When addressing the media following the Bills' 41-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans, head coach Sean McDermott shared that there are things come up in life that are more important than football; that feeling was evident on Monday night.
As several players went down with injuries on both sides, including Bills CB Dane Jackson who had to be taken to the hospital with a neck injury, the raw emotion could be seen from both sides.
"It says a lot about the guys, how much they care about each other," McDermott added. "The game is important and trying to win a game is important, but there are bigger things, especially at that moment when your teammate's down there and just trying to care for him everywhere we could."
"There are a lot of guys on our team that have been going through things, and I'm real proud of the way that they got their mindset where it needed to be at least for three hours tonight because life is real. We're very grateful to be able to do this."
Bills step up as injuries mount
Heading into Monday night's game, the Bills were already without WR Gabe Davis (ankle), DT Tim Settle (calf), and DT Ed Oliver (ankle). And by the time the Bills sealed their 41-7 victory over the Titans, a handful of active players found themselves sidelined.
But the team rallied together to show support for these injured players, while also securing the win.
"It's really hard to win, especially when we've got some guys banged up coming into the game and real proud of the way the guys that filled in stepped up and that's what you have to do through the course of a season," McDermott said. "It's a journey. We lost Gabe on Saturday, and then (Khalil) Shakir steps in, Jake (Kumerow) steps in, and they raise their game and that's what you got to do through the course of the season."
WR Jake Kumerow was called upon in Davis' absence and he contributed with two receptions for 50 receiving yards, the second-highest total behind WR Stefon Diggs. Quarterback Josh Allen shared the team has trust in Kumerow and the QB proved that on a long 42-yard connection with the wide receiver that resulted in a first down.
"Jake made some really good plays for us tonight on third down, early on the game, it was huge," Allen said. "The long run obviously, going in there getting his nose dirty, blocking in the run game."
Early in the first quarter, center Mitch Morse left the field and was taken in for X-rays of his right elbow. Morse eventually returned to the field late in the second half, but Greg Van Roten stepped in at center while Morse was out.
"It just seemed like it was a new player every series, if you will, whether it was Van (Roten), stepping in when Mitch went down," McDermott said. "The thing I love about it is there's no hesitation. I look up and Van is already there, which is awesome."
Later in the first half, Jackson was taken off the field in an ambulance with a neck injury that he suffered on a hit. Once teammates saw him down, they were quick to leave the sideline to be by his side on the field. The team later announced that he will be getting a CT scan and an X-ray, but he has full movement in his extremities.
"It's tough especially because that's one of the guys," Diggs said. "We got a tight-knit group on this team. 30 is my guy. We share the same birthday, so that's my birthday twin. Praying for him. He's going to be alright; we got his back."
With Jackson unable to return, rookies Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam slid in at the two cornerback positions in his place.
"When Dane went down they were both out there, not the whole game, but kind of the rest of the second quarter there and then third, for the most part," McDermott said. "They really embrace that growth mindset. They're working to get better every day. They're coachable. They listen. And they not only listen to their coaches, but they listen to the veterans that are around them."
Injuries to Bills players carried into the second half when LB Matt Milano (stinger), DT Jordan Phillips (hamstring), and Micah Hyde (neck) all left the game early and did not return.
"Prayers going out to Dane and Micah and Big Phil and everybody who took a little tumble tonight," Allen said. "A lot of guys going down in this game and it's a physical game, so prayers up for those guys, and hopefully we can get them back soon."
Next game mindset
To go up 2-0 to start the season is big, especially when beating the defending Super Bowl champions and last year's top seed in the AFC. Bills players said they will enjoy Monday night's win before quickly moving on to their next opponent, the Miami Dolphins.
"Good complementary team win tonight," Allen said. "But anytime you beat a good team, it's hard to win in this league, so we'll enjoy this one and turn our focus to the Dolphins tomorrow."
The Bills are 2-0 heading into next week, but so are the Dolphins. The Bills know that their Week 3 opponent has been playing some good football in the first two weeks of the season, so they're preparing for them to do the same in less than a week.
"We've got a tough game coming up," McDermott said. "Six days, quick turnaround, a 2-0 team in the division down there. They look really strong right now."
In preparation for next Sunday, the team will turn to film from their performance against the Titans to clean up certain areas of the game so they're ready for the next challenge in facing the Dolphins.
"They got a good football team," Diggs said. "They always have a good defense, and that offense has come a long way. They got some real good pieces. They're explosive. It's definitely going to be another test for us. It's in the division, so we got to get a win."
Miller finally gets a real taste of Bills Mafia
LB Von Miller has been familiar with Bills Mafia for a long time, even before joining the team in the offseason. Before Monday night, Miller had played in Buffalo three times during the regular season, but never in a Bills uniform.
Miller shared that those times did not compare to Monday night's feeling of playing and this time, as a Buffalo Bill.
"You hear all the fans talking about, it's going to be crazy, and this and that," Miller said, "And our coaches telling us to make sure we get here early, they did not lie to us."
Miller had high expectations for the atmosphere of the home opener and the fans certainly delivered from kickoff to the final whistle of the night.
"It was loud, Bills Mafia," Miller said. "I'm just so appreciative to be here and we have to celebrate this one tonight. Bills Mafia is good at that, too."
Check out the best sights after Buffalo won its 2022 home opener at Highmark Stadium.