,” Frazier said, per Marcel Louis-Jacques. “We’ve taken a different approach going forward, but it was a unique game in itself and we learned some things from that game. We just tried to become more who we are.”

Offensively, the Bills will look into reforming their struggling rushing attack. After ranking eighth in the league in rushing last season, the Bills have plummeted to 29th in ground yards per game. That number plummets to 31st, ahead of only Chicago, if one removes a 190-yard outlier in their win over New England two weeks ago.

Rookie Zach Moss has been a reliable red zone option to the tune of three scores thus far and Devin Singletary has struggled to create sustainable momentum. Allen has taken on a majority of the rushing burden as a result, contributing to a problem McDermott called “a legitimate concern” according to Heather Prusak of WIVB.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has absolved his rushers of the blame, and is likewise seeking to do what he can in this process.

“We need to do a better job, it starts with me and we gotta do a good job of designing things for those guys that they can go out there and execute at a high level. And then we need to make sure we’re getting hat for hats at the line of scrimmage and making the proper reads and blocking the guys on the perimeter.” Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll explained in Prusak’s piece. “It takes all of us to get that job done. We’re not where we need to be in regards to the running game, we acknowledge that and we look forward to working on it particularly in this bye week and getting ready for the Chargers here in a couple of weeks.”

It’s a win in itself that the Bills sit at 7-3 and still see room for improvement. Alas, it’s not the kind of win that can count as paint in the slowly developing NFL playoff picture.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills announce COVID-19 related absences for Sunday’s game

Buffalo Bills CB Josh Norman has tested positive for COVID-19. Three players and an assistant coach will likewise miss Sunday’s game.

The Buffalo Bills announced on Saturday that cornerback Josh Norman has tested positive for COVID-19. Norman will thus not play in Buffalo’s Sunday visit to Glendale against the Arizona Cardinals (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). Three players who were determined to be in close contact will also be held from the trip, as will defensive assistant coach Leonard Johnson. Among the missing players are CB Levi Wallace, S Dean Marlowe, and TE Tyler Kroft.

Norman was expected to make his return to the Buffalo lineup after missing three games to a hamstring injury. The absence of he and Wallace comes as the Bills (7-2) take on an Arizona team that tops the NFL in total offense (422 yards per game). Buffalo’s three primarily cornerbacks (Norman, Wallace, and Tre’Davious White) have been communally active for only a single game this season. Though listed second in their respective depth chart rows, Kroft and Marlowe have made strong contributions to the Bills’ success. Kroft leads all Buffalo tight ends with 119 receiving yards and is tied for the overall team lead with three touchdown receptions alongside Gabriel Davis and Stefon Diggs. Marlowe is perhaps best known for recovering the crucial fumble that gave the Bills a 24-21 victory over New England two weeks ago.

According to Josina Anderson, Norman took four nasal COVID-19 tests, with half of them being positive/negative. Anderson remarked that Norman “sounded strong” when they spoke.

“It is what it is,” Norman said, per Anderson. “I’m handling it. I’ll be fine.”

In the wake of the absences, Buffalo called up the following members of their practice squad…

LB Darron Lee-Best known as a former first-round pick of the New York Jets, Lee earned a Super Bowl ring through the Kansas City Chiefs’ trek to the title last season. He was signed to the Bills’ practice squad on November 2.

CB Daryl Worley-Worley inked a one-year, $3 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys last offseason, but was released after their slow start and failing to find a trading partner. He earned 14 tackles over seven games in Texas, starting four games.

WR Jake Kumerow-Kumerow was part of the Green Bay Packers’ final training camp cuts in September, but he was signed by the Bills three days after his release to join their practice squad. Kumerow previously partook in last Sunday’s Buffalo win over Seattle, earning 16 snaps.

S Josh Thomas-An undrafted free agent out of Appalachian State, Thomas has played in one game with the Bills thus far, earning a tackle in their 24-21 win over New England in Week 8.

CB Dane Jackson-The Pittsburgh alum was the final pick of the Bills’ draft proceedings in April (239th overall). He earned second-team All-ACC honors last season and forced four fumbles a year prior in his junior campaign. Jackson previously stepped up for an injured Norman against the New York Jets in October and earned his first career interception.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

No, The New York Giants Should Not Pursue Josh Norman

The Washington Redskins have officially cut Josh Norman today. The veteran cornerback is once again a free agent. Prior to his tenure in Washington, Norman was with the Carolina Panthers from -.

