For the Bills players, Sunday night's game against the Chiefs is the most important one that they have played so far this season. Not because it's a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game, but because it's the next one on the schedule.
The players understand what's going to be written and said leading up to the primetime game, but they don't care about the storylines. They care about being as prepared as possible when they walk into Arrowhead Stadium just like they would against any other opponent.
"That's all it is, it's Week 5," Allen said. "I would assume that they're thinking the same thing. Everybody wants to make this big deal about the AFC Championship rematch, and I get that's what it is. But it's a new year and this team's different than last year and their team's different than last year."
This team is different than last year. They have the experience of making a deep playoff run and have more continuity between the players and the coaching staff. With new players brought in on offense and defense, this Bills team has a refreshed mindset and are laser-focused on their goal of winning the Super Bowl.
After practice, Allen was asked if the media is making a bigger deal of the matchup than the players think it is.
"That's our job, Allen said. "We're in the entertainment business, that's the narrative that sticks with it and as players, we understand that. But like I alluded to earlier, it's Week 5. Whether we win or lose, we're not going to let this game define who we are. We're going to have to keep learning and keep growing as the season goes on. But it is the biggest game because it's the next one. All of our attention is focused on this one."
Even if the players ignore the different storylines attached to this game, it doesn't mean they don't exist. It's no secret that this Bills team is going back to the place where they were denied their chance of playing in Super Bowl LV. The loss stung the Bills players, coaches and Bills Mafia everywhere. But that loss fueled the work that these players put in this offseason and was a reminder of how the team needed to improve.
In January, Stefon Diggs stood on the sidelines as he watched the red and yellow confetti fall as the Chiefs hoisted up the Lamar Hunt Trophy. He said he didn't want to run from the defeat but soak it in. That moment allowed Diggs to move on from the loss and made it possible for this game against the Chiefs to be just another game.
"I mean of course we hated the way that it ended last year," Diggs said. "Anybody with any competitive nature would hate the way that it ended. But it's a big game because it's the next game, and it's the same way that we approached all the games previous to this. So, I wouldn't make it more than what it is and we aren't doing that. What we're making it is the next game, and we gotta come out and execute and play better than we did the last time we played 'em."
The Bills defense has been playing better to start this season than they did last season. The team hasn't allowed an opposing team to score any points in the first quarter and currently ranks first in a number of statistical categories. Even though the Chiefs can score in a myriad of different ways, Tremaine Edmunds and the Bills defensive core are focused on trying to not do too much because it can lead to mistakes
"We're just making sure that we're doing the things that got us to this point, that's fundamentals, that's playing hard, that's playing physical," Edmunds said. "I think that's something that we bring into every game. It's not so much focusing on our opponent but focusing on things that we do and making sure that we're not losing focus on that. Making sure that we understand the things that got us to this point and just continue to execute."
Here are a few additional notes from Bills practice on Wednesday.
Scroll to see photos of the Bills as they prepare for their Week 5 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
More praise for Star
This Bills defense wasn't the same without Star Lotulelei in 2020. Since he has been back this season, he has made a number of plays for the Bills defense, and some don't end up on the stat sheet. In Week 3 against Washington, Lotulelei needed to be blocked by three offensive linemen which opened up many holes for the other Bills D-linemen. So far this season, Lotulelei is tied for the team lead in sacks (2) and has seven tackles, one tackle for loss and one QB hit.
McDermott knows the value that Lotulelei brings to this team and is glad that he's back with the Bills this season.
"I think his impact has certainly been on our team since he's come back," McDermott said. "Just from his quiet leadership, leading by example more than anything, but once in a while he'll speak up and say what needs to be said at the right time and I respect that, I have a ton of respect for that. Off the field than on the field, he has a presence about him in terms of how he plays and he obviously has an impact on the game, and the front for us."
Tremaine Edmunds reflects on being selected as Defensive Player of the Week
The Bills defense has gotten off to a hot start to begin the 2021 season. Tremaine Edmunds has been a key factor in the Bills defensive performance. Edmunds was named Defensive Player of the Week for Week 4 after he had a game with six tackles, one interception and one pass defensed and was a big contributor to the 40-0 win over the Texans. Edmunds appreciates the honor but is more focused on the bigger goals he has set for this season.
"I don't take it for granted, any small accomplishment in the league, I think you have to respect it," Edmunds said. "But I'm the type of guy now, I'm preparing myself for the game. You congratulate yourself for a while but at the same time, you got to understand what the bigger picture is, and I don't play the game just to be Defensive Player of the Week. Obviously, we play the game to win championships. So, I definitely take it and I congratulate myself because you got to celebrate those small accomplishments in this league, a league that's so stressful but at the same time you got to understand what the ultimate goal is."