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10 things we learned from the Bills' final day of the 2021 season

Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs - AFC Divisional Playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, January 23, 2022.  Photo by Ben Green
Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs - AFC Divisional Playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, January 23, 2022. Photo by Ben Green

Not even 24 hours after Buffalo's gut-wrenching loss to Kansas City, several players met with the media to reflect, process and look ahead to an offseason that will be filled with a number of motivational moments.

Monday marked the Bills' locker clean out day where players meet with coaches and say their goodbyes as they head out to begin their 2022 offseason. Here are 10 things to know from today's press conferences.

1. How the Bills are moving on

The Bills came so close to hosting the AFC Championship game, but 13 seconds was all Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and kicker Harrison Butker needed to tie it up and send it to overtime. With a last second loss like that, moving on won't be easy. Many players are still processing what happened and for some, it still doesn't feel quite real.

"It still doesn't seem real but the reality is, we're going to have to process it," Bills running back Devin Singletary said. "Looking back, you know you gave it your all but of course, it's something that could have been done for us to win."

Similar to last season, Bills quarterback Josh Allen and his teammates want to use the loss as motivation.

"We're pretty hurt in this building today," Allen shared. "We wish we were getting ready for another game. But at the end of the day, it wasn't meant to be. We'll use this as knowledge as we go forward and use this as an experience and let this fuel the fire."

"We got to have a growth mindset about the whole thing and hope that we can get ourselves in the same position again or even better, playing at home in the seasons to come," Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips added. "But I think everyone eventually will kind of look at themselves and see what they could have done better, how we could have played as a group better."

2. What's next for Buffalo's high-powered offense

The Bills offense averaged close to 34 points a game in the final six weeks of the season, including playoffs. They averaged 41.5 points a game in the playoffs this year. Bills quarterback Josh Allen became the first player in NFL history to total nine passing touchdowns and no interceptions over the last two playoff games.

Those numbers are tough to beat, but the offense believes they can build off of their 2021 finish.

"I don't think there's any limit to where we can go," Dawson Knox said. "The ceiling is so high for us. Everybody started to see what we're capable of, everything started kind of rolling for us. Everything started clicking from the offensive line to Motor's (Devin Singletary) running game, which has been incredible. Obviously, our receivers are ridiculous."

Josh Allen agrees that the pieces in place for next year set up something worth looking forward to.

"You can't help but get excited for the future," Allen shared. "I know it seems pretty bleak right now, but I'm eager. It sucks that the season's over, but I'm excited for what this team is capable of."

Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis thinks it'll be important to grasp the energy the group had toward the end of the season.

"We have to make sure that we bring that same energy every single week," Davis said. "I think that was the difference. We just brought a totally different type of energy coming down the stretch of the season because we knew how important it was for us to be able to make this run. Unfortunately, it didn't end the way you wanted it but I'm proud of the guys for sure."

3. The difference from this loss against Kansas City vs. last year's AFC Championship loss

It's tough to look back, but the team sees some differences from last year's AFC Championship loss compared to this year's Divisional Round loss. Last season, the Bills lost by 14 points (38-24) and trailed for the final three and a half quarters of the game. This year, Buffalo lost by just six points in overtime and had the lead twice in the fourth quarter.

Even though Buffalo isn't heading to the AFC Championship game, they understand they were closer to a win against the Chiefs on Sunday night than last season.

"We went toe-to-toe with them," Josh Allen said. "If you look at the game last year compared to the this year, again, people say it was decided by a coin flip, so I think we're extremely close to where we want to be. Obviously, we want to execute better. We want to win that game, but in terms that this whole offseason really was geared toward trying to beat the Chiefs.

"They've been the sustained success the last few years, and that's what you want to be."

Dawson Knox wants to focus on becoming that team by building on the success of this season.

"This is just the start of something special we got going here," Knox said. "And we just want to continue to build on the momentum that we've set. We don't want to come up short again. We felt what that has tasted like over the last three years, and we want to break down that door instead of just knocking at it."

4. Why the team thinks big things are in store for Josh Allen

Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a heck of a finish to the 2021 season. In the playoffs, he averaged 385.5 combined passing and rushing yards and didn't throw one interception. Allen totaled 51 touchdowns in 19 games.

His teammates believe he is the best in the NFL and they can't wait to see what next year has in store after seeing how he finished the season.

"Josh is a natural born competitor," Gabriel Davis said. "He wants to win and you see it every single weekend. And what he did last night is no surprise. The week prior to that, had essentially a perfect game when it came to scoring on every single drive.

"And that's the type of leader that you want leading your offense. And I've got all my faith in Josh. He's the best quarterback in the NFL and I'll be by his side no matter what."

What is still a surprise to many is how people doubted Allen this season.

"If you're still doubting him at this point, I don't know if you know anything about football," Dawson Knox said. "No offense to anybody, but he's an MVP caliber player and he's shown that in every game that we played."

5. The defense breaks down their No. 1 year

The defense has a lot to be proud of this season even with the final game not going their way. They ended the regular season as the No. 1 total defense (allowing 272.8 total yards per game) and scoring defense (allowing 17 points per game).

The group thinks this level of play is the standard next season, and they'll lean on their leaders to help make that happen.

