The Bills knew they were outplayed by a Bengals team that put together an airtight performance in Sunday's Divisional Playoff. There was no denying it after the 27-10 loss. The abrupt end to a season that the playoffs can bring is unfortunately familiar to a lot of the players in Buffalo's locker room knowing that reaching the ultimate goal has escaped their grasp in each of their last four postseason appearances.
"It's disappointment," said Josh Allen. "You play to win. Our goal is to win a Super Bowl or World Championship and we didn't accomplish that. We just didn't have it. So everything that happened in the season is kind of null and void in our minds and it sucks."
"We went out there. We want to win," said Dion Dawkins. "We're here to try to win as many Super Bowls as possible. And as competitors, as a job and as a love and as a part of our life it sucks. And we try to compete at a high level all of the time and sometimes it gets us. And that's the sucky part of being human."
Buffalo was never in Sunday's game as they fell behind 14-0 early in the game and never could string together enough positive plays in any of the three phases of the game to turn momentum in their favor.
"It was all about execution and they came out and they executed at a higher level than we did," said Mitch Morse of the Bengals. "We kind of dipped our toe in the water and they jumped in the pool. So when you give a team like that a 14-0 lead that's an uphill battle from the jump. And we understood that it was going to be a grinder after that."
What made the playoff loss sting even more was the bond between the Bills and the city of Buffalo was strengthened by all the adversity they went through together beyond the field. The players wanted to keep this playoff run going not only for themselves, but for the fan base as well.
"There's just a different pulse in this building, a different pulse in this locker room, a different connection to the people and the building and outside of the building not only for what we've gone through, but just Buffalo is such a special place," Morse said. "We wanted to execute not only for the organization, the people, but for each other. And that's what this year has been all about."
"This is a tough league and it's a tough business and you learn from things like this," said head coach Sean McDermott. "I'm proud of them even though this hurts. Proud of the way they handled themselves with class this year with the ups and downs and the adversity that they faced. I think they'll take that with them. But for right now, this stings and I wish it was a different result."
But McDermott was quick to point out that disappointment does not change the quest for a Super Bowl title going forward.
"This is a good football team and you learn from things like this," said McDermott. "You keep knocking on the door. That's what you do. You stay steadfast in your focus and your approach. You work your tail off. Again, that's a good football team we just played, and they played better than we did. They coached better than we did. And we've got to learn from this and make the proper adjustments so we can continue to move this organization forward because that's the direction we're heading. That's what we have to do if we want to continue to knock at this door and move beyond where we were this year.
"So the goal hasn't changed and won't change for this organization. And we've got to continue to do everything we can to get there. That's the goal."
Check out the best fan photos from Highmark Stadium during the Bills vs. Bengals AFC Divisional playoff game with special appearances from Peyton Manning and Eric Moulds.