The Nine

Bills can end 25-year playoff victory drought against Colts

Josh Allen was 221 days old when the Bills last hosted a playoff game.

He was 143 days away from birth when they last won a playoff game.

And, as an NFL MVP candidate at quarterback, he is the reason a franchise mired in a 25-year drought can dream much bigger than just one more win — no matter how much coach Sean McDermott wants to keep focus on the journey.

“Nothing matters unless we win this one,” Allen said. “That’s our mindset, going from playoff-caliber to championship-caliber — something Coach McDermott always preaches to us.”

The Bills will be at home in the playoffs for the first time since Dec. 28, 1996 when the Colts visit at 1 p.m. Saturday. Buffalo is 0-5 in the postseason since 1995, including blowing a 16-point second-half lead in a loss to the Texans last season.

A crowd will be at Bills Stadium for the first time in this COVID-impacted season because Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing 6,700 fans as part of a pilot program for safely reopening businesses in New York.

“For this community to have a first playoff game in a long time is something we talked about since 2017,” safety Micah Hyde said. “Since Sean McDermott made a pitch to us in ’17 and said, ‘We’ve got to have a home playoff game.’

“Now we want to be walking into our stadium, go into the tunnel and listen to the salt crack underneath your shoes. And we’re here now, so the vision that we had since ’17 has come true. We are going to go out there and play our best for this community.”

On the Colts’ sideline, there will be a future Hall of Fame quarterback (Philip Rivers), a head coach beloved in Buffalo for a memorable playoff win as a Bills backup quarterback (Frank Reich) and four first-team All-Pros. But this game is about exorcising demons.

Especially for the 24-year-old Allen, who made costly mistakes that “still linger a little bit” in his mind during his first playoff game.

“The main lesson was not to press,” Allen said. “If I could change it, I obviously would. But I’m glad I can’t. I’m glad [for] the lessons I’ve learned throughout the game and really throughout the three years I’ve been playing so far. Without failure, people don’t know success.”

If the Bills win, the dam could break. They would be home favorites again next weekend and the biggest AFC threat to stopping the Chiefs’ locomotive. For the first time since 1980, all teams in the AFC bracket have at least 11 wins.

“Buffalo is the team that can beat Kansas City,” said Dan Orlovsky, ESPN’s “NFL Live” analyst. “To beat Kansas City, you have to be explosive on offense. You have to have a quarterback that can make something out of nothing. You have to have playmakers on the perimeter. You have to have a coaching staff that can go punch-to-punch with them. You have to have an opportunistic defense that can create turnovers. You have to own the football, time of possession-wise.”

Boxes checked all the way through the list — more so than in the past. After the offseason addition of first-team All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the Bills ranked No. 2 in total and scoring offense and flipped the defense-driven script of their previous two one-and-done playoff appearances under McDermott.

“Certain guys on our team this year weren’t on our team last year,” McDermott said when asked to look back on last season’s loss to the Texans. “We all always try to learn and embrace that growth mindset. If you do it, it helps you. But, at the end of the day, our preparation for this game comes down to how well we prepare this week.”

The other 1,254 weeks since the Bills’ last home playoff game won’t be forgotten by fans.

“Hopefully we’ll give them something to cheer about,” McDermott said. “The connection in Western New York to Buffalo Bills fans across the world is second to none.”

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