"Being accountable, making sure that we do the necessary things, the small things to win these big-time games," Tremaine Edunds said. "Nothing's going to change. We got to keep doing things that we were doing. We got a great group of guys, great group of leaders to lead each position group, and we just got to do that."

Through the ups and downs of the season, Harrison Phillips wants to make sure he remembers the high points.

"When you go back and look up the 2021 regular season, we'll be the number one defense in the world," Phillips said. "So I'm extremely proud of my teammates and the staff that coached us to have that accolade. But again, obviously winning would be more important than that accolade. But still, there's a lot to be grateful for.

"You have to look back, especially when the pain and the dust settles a little bit and be grateful for being like this."

6. What the offseason will look like

The NFL offseason always goes by quickly with the NFL Combine and free agency already approaching. Thankfully, the current players don't have to worry about that. They'll have the next few months to get their minds right and begin training for the 2022 season.

In the next few days, the focus is on taking time to rest, relax and reflect.

"Over the next couple of weeks, we're going to go find a beach somewhere, get football off our minds, rest, recover, just mentally kind of reset," Dawson Knox shared. "And then we'll look back at the game and learn from it. Then, just take it for what it is and keep building on this incredible franchise everyone's been building."

After recording 11 touchdown receptions, tied for the most by a tight end this season, Knox says his offseason program will be similar to last year's because of the production that followed.

Josh Allen will also stick to what's become routine for him in the offseason.

"Continuing to evolve in my knowledge and understanding of what defenses are trying to do and what they're going to do against me," Allen said. "Just finding ways to get better each and every offseason. Working with Jordan (Palmer) out there in California and just trying to hone in on all my mechanics and do everything I can to be the best quarterback and teammate I can be for this team."

7. Not ready for Brian Daboll to move on

Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has been a hot name for head coaching openings after engineering an offense that was hard to stop in the playoffs and one that finished top 5 in the regular season. Many young Bills players haven't played for any other offensive coordinator but Daboll and are very thankful for how he's helped their careers blossom. Nobody wants to see him go, but they know he deserves to be a head coach.

"Selfishly we want to keep him here," Dawson Knox said. "He's shown that he's an elite offensive coordinator. But if he does end up somewhere with a head coaching job, I think there wouldn't be a single person in this building that would wish something bad for him.

"Everyone loves Dabs. Everyone wishes the best for him. So, we're excited for the future for him, whatever that might be."

"Coach Dabs is a great OC and he just thinks differently when it comes to the game of football," Gabriel Davis said. "And he knows the game of football very well, and I'm so glad that I was able to have such a great OC like him my first years in the league."

Josh Allen said if Daboll takes a head coaching job, he hopes to have a say on who the Bills hire as the new offensive coordinator. Allen shared he's already a fan of someone in the building moving into that role, should it open. That someone is quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Ken Dorsey.

"The way he approaches the game, he's competitive, he's smart," Allen said of Dorsey. "You know, he works his ass off. I appreciate what he's done for me over the course of my career so far."

Allen also shared Dorsey has helped him change the way he views the game of football.

8. Why Leslie Frazier is special to the defense

Like Daboll, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been a popular name for head coaching vacancies. After leading the NFL in several categories since he took over in 2017 and putting together the No. 1 defense this year, his players know he would make a great head coach.

"His approach is very methodical and professional, and we all appreciate Coach Frazier," Harrison Phillips said. "But like you mentioned, I hope that he becomes a head football coach, and that's one of the goals that he has for himself. He deserves it. And I think that organization will be getting someone who understands how to change the culture of a program and how to play great defense."

Looking back on his four seasons, Tremaine Edmunds can't put into words how Frazier has helped his career.

"He's meant a lot," Edmunds shared. "I've got a ton of respect for him. It's exciting that he's getting these opportunities. He has helped me developed into a good player."

9. Harrison Phillips wants to be a Bill next year

Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips had a productive end to the 2021 season and was an important piece to Buffalo's interior defensive line. Phillips collected six quarterback hits, four tackles for loss and 58 total tackles this year, including playoffs.

With his fourth year completed, he now becomes a free agent and is hoping to stay in Buffalo.

"They know my value better than any other team because they've got to see the person that I am obviously, on the field, but the things that you can't measure, the leadership qualities and what I do in the community here and all those things," Phillips added. "So I would hope to be here. There haven't been any talks yet, but I would love to avenge these three years in a row now in the playoffs on the road losing."

Phillips said he thinks the current group of defensive linemen work together well and he would love to be a part of it again next season.

10. Looking back at how the rookies performed

The Bills played several of their rookies this season, and a few saw a large snap count in several games. Right tackle Spencer Brown and defensive end Greg Rousseau saw a lot of action in their first season. Tackle Tommy Doyle and defensive end Boogie Basham also had meaningful snaps in several games.

Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins shared Brown and Doyle are the perfect example of how rookies should operate.

"They showed their talents when they were supposed to, they took care of the older guys, they were here on time, they didn't complain, they got the job done," Dawkins said. "I am excited for those two guys' futures."

Harrison Phillips thinks Rousseau and Basham will be talented players in the NFL for years to come.

"I told both of them, as we were walking off the field there, how proud I was of them for having a hell of a rookie year," Phillips shared. "And I let them know that they're both going to be in football games like that many times in their long, long careers and to have this motivate them for the offseason."

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