Free agency is right around the corner and, granted, the New York Giants do need help in the secondary. However, Josh Norman is not what the Giants are looking for. Norman’s age, attitude, and poor recent performances take him off of the Giants’ list of targets.

Bad Blood With Gettleman

When the Panthers moved on from Josh Norman, Dave Gettleman was the team’s general manager. Since then, Norman has spoken out against Gettleman on numerous occasions.

In 2016, Josh Norman explained that he felt “stabbed in the back” by Dave Gettleman. He called Gettleman’s decision to rescind tag “totally out of left field.” Norman was a fan-favorite in Carolina, but, because of Gettleman, Norman had to find a home elsewhere.

Norman wound up signing with the Washington Redskins. After that, Gettleman signed with the New York Giants. Gettleman and Norman have been part of division-rival teams for the last two seasons. Norman has shared some choice words for his rival general manager. Here is the classless quote Josh Norman shared about Dave Gettleman last season:

“And that’s what I feel about the situation and him. If you really want to be honest, every time I see him, I really want to like smash [his] face in the grass. That’s how I really feel about it.” – Josh Norman on Dave Gettleman via NJ Advanced Media

The Giants do not need anyone in their locker room making classless quotes like that. And we definitely will not be seeing a reunion between Norman and Gettleman after that quote.

Mediocre Performance

In 2016, the Washington Redskins signed Josh Norman to a humungous 5-year $75 million contract. It is safe to say, Norman has not exactly lived up to his salary.

Josh Norman was benched in 2019 due to poor performance, so his release should not come as a surprise. The 32-year-old cornerback out of Coastal Carolina is at the end of the road. In the 12 games Norman started in 2019, he was targeted 46 times, allowing 31 completions (67.4%), 444 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Norman was a liability on the Redksins’ defense in 2019 and he should not be considered by the Giants in 2020.

The New York Giants Have A Chance To Prove Dave Gettleman Right Against The Redskins

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants are 1-2 but coming off of an astounding comeback victory. The Giants won on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week with Daniel Jones as their quarterback. This was the rookie’s first career start in the NFL and he was incredibly impressive.

Daniel Jones’s performance in week three was hugely important for the Giants. The team’s last two seasons ended with a combined 8 wins and 24 losses. After so many analysts were so critical of the Daniel Jones draft pick, it is important to see the Giants have a sense of direction and purpose for their future.

Daniel Jones was one of a plethora of controversial moves made by Giants general manager Dave Gettleman this offseason. In free agency, Dave Gettleman’s first controversial move was letting Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins walk in free agency. The move was perplexing to many, but so far it seems like Gettleman may have been right to withhold that humungous contract from Landon Collins. The Giants have a chance to prove their GM right this weekend as they face off against the Washington Redskins in MetLife Stadium.

Landon Collins’s Recent Struggles

The Washington Redskins signed Landon Collins to a record-setting deal this offseason. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden recently stated that they went after Collins because of his strong performances against Washington while Collins was still a member of the Giants.

Landon Collins did have excellent performances during his tenure with the New York Giants. However, towards the end of his time in New York, Collins began to struggle, particularly in pass coverage. Since signing with the Redskins, Collins seems to have brought those struggles along with him.

Collins has recorded 0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 0 forced fumbles, and 0 passes defended as a member of the Washington Redskins, as noted in the Tweet below:

How The Giants Can Prove Gettleman Right

The New York Giants’ secondary has been amongst the league’s worst in 2019. Nearly every player, rookie to veteran, has been struggling this season. The Giants have allowed 

One way to prove Dave Gettleman right would be for the Giants’ defense to have a strong outing. The Redskins’ offense features a few dynamic receiving threats that are bound to give the Giants some trouble. But if the Giants’ secondary can lock down Terry McLaurin and the rest of the Redskins receivers, Dave Gettleman will earn the right to brag about his decisions and Giants fans will be able to say that they do not miss Landon Collins.

Another way to prove Dave Gettleman right would be for the Giants’ offense to have a strong outing. The Giants’ offense looked excellent last week with Daniel Jones under center. The rookie signal-caller allowed Pat Shurmur to open up the Giants’ offense. Daniel’s ability to make plays as a runner and passer was a complete game changer and the reason the Giants were able to earn their first win of the season.

Daniel Jones threw for 336 passing yards last week against the Buccaneers’ defense and their excellent pass rush. Against the Redskins, Daniel Jones has the opportunity to unmask Washington’s secondary as overrated and overpaid. If Daniel Jones can air out another 300-400 yards this week, Dave Gettleman will have proven that he made the right calls letting Josh Norman and Landon Collins walk away from his teams.