Loss of AFC championship drives up bills | News, Sports, Jobs

In this file photo from Jan. 24, 2021, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs stands on the field after their 38-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game in Kansas City, Mo . AP Photo

ORCHARD PARK (AP) – After most of his teammates long retired to the locker room, Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs lingered in midfield with his hands on his hips, watching a crowd of people surrounding the members the new AFC champion, the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate in the end zone.

Buffalo’s breakthrough season ended abruptly with a 38-24 loss to the Chiefs in January, but Diggs wanted to throw in one last glimpse of a moment captured by photographers.

“There is definitely an image in my head. I was there. I don’t need too much of an image to relive it ”, Diggs said if he had a copy of the photo when training camp opened in July.

“But it is definitely something extremely motivating” he added, before turning to the future. “(The Chiefs) have a great team. I can’t wait to see them again. “

Diggs’ comments reflect the very high expectations that remain at Buffalo and a team confident in their potential to take a step – maybe two – further.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis (13) celebrates with quarterback Josh Allen (17) after his touchdown in the first half of a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers last Saturday at Orchard Park . AP photo

“We went from a team that were huge underdogs to people with a target on their backs, and that’s how it works when you win games” said Diggs. “So as far as we’re concerned, you welcome the wrestling, you welcome the challenge and you look forward to it. “

There’s a lot to expect from a roster virtually unchanged from the one that saw Buffalo win their first AFC East title since 1995 and have their deepest playoff run in 27 years.

The Josh Allen-led offense returns to 10 starters from last year, when the unit set multiple records for passing and goals in a single season, Diggs becoming the first Buffalo player to lead the NFL in receptions. and catches. The only change is the addition of receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who fills the vacancy left by the departure of John Brown.

The defense also returns 10 starters with the only “New” in addition to defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who returns after retiring last year over COVID-19 concerns.

Lotulelei’s commanding presence in the middle should underpin the problems Buffalo had in stopping the race last year. Another difference is the Bills’ commitment to improving their inconsistent pass rush by using their top two draft picks to select defensive ends Greg Rousseau and Carlos Basham, and signing Efe Obada in free agency.

Equally important, the Bills have continuity in the coaching ranks, with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll entering his fourth season and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier returning for a fifth.

One step at a time, said coach Sean McDermott.

“If the goal was to get noticed, then maybe we did. But if winning and the goals we set for ourselves were that, we know we didn’t get there last year. McDermott said. “It’s a new season.

NO JOSHIN ‘

Allen’s teammates last month noticed some differences in the quarterback in the days following signing a six-year, $ 258 million contract extension that locks him up until 2028.

“He wears a visor” offensive guard Jon Feliciano joked.

“Style,” added Diggs. “He’s always played with confidence, played with a little booty, but at the start of my sophomore year with him I feel like he knows what he can be and he knows what he’s capable of. He is hungrier than last year.

ON THE RUN

The Bills are counting on having fewer COVID-19 training restrictions and a three-game preseason schedule to better prepare their pedestrian attack for this year. Buffalo finished 20th in the NFL with 1,723 rushing yards – the team’s fewest since 2014 – behind the tandem of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss.

COVID CONCERNS

The player vaccination debate was a topic that lasted all season in Buffalo, with wide receiver Cole Beasley threatening to retire in June due to restrictive league protocols. He has not retired, but concerns over Beasley’s availability were raised last month as he was one of four players forced to five days of self-isolation for coming into close contact with a vaccinated team coach who tested positive for COVID-19.

Beasley and fellow wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie have also been fined by the NFL for not wearing masks inside team premises. McKenzie has since announced that he received his first or two shots.

HEALTHY

General manager Brandon Beane expects the Bills to have all players available for the season opener against Pittsburgh on September 12. Diggs did not make a preseason game and missed two weeks with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips should be ready after injuring his knee against Detroit on August 13.

SCHEDULE CHALLENGES

The Bills face a familiar difficult time in their schedule in October, when they move to face Kansas City and Tennessee for consecutive weeks. Last year, Buffalo fell to 4-2 after losing back-to-back games at Tennessee and at home to Kansas City in mid-October.

Buffalo also faces an enemy familiar to Tom Brady, when the team travels to play the defending Super Bowl champions in Tampa Bay on December 12. Brady set an NFL record for most wins over a single opponent in his 20 seasons with New England going 32-3 against Buffalo.

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